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Don’t hit Snooze on Sleeptember

Sleep. What’s not to love?

It’s the most welcome of friends at the end of a long day. With all the focus on exercise, eating right, and stress reduction, the importance of a good, old-fashioned night’s sleep can easily be overlooked.

Most of us simply don’t recognize what bad sleep habits can do to our health. Surprisingly, a lack of sleep is associated with heart disease, premature aging, accidents, reduced creativity, GI problems, infertility, minimized memorization, and generally feeling like crap. But don’t worry, my tired friends, it’s not too late to reap the benefits of “Sleeptember.” Embrace these 6 easy tips to get the good night’s sleep you need and deserve.

1. Just chill out.

The best room temperature for getting a great night’s sleep is between 60 – 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Open those windows that have been closed all summer and let that cool, crisp air in. It’s cheaper than running your AC and comes with the added bonus of allowing you to hear birds singing in the morning as your early-autumn wake-up alarm.

2. Kill the lights.

Your bedroom should have as little light as possible. This doesn’t mean just hitting the off switch as your head hits the pillow. It’s way more than that - NO digital clock displays, NO energy source lights on your TV, NO light sneaking between the blinds. NO light under the door. NO LIGHT. Cover it. Unplug it. Block it. Remove it.

3. Shhhhhhhhhh.

Sound is a fickle friend when it comes to good sleep. In general, the less sound, the better. However, it can’t be denied that many of us love the sound of a fan, background noise machine, or humidifier while we snooze. The downside to white noise is that you are, in effect, training yourself to be a sleep-wimp. You will begin to depend on hearing that background sound every night, all night. If you want to be a heartier sleeper, nix the noise. Remember, you don’t just want one good night’s sleep; you want every night to be restful.

4. Say NO to drugs.

You may think you’re off the hook with this one if you “don’t do drugs.” Well, good for you, but let me clarify. I’m addressing alcohol and caffeine here. Although most of us wouldn’t dream of having a double cappuccino right before bed, a lesser-known fact is that a caffeinated beverage with dinner is also a no-no for most of us. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. Some people are so sensitive to caffeine that there is virtually no amount at any time of day that does not negatively affect the chances of a good night’s sleep. Alcohol is in the same boat but alcohol is much sneakier. If you have a drink or two you might easily fall asleep, but the sleep will be of a lower quality. Even though you may not remember waking up during the night you may find yourself dragging the next day. Sorry…don’t kill the messenger!

5. Avoid sugar.

There is mounting evidence that sugar is an all-encompassing dietary problem with links to disease, obesity, tooth decay, and even acne. Lesser known is that sugar can negatively affect sleep. Both the sugar “high” and the sugar “crash” can be to blame for disrupted sleep patterns. “Sugar” includes any form of simple carbohydrate: white sugar (sure), honey (I can see that), white bread (well, if you say so), fruit juice (huh), and even spaghetti (wouldn’t have guessed). Basically, sugar creates a roller-coaster of energy when good sleep is best served by a consistent, low energy, predictable pattern. Ask yourself which amusement park ride would be more likely to help you nod off: the old-fashioned cars or a roller-coaster? Enough said.

6. Save the drama for your llama.

Preparing your body for sleep is only half the battle. Your brain needs considered, too. Stressful, worrisome, and persistent thoughts are the enemy of good sleep. Letting go of the stresses of the day allows us to really embrace the surrender of the night. Do what works for you: practice breathing exercises, meditate, read a boring book, or visualize the ebb and flow of waves on the beach. The important thing is that you give your mind permission to turn off. “Peace of mind” isn’t just an empty phrase – it’s a real thing.

So, there you have it. Incorporate as many of these 6 suggestions as possible and you will be catching Z’s in no time.

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