By: Dr. Francesca Vazquez
Getting through your days feeling sluggish and moody due to poor sleep, while using caffeine to perk up, is not only detrimental for your personal development but it’s also putting you at risk for both physical and mental health problems.
Over 30% of adults report poor quality sleep and lifestyle factors such as excessive alcohol, physical inactivity, stress, and caffeine have been found to be the main culprits. Caffeine has become a staple in all major cities, becoming essential as a way to keep up with our jobs, responsibilities, nights out, and deadlines. Even though your morning coffee is more than ok, excessive caffeine can have a direct impact on the body’s circadian rhythm, the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. This, in turn, can not only affect your ability to fall asleep quickly but it can also affect your brain’s ability to recover and repair while you’re asleep. Excessive caffeine has also been known to cause an increase in cortisol levels, your body’s stress hormone, impacting your ability to handle stress and get proper sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends teenagers to get 8-10 hours of sleep while young adults benefit from 7-9 hours. Here are 3 tips for improving your sleep health and getting in those recommended hours:
1. Tweak your nutrition
According to the Journal of Sleep Medicine, caffeine consumption even 6 hours before bedtime can disrupt your sleep. Decreasing caffeinated foods and beverages in the afternoon is the first step towards getting more sleep. By limiting caffeine, you are helping your body’s natural circadian rhythm take center stage and decreasing the agitation in your nervous system brought on by the effects of caffeine.
The same way certain foods and beverages can agitate your mental state and nervous system, others can be used to calm it. Certain foods have been found to promote sleep by having a direct impact on the brain. Among these foods, you will find cherries, bananas, lettuce, turkey, spinach, garbanzo beans, almonds, and whole grains. Try consuming more of these calming foods throughout the day and evening.
2. Create a sleep routine
Your brain benefits from routine. In order to improve sleep, try to stick to a consistent bedtime. Going to bed and waking up at the same time, most days of the week, will help create a rhythm in your body. In addition to improving sleep, a sleep routine might even help improve cognitive function. According to research in this topic, “early to bed, early to rise” might be a good motto after all!
3. Decrease use of electronics
Try to replace your computer or cellphone with a book, 1-2 hours before bedtime. Studies have found that the artificial light on your phones and electronics may be partly to blame for your lack of proper sleep as it can decrease the production of melatonin (sleep hormone), alter brain activity and disrupt sleep! Instead of binging on Netflix before bed or scrolling through your Instagram feed, choose to give your brain a rest and read a book, listen to music or have a cup of tea with a friend instead.
By following these tips, you will quickly notice a change in your mindset and health. Sleep Health should be a priority in men and women of all ages. It is by learning how to create a balance between our health and responsibilities early on, that we are truly able to reach success and optimal health and wellbeing.
Photo Source: LoveStyleMindfulness
Dr. Francesca Vazquez is the founder and editor of Ease to Wellness, LLC. She is a licensed health psychologist and vinyasa yoga instructor based in Miami, FL. She completed her training at Ponce School of Medicine, Jackson Memorial Hospital/University of Miami, and UF Health Cancer Center, specializing in health psychology & behavioral medicine. She has worked in spinal cord injury rehab, neuropsychology, pain management, stress management, mindfulness based stress reduction, psycho-oncology and wellness coaching. She is passionate about writing, wellness and living creatively, doing what you love.