By: Cole Harstone
Sleep. It’s a fundamental characteristic of life. Sleep serves many functions and purposes. To name a few, sleep is responsible for: development, energy conservation, brain waste clearance, regulation of the immune system, and cognitive function. The point is, sleep is important. If you don’t get enough sleep, it can have serious effects on your both your mental and physical health, in both the short and long term. Despite this fact, the CDC estimates that 1 in 3 adults in the United States don’t get enough sleep. Why is that?
Sleep can be a challenge for many people. There are a variety of different things that can lead to insufficient amounts of sleep, yet some of those things are within the control of the individual. For example, diet, and a lack of exercise are two of the main instigators behind a restless night’s sleep.
Believe it or not, what you eat and drink actually has a significant impact on the quality and duration of your sleep.
Yes, you’ve probably heard that any caffeinated drink before bed is a bad idea. This is because caffeine is a psychoactive stimulant. Many people know that it makes you more alert, awake. However, far fewer are aware of the fact that alcoholic beverages are just as bad, if not worse, for your sleep.
Although alcohol is, indeed, a sedative, it doesn’t actually improve your sleep. Sedation is often mistaken for sleep, while in reality, they are not the same thing. So, while it may appear to an observer that a sedated individual is sleeping, the activity occurring inside the brain would be completely different. Alcohol is also known to fragment, as well as block, certain stages of sleep. Although no one is stopping you from drinking before you go to bed, consider drinking less if you’re trying to improve the quality of your sleep.
The amount of exercise that you get can also impact the quality and quantity of your sleep. Exercise increases the amount of slow-wave sleep that an individual gets. This consequently improves the quality of deeper stages of sleep, which is responsible for some of the health benefits that sleeping provides. The good news is that you don’t need much exercise to improve your sleep. Anything north of 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise should start to have positive effects on your sleep.
Despite what you may have heard, exercising in the evening is actually good for your sleep. Just make sure to avoid any strenuous activities an hour before bed.
Diet and exercise are just two of many, many factors that can effect your sleep. There are many more, and many of them can be manipulated to improve your sleep. These are of course, simply suggestions that you can follow. They aren’t meant to tell you what you should or shouldn’t be doing. However, if you’re interested in learning about other things that can be done to improve your sleep, start here!