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One Small Change | Getting Better Sleep

Sleep is one of the most underrated healthy habits, and this week we want to change that for ourselves.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — For many of us, the pandemic hasn't been great for our health and fitness level. If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed and discouraged we're here to help.

13 is ON YOUR SIDE with a new series "One Small Change" every Friday morning. We're encouraging you to make one easy change a week with big benefits, and 13 ON YOUR SIDE's Meredith TerHaar will do it with you.

"This week we’re talking about the practice of getting better sleep," explains series expert Jessica Luepke, founder and co-owner of Valeo / Training in Holland.

Sleep! It’s truly one of the most underrated healthy habits – in fact, we can consider it the foundation of other healthy habits, since it impacts everything.

We all love it – but why is often so tough for us to get it consistently?

It’s recommended we get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Research shows most people get around 6 or as little as 5 – and even this isn’t the deep, restorative sleep we need.

Our bodies alternate between non-REM sleep, which is deeper and more restorative and REM sleep, which is lighter and where we dream. If we go to bed too late (talking to you, fellow Night Owls), we may miss out on the deep sleep stage that tends to happen in the earlier parts of the night.

Chronic lack of sleep interferes with hormonal production that can dramatically impact your mental health and make it more difficult to stay at a healthy weight. Not only this, but it can shorten your lifespan by putting you at an increased risk of diabetes, heart attack and stroke.

If you’re someone who struggles waking up groggy, with managing stress, who seems to be gaining weight, who has a hard time focusing, can’t muster the energy to exercise or choose healthy foods, the first place to start is by looking at your sleeping habits.

So, what can we do to get better sleep?

  • Let’s avoid caffeine after 2 p.mm and lessen the nightly drinking. Even 1 alcoholic drink, while it may make you drowsy, keeps you at a shallow sleep cycle. This increases your chance of waking up in the middle of the night, unable to go back to sleep. There are so many awesome coffee and alcoholic drink alternatives to experiment with if sleep is an issue for you.
  • Sugary foods at night could also be causing you to wake up in the middle of the night after a drop in blood sugar. Stick to proteins and more whole food carbohydrates that are slower-digesting, which keeps your blood sugar more steady and body soundly sleeping.
  • Getting a light box can help in these Michigan winters to set your daily melatonin (a sleep hormone) rhythm. Being awakened naturally by light can also help you feel more alert.
  • Regular exercise releases stored energy and optimizes your hormone levels and your body’s 24-hour clock. Just avoid high intensity exercise in the evening as it may be harder to fall asleep.
  • Limit fluids in the evening to avoid waking up multiple times to use the bathroom.
  • Clear your mind by writing thoughts or tomorrow’s to-dos in a notebook. Your brain isn’t a container – get that stuff out!
  • Turn off electronics 30 minutes before bed so that the artificial light doesn’t interfere with your body’s production of melatonin or negatively affect your metabolism.
  • Consider using supplements proven to help with deep sleep, including non-THC CBD oil.
  • Set up your bedroom so that it’s peaceful, cool temps, de-cluttered and quiet. Consider a white-noise machine or darkening curtains if you need to.

Lastly, the demands of life and psychological complexities this create certainly has an effect on our ability to quiet the brain and stay sleeping. However, most lack of sleep can be contributed to voluntary bedtime delay: we stay up watching TV. We refresh social media and get trapped in endless scrolling sessions, when it’s safe to gather in groups, we stay out later. Sometimes, we need to force ourselves to just go to bed! And try to do it before midnight so you catch the deepest rest.

Start with going to bed 30 minutes earlier until you reach that coveted 7-9 hour mark.

This week, let’s practice the One Small Change of getting better sleep. I can’t wait to hear how it affects every part of your life, please share your journey with me on Instagram and Facebook! Also, check out this sleep tracking chart that Jessica created for this week. 

For more information about the power and importance of sleep to the body, visit Precision Nutrition or check out this article in TIME Magazine. 

For more insights like these, visit the Valeo / Training website.

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