Why is this so concerning?  It is common knowledge that sleep refreshes our minds and bodies, and gives us energy for the next day.  But sleep’s restorative power goes far beyond basic rest.  In fact, sleep provides the very foundation for healthy living and healthy aging.

Research shows that we need between 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Sleep plays a critical role in balancing hormones, regulating mood, protecting against cognitive decline, promoting gut health, healing injuries, strengthening the immune system, and controlling weight.

Conversely, sleep deprivation and sleep disruptions affect not only our day-to-day energy and alertness, but also threaten our long-term physical and mental health.

You see, it’s well documented that insufficient sleep impairs mental functioning and increases the risk for heart disease. There’s also growing evidence that sleep deprivation can lead to muscle loss and fat gain. With too little sleep, the body produces more cortisol, the stress-response hormone.  In turn, heightened levels of cortisol increase appetite, and prompt the body to store more fat, burning muscle instead for energy.

Considered in this light, improving your sleep may be the single most important thing you can do for your health.  

Recently, we’ve begun to consider holistic “sleep hygiene” as every bit important as other daily routines like brushing your teeth and bathing. The good news is, there are simple steps you can take today to build healthy sleep habits.  

Consider:

  • Adopting a regular bedtime and a routine that emphasizes relaxation.  For example, you might listen to an audiobook as a great alternative to television before bed.  
  • Reducing (or eliminating) caffeine and alcohol consumption, and eating prebiotic-rich foods for gut health.  If you are gluten intolerant, then remove gluten. You may find that heartburn will disappear.
  • Limiting screen time on computers, portable devices, and making your bedroom a “device-free” zone.
  • Maintaining a tranquil environment in your bedroom, and lowering the temperature to promote sleep and prevent hot flashes.

What changes have you made that have helped you sleep better? 

How did you sleep last night?  If your answer is “not very well” or “not long enough”, you are not alone. Studies by the CDC reveal that a staggering 20-56% of women between the ages of 40 and 59 report difficulty in getting a good night’s sleep.