Sleep Your Way Healthy: 3 Simple Ways to Let Sleep Keep You Healthy
Over 30 years ago, the first paper I authored for a college nutrition course was on circadian rhythms. It was no easy task to find research on this topic at the time. I had a personal interest in this theme because my dad was a shift worker and I was worried about his health and how his ever-changing weekly schedule might be impacting him.
Now, "chronobiology" or the science of biological rhythms has fast become one of the most studied areas in the field of health and medicine.
Scientists are examining how our daily rhythms influence our susceptibility to disease, response to medications and other therapies, performance on mental tasks and critical physiological processes including digestion and hormone signaling.
A recent study published in Obesity Review found that circadian misalignment affects sleep architecture ultimately disturbing glucose-insulin dynamics and dopaminergic signaling. Simply put, this is a recipe for depression, host of chronic diseases and those moody blues food cravings that seem virtually impossible to quash.
To help get into a better sleepy-time groove, start with a few simple steps:
1.) Catch your z's.
Aim for 7-8 hours every night. Restorative sleep is a principal pillar of health and healing. Practice good sleep hygiene habits by getting unplugged at least 1 hour before you snuggle under the covers. Better to sleep with a teddy bear than an iPad!
2.) Eat by the clock.
Develop a consistent meal pattern that works for you, not against you. Experiment with the age-old wisdom of 3 meals per day and observe how you feel. Tune in and find an eating pattern that is uniquely suited to your work, play, exercise and sleep schedule.
3.) Macro-fit your meals.
Include a metabolic mix of energy-yielding nutrients: fiber-dense carbs, lean protein and healthy fats at each meal. This will fuel your body and increase your metabolic resiliency.
And if you wake in the night but can’t fall back asleep, don’t turn the on anything with a screen as they tend to jolt your body back into an anything-but-sleepy state. Instead, pass the time in a darkened space, meditating or listening to soft, relaxing music to help you drift back off to dreamland.
For more sleep tips, see the National Sleep Foundation’s helpful list: http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-tools-tips/healthy-sleep-tips.
Reference: Gonnissen HK, Hulshof T, Westertern-Plantenga MS. Chonobiology, endocrinology, and energy and food-reward homeostasis. Obes Rev 2013;14(5):405-16