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Published on June 12, 2019

How to Sleep for Improved Health and Productivity

How to Sleep for Improved Health and Productivity

Have you ever wondered why your brain feels foggy and your body feels weary after days of burning the “midnight oil”? Well I’ve got just two words for you — inadequate sleep.

Believe it or not, a good night’s sleep is just as important (if not more) as healthy eating and regular exercise, if you’re looking to live a maximally healthy and productive life.

In this article, we’ll be looking at why sleep is so important, how much of it you need and simple science-backed tips on how to sleep that will help you make the most of sleep every night.

So, sit back and relax as I take you on this life-transforming journey to improved health and productivity.

Why Is Sleep so Important?

There are so many health benefits that stem from getting a good night’s sleep. Contrary to what you may think, your body doesn’t actually “sleep” when you sleep. Rather, it is uses this period to carry out some serious “housecleaning” processes that help the mind and body function at maximum efficiency.

Specifically speaking, though, here are some amazing benefits of a good night’s sleep:[1]

  • Help manage the appetite, thereby aiding weight loss
  • Boost the immune system
  • Help to lay off stress
  • Reduce the risk of certain cancers such as colon and breast cancer.
  • Promote memory, focus and proper brain functioning
  • Maintain a healthy heart by regulating the cholesterol levels and blood pressure
  • Reduce the risk of diseases such as diabetes, myocardial infarction and stroke[2]

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Okay, now that it’s crystal-clear that you need sufficient sleep to keep ticking, just how much sleep is sufficient?

Well, as far as sleep experts and research studies are concerned, you need 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night before you can reap maximum benefits from sleep.[3]

You can learn more about how much you should sleep in this article: Quality or Quantity? Why Don’t You Sleep On It

How to Get the Best out of Sleep Every Single Night

Here’re 10 simple yet power ways to help you sleep well:

1. Stay Away from Blue Light at Bedtime

Exposure to bright light during the day can be a good thing… but at night? Not so much. Research has shown that excessive light exposure prior to bedtime can disrupt sleeping patterns and affect overall sleep quality.

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How exactly does this happen?

There are two mechanisms behind it. First off, there’s something called the circadian rhythm. This is the body’s biological clock that regulates sleeping and waking up. However, during excessively bright nighttime conditions, (or under exposure to blue light from smartphones and laptops), the brain gets tricked into thinking it’s still daytime, therefore it reduces the production of sleep hormones.

And that brings us to our next point — melatonin. Melatonin is also known as the sleep hormone, as it helps the body to relax and fall into deep sleep. And as earlier stated, the production of this hormone is significantly reduced under exposure to blue light generated by smartphones, TV and other electronic gadgets.

So, if you’re used to playing video games, answering emails or tweeting late into the night, you need to put an end to that.[4] In addition, set an earlier bedtime for your electronics. Preferably, try and put your gadgets to sleep two hours before you hit the bed.

However, if you must use these gadgets closer to your bedtime, then wear glass shades that block blue light or download applications like f.lux that can block blue light from laptops or smart-phones.[5]

2. Practice Sleeping and Waking up at Regular Times

Okay, listen up, if you want to get the best out of sleep, then you need to keep things consistent. That means you go to bed at a set time every single day and wake up at the specific time each morning. Research has shown that consistency with sleeping and waking up times greatly improves sleep quality.[6]

Why is that so, you may ask?

Well, as earlier stated, your body has a biological clock and that clock is linked to sunrise and sunset. So, maintaining a consistent bedtime every single day (including weekends) enables your body to release the necessary hormones at the perfect time. This enables you to enjoy a sound sleep through the night and wake up fresh and full of life.

And while on the topic, you may want to consider saying goodbye to movie night, game night and all other nights that will hinder you from sticking to your bedtime. And yes, sleeping-in on weekends is totally off the cards, too, as it can lead to poor sleep.[7]

Now, here’s a challenge — for the next 8 weeks, practice sleeping and waking up at the same time. By the end of the challenge, you might not even need an alarm clock any longer.

3. Stay Away from Alcohol

Okay, listen up, if you want to enjoy a sweet, deeply-refreshing night rest, then you need to steer clear of booze… especially close to bedtime.

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Why on earth would I say that? Well, technically, I’m not the one saying it… it’s all science.

According to a study published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, it was reported that alcohol consumption at night induced sleep apnea and intense snoring in the tested subjects.[8]

Another study reported a disruption in sleeping patterns among participants who took alcohol before sleep.[9] Other studies have also found that nighttime alcohol consumption affect s the production of melatonin, which consequently affects the body’s circadian rhythm.[10]

Whichever way you look at it, alcohol is bad news for sleep. So, as tempting as that glass of wine may seem at 8 PM, stay away from it. Your reward will be a deep, refreshing sleep.

4. Skip the Evening Cup of Coffee

Who doesn’t love a nice cup of coffee every now and then? Yes, caffeine (in coffee) has a lot of health benefits, ranging from improved focus and energy, to enhanced athletic performance. So, it comes as no surprise that over 90% of Americans take caffeine in one form or the other.[11]

But just like most good things in life, moderation is key when taking coffee, especially one containing caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant, which by definition, means it simulates your nervous system to keep you awake and alert. Or in other words, keeps you from sleeping.

Interestingly, caffeine can remain active in your system for 6 to 8 hours, which means if you take it too close to bedtime, you can kiss your sleep goodbye. In fact, research has revealed that consuming caffeine up to 6 hours before bedtime can significantly worsen sleep quality.[12]

So, what do you do? Keep coffee consumption to mornings and early afternoons. But once it’s 2 PM, say goodbye to coffee for the day. Trust me, you’ll be glad your did.

5. Get a Quality Mattress and Pillow

Have you ever wondered why you feel so much more comfortable and sleep better in a hotel? Well, there’s no magic behind it, it’s mostly about the quality of the bed.[13]

When you sleep on a comfortable bed, you feel less pain and enjoy better sleep quality. Studies have also shown that a new mattress and bedding can significantly reduce back pain, back stiffness and shoulder pain, thereby improving sleep quality.[14]

So, if you haven’t changed your mattress in a while, upgrading your mattress and pillow to new ones may be a great way of improving sleep quality. However, the choice of the “best mattress”[15] is highly subjective, so make sure you do your research before making a buying decision.

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Here’s Your Essential Guide To Buying The Right Mattress and 10 Best Pillows To Choose For A Good Night Sleep

6. Don’t Nap Too Long During the Day

Taking a quick nap during the day is great, but if it becomes too long, it’ll most likely affect your sleep at night. Here’s why:

Sleeping for long periods during the day can trick your internal biological clock into thinking it’s night time. And this may lead to trouble sleeping at night, as the body releases “wakefulness” hormones instead of sleep hormones.[16]

Research has shown that the best day-time naps are usually no more than 30 minutes.[17] Longer naps tend to have negative quality on sleep quality. That said, if you’re used to daytime napping and you still sleep effortlessly at night, then you have nothing to worry about.[18]

7. Take a Shower

Never underestimate the power of a shower. Various research studies have shown that people can improve their overall sleep quality by taking a shower before hitting the bed. Even a simple foot bath does the job… especially in elders.[19]

Although the specific mechanism behind this isn’t entirely clear, water does tend to have a relaxing effect on the body and this makes sleep much more enjoyable. Just take a look at How Night Shower Can Help You Sleep Better.

So, if you’re looking for a cheap way of improving your sleep quality, a warm shower before bed isn’t a bad way to go.

8. Empty Your Mind

Sleeping isn’t merely a physical activity, it involves the mind just as much as the body. So, if you want to enjoy your sleep each night, you must learn to empty your mind. And there are different ways of achieving this.

Studies have shown that various relaxation techniques such as reading a book, meditating, listening to soft music and having a relaxing massage, can significantly improve sleep quality. So, you can try various techniques to identify what works best for you. [20]

Also, if you’re the type that worries about the next day a lot, it can help to get a diary and write down every task you need to take care of the following day and how you will get it done. This will help to calm your mind and make it easier to fall asleep.

9. Exercise Regularly

If you’ve been skipping exercise, you’ve been doing yourself a great disservice. Apart from the numerous physical and mental health benefits, it has also been shown to improve sleep quality.

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For instance, in one study published in JAMA, it was reported that regular exercise significantly reduced the amount of time it took older adults to fall asleep and increased the normal duration of sleep by 40 minutes.[21] Another study reported that exercise was even more effective for insomnia patients than sleep drugs.[22]

As great as exercise is, though, timing is also important. Experts believe that exercising too close to bedtime, can negatively affect sleep. This is due to the stimulatory effect of exercise, resulting from the release of hormones like adrenaline. So, if you must exercise in the evening, make it at least, three hours to your bedtime.

10. Take Sleep Supplements

Remember melatonin? The hormone that tells your body when to hit the bed and relax? Yep, it is available as supplements and you can take it to improve your sleep.

In fact, research has shown that melatonin is one of the easiest means of falling asleep quickly. This is why it is commonly used as a treatment for insomnia.[23]

Melatonin is a prescription drug in some countries, while in other countries, it can be purchased, over the counter. Either way, it is advisable to check in with your doctor before taking melatonin, since it’s a drug that can alter brain chemistry.

There’re also these 8 Essential Vitamins And Minerals to Help You Sleep Better, depending on your needs.

The Bottom Line

Sleep is awesome! It’s the body’s way of keeping you in tip-top condition at all times. So, if you want to live in resounding health and be maximally productive day-in-day-out, then you need to make sleep a core part of your daily routine.

And while at it, remember to target 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, as research has shown that the maximum benefits of sleep can be obtained within this time frame.

Okay, that’s it! Start small, start somewhere, pick some (or all) of these tips and incorporate them into your daily life. The result will be a resounding sleep that will open the door to improved health and productivity.

Featured photo credit: Rafal Jedrzejek via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Diet Fitness King: 7 Reasons Why Getting More Sleep Is Good For Health
[2] PLoS One.: Association of Sleep Duration with Chronic Diseases in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Potsdam Study
[3] Science Daily: World’s largest sleep study shows too much shut-eye can be bad for your brain
[4] J Sleep Res.: Effects of playing a computer game using a bright display on presleep physiological variables, sleep latency, slow wave sleep and REM sleep.
[5] Neuro Endocrinol Lett.: The impact of light from computer monitors on melatonin levels in college students.
[6] J Sleep Res.: Investigating the interaction between the homeostatic and circadian processes of sleep-wake regulation for the prediction of waking neurobehavioural performance.
[7] J Sleep Res.: Circadian preference, sleep and daytime behaviour in adolescence.
[8] Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatrye: Alcohol, snoring and sleep apnea.
[9] Am J Med.: Alcohol increases sleep apnea and oxygen desaturation in asymptomatic men.
[10] J Clin Endocrinol Metab.: Ethanol inhibits melatonin secretion in healthy volunteers in a dose-dependent randomized double blind cross-over study.
[11] J Am Diet Assoc.: Food sources and intakes of caffeine in the diets of persons in the United States.
[12] J Clin Sleep Med.: Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed.
[13] Am J Phys Med Rehabil.: Sleep disturbance in patients with chronic low back pain.
[14] J Manipulative Physiol Ther.: Effectiveness of a selected bedding system on quality of sleep, low back pain, shoulder pain, and spine stiffness.
[15] Best Mattress Review: Best Mattress 2019
[16] Behav Neurosci.: Effects of sleep inertia after daytime naps vary with executive load and time of day.
[17] Curr Opin Pulm Med.: Good sleep, bad sleep! The role of daytime naps in healthy adults.
[18] Behav Med. : The prevalence of daytime napping and its relationship to nighttime sleep.
[19] Int J Nurs Stud.: Effect of foot bathing on distal-proximal skin temperature gradient in elders.
[20] Am J Crit Care.: Effect of a back massage and relaxation intervention on sleep in critically ill patients.
[21] JAMA: Moderate-intensity exercise and self-rated quality of sleep in older adults. A randomized controlled trial.
[22] J Clin Sleep Med.: Effect of acute physical exercise on patients with chronic primary insomnia.
[23] J Sleep Res.: Prolonged-release melatonin improves sleep quality and morning alertness in insomnia patients aged 55 years and older and has no withdrawal effects.

More by this author

Richard Adefioye

Richard has a unique passion for healthy living and productivity.

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Last Updated on June 24, 2019

15 Easy-to-Make Crockpot Freezer Meals for Busy Nights

15 Easy-to-Make Crockpot Freezer Meals for Busy Nights

You work all day, and you come home exhausted and hungry. Naturally, the last thing you want to do is to spend hours in the kitchen cooking dinner. If you love cooking, but your busy schedule doesn’t allow you to cook every night, you can simplify your life by making crockpot freezer meals. These meals will allow you to still eat homemade, healthy, filling dinners without the countless hours and enormous effort spent in the kitchen. You can store the simple ingredients in freezer bags and put them in the crockpot when it is time for dinner, or you can cook over the weekend and stock your freezer with delicious ready meals that will make your life easier. Here are 15 easy-to-make recipes to make delicious dinners for busy nights!

1. Cheesy Tortellini With Ground Beef

Cheesy tortellini with ground beef

    This is a perfect crockpot freezer meal that even your kids will love. The best thing of all is that it’s incredibly easy to prepare. All you have to do is crumble some ground beef and combine all the recipe’s ingredients in your crockpot. The other ingredients needed for this super delicious meal include tomatoes, herbs, and onions. Tortellini is one of the most commonly ordered meals when eating out, but this way you will get to eat a homemade, healthier version of the popular dish. Find the recipe here.

    2. Cranberry Pork Roast

    Cranberry pork roast

      Cranberry pork roast is a gluten-free meal that everyone can make, regardless of their culinary skills. The dish requires only these few ingredients: onion, cranberry sauce, bone-in pork shoulder, and honey. To prepare this mouthwatering dish, simply combine all the ingredients together in the crockpot and let them cook. If you don’t like pork or if you prefer not to eat it, you can easily use beef as a substitute without impacting the flavor. Click here to see the recipe.

      3. Greens and Beans

      Greens and beans

        Greens and beans are the ideal dishes if you want a dish that is both delicious and nutrient-dense. Combine vegetable broth with beans, garlic, kale, escalore, and Parmesan, and let cook. The result will be a dish with a soup-like consistency that will fill you up and provide you with a lot of vitamins and minerals.

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        As a bonus, if you or someone else in your family suffer from rheumatoid arthritis or some other common types of arthritis, greens and beans can reduce the inflammation. That’s because kale and other veggies rich in Vitamin K are anti-inflammatory and are known for relieving arthritis. Click here and start cooking!

        4. Chicken Curry

        Chicken curry

          That is yet another gluten-free recipe that you’ll love to make. Chicken curry requires basic ingredients such as tomato paste, coconut milk, honey, onions, and garlic, in addition to chicken and curry of course.The result is a sweet and spicy dish where different flavors are perfectly balanced. Find the recipe here.

          5. Honey Sesame Chicken

          Honey sesame chicken

            Honey sesame chicken is a simple and effortless dish that delivers an amazing taste. To make this wonderful recipe, you have to combine all the ingredients except for the sesame seeds and green onions and let them cook. Use the sesame seeds and green onions for garnish when serving. Click here for the full recipe.

            6. Mushroom Spinach Stroganoff

            Mushroom spinach stroganoff

              In this warm weather, many people opt to eat lighter food that is easy on the stomach. Mushroom spinach stroganoff fits the bill being a vegetable version of a famous comfort food that you and your family will love. The dish requires simple ingredients such as sour cream, onion, garlic, ketchup, vegetables, and mushrooms. This dish is very simple to make, and thanks to your crockpot, you won’t have much work to do. Find the recipe here.

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              7. Stuffed Peppers

              Stuffed peppers

                If you’re looking for a healthy, simple, and delicious recipe, you’ll love this one! These crockpot stuffed peppers are easy to make, and they require only a few ingredients such as ground turkey or beef, onion, garlic, bell peppers, and pasta sauce. This meal will remind you of grandma’s kitchen. You can find the recipe here.

                8. Cilantro and Lime Chicken

                Cilantro and lime chicken

                  Summer is the perfect season to experiment with more exotic flavors, and this meal can help you do just that. To make cilantro and lime chicken, you will need to combine some simple ingredients such as lime, jalapeno peppers, fresh cilantro, and salsa. The result is chicken that is super tender and that you’ll want to make over and over again, so get the recipe here.

                  9. Beef Fajitas

                  Beef fajitas

                    This is an excellent meal for busy weeknights. The best thing about this recipe is that the required ingredients are probably already there in your kitchen. The recipe is also quite simple — combine all the items in a crockpot, cover, and let cook.

                    The result will be beef and peppers that melt in your mouth. You can easily pair this beef fajita with rice and tortillas and get a meal that the entire family will love. You can find the recipe for this delicious beef fajita here.

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                    10. Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

                    Asian chicken lettuce wraps

                      Asian chicken lettuce wraps are sweet, slightly salty and very easy to make. All you need to do is add the chicken, red bell pepper, carrots, soy sauce, honey, garlic and the other ingredients to your crockpot and let them cook. You can also replace the chicken with beef or turkey if you like. The presence of different flavors gives this meal a summer flavor you are sure to love. Learn how to make this meal here.

                      11. Hawaiian Chicken

                      Hawaiian chicken

                        This dish enjoys phenomenal exotic tones due to pineapple and lemon flavors. To make this yummy crockpot freezer meal, you need skinless chicken breasts, peppers, ginger and corn starch, in addition to the iconic pineapple and lemon. Learn how to make this perfect summer dinner here.

                        12. Beef and Barley Stew

                        Beef and barley stewd

                          Beef and barley stew is as healthy as it is delicious. Not to mention it’s incredibly easy to make. Besides the beef and barley, you’ll also need carrots, peppers, herbs and beef broth. The result will be a mouthwatering stew that you can serve alone or over white rice. Get the recipe here.

                          13. Meatball Soup

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                          Meatball soup

                            This soup is very delicious, easy to make and quite versatile. You will be able to swap ingredients and experiment to find your perfect combination. To make this meatball soup, you will need to combine meatballs with pasta sauce, chicken broth, carrots, beans, zucchini, and onion. You can view the recipe here.

                            14. Turkey Black Bean Chili

                            Turkey black bean chili

                              Everybody loves chili and for good reason — it’s very delicious, and it’s a perfect combination of different flavors that balance each other out. To make this chili, you’ll need ground turkey, tomato sauce, black beans, paprika, frozen corns, and a few other ingredients. You can get the full recipe here and have this delicious dish ready when you come back from work on those busy nights.

                              15. Ham and Pinto Bean Soup

                              Ham and pinto bean soup

                                What makes soups special is the fact they’re tasty, healthy and filling at the same time. This soup is no exception. The best quality of this ham and pinto bean soup, however, is its simplicity; it requires only five ingredients: ham, beans, ketchup, salt, and water. Learn how to make this soup here.

                                Conclusion

                                With a demanding work week and a busy schedule, it’s normal to have a low energy level by the time you get home. If you don’t feel like standing in the kitchen and cooking dinner due to this, you don’t have to resort to junk food. These freezer crockpot meals offer you the perfect solution for healthy meals that require minimal preparation. You can either combine each recipe’s ingredients in a freezer bag to be thawed and cooked in a few minutes, or you can cook your meal and freeze it to be used later, it’s up to you.

                                This article showed you 15 easy and simple recipes that you can make using your crockpot. All of these recipes contain anti-inflammatory foods whether it is in the form of vegetable, herbs or spices to improve your overall health and wellbeing.

                                Featured photo credit: Google via bettycrocker.com

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