A lack of sleep can seriously affect your wellbeing. From your immune system to your memory, your weight to your ability to solve problems, getting enough quality shut-eye is imperative to maintaining good health. Therefore, we asked Chicago-based wellness expert Michele Gelman for advice on ways feel more well-rested and enjoy a restorative night of sleep. Here are her recommendations:
- Set an optimal bedtime. Your body does the majority of its recharging and detoxifying in the hours surrounding midnight. If you are awake during this time, toxins back up in your liver, which prevents your body from properly detoxifying. Practitioners of Ayurveda, the ancient Hindu healing tradition, have advised for a few thousand years to go to bed at 10 and get up at 6, and they’re probably on to something!
- Stick to a schedule. Leaving at least 12 hours between your evening meal and breakfast is very important for weight loss, detoxification, and healing. The body, particularly the liver, does some serious work at night, and this timeframe ensures you are not still digesting when your body needs its rest and renewal. Also, put your work away at least an hour (preferably 2 or 3 hours) before bed so you can start unwinding.
- Take a bath. Each evening, place 2 cups of Epsom salts and one cup of baking soda in the tub, run the hottest water you can stand, and add 8 drops of lavender oil. Soak for 20 minutes and allow yourself to sweat. Afterward you should feel very relaxed and sleep soundly.
- Maximize melatonin. The hormone melatonin is well known for its role in helping you sleep, but it is also a powerful antioxidant that cools inflammation and is involved in detoxification. To maximize melatonin, sleep in complete darkness (even the tiniest bit of light can disrupt your internal clock and your pineal gland’s production of melatonin and serotonin) and keep your bedroom free of cell phones, wifi, and other devices, as the radiation emitted from them can be disruptive as well.
- Keep cool. Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Wear socks to bed if your feet are cold!
- Kick caffeine. Typically, caffeine intolerance decreases with age, and when it is not metabolized efficiently you may feel its effects many hours after consumption. So, for many, caffeinated drinks, even when consumed early in the day, will prevent them for falling asleep at night.
- Avoid alcohol. Often, we enjoy a glass of wine as a way to come down from our busy day, and because it makes us feel relaxed, we think it helps us sleep. However, alcohol actually reduces the quality of our sleep and keeps us from entering the deeper stages of sleep, when the body does most of its healing.
- Move. Exercising for at least 30 minutes per day can improve your sleep. Walking after meals is especially helpful for your digestion, which in turn helps you sleep, so consider a post-lunch or dinner walk to have you well prepped for bedtime.