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How to Rewire Your Brain for Better Sleep

How to Rewire Your Brain for Better Sleep

Struggling with sticking to a healthy bedtime and tired of daytime fatigue? Your mind may be to blame.

How you think about sleep and how you prioritize it in your daily life can have a significant impact on your quality of rest. If you view rest as a chore or waste of time, it likely won’t top your mental to-do-list.

But, changing your mindset on snoozing can give you a boost. Try these tips to mentally rewire your brain for better sleep and get motivated to make healthy rest a part of your lifestyle.

1. Rethink Your Perspective on Sleep

How you view rest (whether positive, negative, dismissively, or with anxiety) can significantly affect your quality of sleep. Learn to see sleep in a new light by reminding yourself of the immense value healthy habits bring to our lives.

Every minute of shuteye is precious. During sleep, your body actively restores, renews and heals. No matter what you value in life, it’s almost a guarantee that sleep plays a direct role. Here are just a few reasons why sleep should be a top priority, according to the Harvard Health Sleep website:

  • It affects how you look.
  • It affects your fitness.
  • It affects your health.
  • It affects your brain.
  • It affects your relationships.
  • It affects your job.

What are your core priorities? Is there a fitness goal you are trying to achieve, do you want to be more present for your family, or do you want to simply stay healthy? Keep this awareness in mind as you begin rewiring your mind and improving your sleep habits.

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When you feel like there is too much to do in your day to make time for rest or you are struggling to put your iPad down late at night, remind yourself of the reasons why you want to sleep better.

think positive

    2. Put Stress In Its Place

    Although being cognizant of the value of sleep is important, it is also essential to not preoccupy your mind with negative thoughts and stress if sleep doesn’t come easyly.

    Not only can this create sleep anxiety, but researchers at the Henry Ford Hospital found that people who ruminate on stress or try to avoid it were more likely to have insomnia symptoms. Other stress-relief tactics like positive reframing, religion and venting did not increase insomnia.

    If you are stressing over snoozing, try positive affirmations – replace thoughts like “I can’t get to sleep and I have so much to do tomorrow!” with statements like “I will fall asleep soon and feel well-rested tomorrow”. If you are not physically tired, get out of bed and read or relax to music in a dim room until you feel sleepy.

    Other studies also found that people with higher levels of gratitude experienced better sleep. Gratitude also has real effects on sleep-boosting neurotransmitters! Remind yourself of what you are thankful for before bed rather than you to-do list or stressful thoughts.

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    You can also neutralize stress and sleep-stealing thoughts with relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation and visualization. Try different things to see what works for you, and incorporate these habits into your daily routine.

    3. Plan for Better Rest

    An evening pre-bed routine helps prepare you mentally and physically for rest. Your body and mind know that it is time to start winding down, and that sleep is soon to follow. Your nighttime routine should have a consistent pattern and timing every night, and should allow enough time to get adequate rest in.

    Two hours before bedtime, you might start with a warm bath or shower. Slip into pajamas, begin dimming lights, and drop the thermostat to cool your bedroom. Start weaning yourself off of smartphones, laptops and television. Stop checking emails and Facebook, and make a conscious effort to be calm and tranquil.

    Include habits that relax you and release stress as mentioned above. Try reading, journaling, listening to calm music, stretching, a crossword puzzle, meditation, a cup of decaf tea – anything that puts you in the mood for slumber. When it’s close to bedtime, wash your face, brush your teeth, and slip into your cozy bed ready for sleep.

    reading in the evening

      4. Set Gradual Goals

      When it comes to sleep, small changes are often best for long-term results. Set gradual and attainable goals for getting more sleep or adjusting your bedtime and wake time. You might start by sleeping 15 minutes more per night, or shifting your bedtime or alarm 15 minutes earlier.

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      Think of what you hope to accomplish, and set gradual steps for getting there. You can even make it a game where you compete against your personal best, or work together with a partner for encouragement.

      5. Track Your Sleep

      For many people, tracking sleep habits and improvements toward goals can be motivating and encouraging. Use a journal or try sleep apps to monitor when you are sleeping and waking. Tracking rest can help you see where you can improve, and many apps also provide helpful insight into ways your routine affects sleep.

      office journal

        6. Reward Yourself for Reaching Goals

        We are mentally wired to enjoy and seek rewards after we do things. One study on obesity found that people who set goals, monitored progress, and rewarded themselves for changing unhealthy habits had the most success at weight loss. While obesity and sleep are different, the behavioral aspects of changing habits are similar, and links between goals and rewards have been studied many times.

        Plan a few small and healthy rewards to treat yourself as you reach your better sleep goals. Think about small motivators that will encourage you. Examples might include saving episodes of a favorite show on DVR, having a small piece of dark chocolate, listening to your favorite song in the morning, indulging in a new book or new workout gear, or a spa treat.

        7. Stay Consistent

        Consistent routines and sleep/wake times are an important part of good sleep hygiene and of developing new habits, as well.

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        Your internal sleep clock operates best with consistency, and studies even show consistent sleep wake times with healthier body weight. When you plan your sleep schedule, pick times that you can stick to within one hour all week long, even on the weekends.

        Stick with your goals and the new routine, but don’t get discouraged if you slip up for a day or two – you can always jump back in.

        sleeping bulldogs

          Remember, focus on the benefits of rest and make a conscious effort to prioritize sleep. Seek ways to deal with stress, and make better rest a reality by planning and sticking to a consistent schedule, with goals and rewards to motivate you along the way.

          What encourages you to sleep better? How do you make a rest a priority in your routine?

          Featured photo credit: Thom Davies via flickr.com

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          Last Updated on October 14, 2019

          10 Simple Ways To Increase Metabolism Without Working Out

          10 Simple Ways To Increase Metabolism Without Working Out

          When it comes to increasing your metabolism, getting a good workout a couple of times a week is only one of many players. If you’re not a fan of lifting heavy stuff, then you’re only expending extra energy for that, say, one hour of that specific day. But what about the remaining 23 hours? How can you make sure you’re burning blubber all throughout the day? Here are 10 simple ways to increase your metabolism without working out.

          1. Stand More

          Many health practitioners claim that sitting is the new smoking. We sit in the office, we sit in the car, we sit when we get home. It’s not only terrible for your health and posture, but you require a lot less energy when seated. So, a good way to ignite the furnace a bit is to stand as much as possible through out the day. You work in an office? Put two boxes under your keyboard or laptop. There are many free solutions to making a standing desk—so you have no excuses. When you’ve gotten used to standing while working you will quickly find that it’s easier to stay engaged as well—you’re less inclined to drift away mentally. In fact, this post was written standing.

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          2. Gamify Your Life

          Toys such as the Fitbit or Nike Fuelband, or apps like Argus, can help you increase your metabolism by giving you an incentive to walk more. Argus, and other apps like it, use the accelerometer in your smartphone to measure your steps and let you know when you’ve hit your daily goal. Fitbit and the Nike Fuelband do the same, but have a host of other functions to make being healthy a tad more fun.

          3. Eat Your Veggies

          Fibrous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli increase your metabolism by putting your digestive system on overdrive. It just simply requires more energy to break down the tough fiber of these nutritional powerhouses. You’ll also start feeling like a rock star from the overload of vitamins and minerals from eating more vegetables.

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          4. Eat Protein

          This is one of those rules that’s not to be misunderstood. While it does boost your metabolism to eat more protein, it should be instead of other foods, not on top of other foods. If you’re stuffing your face with a chicken breast when you’re not hungry just to boost your metabolism, you’re doing it wrong. Of the three macro-nutrients—fats, carbs and protein—protein is the one that requires the most energy to break down. So, if you switch out some of those cheese sandwiches with a few hardboiled eggs you’re on the right path.

          5. Drink Loads Of Cold Water

          Drinking a few glasses of ice-cold water in the morning can boost your metabolism quite effectively. Your body expends energy on constantly staying in homeostasis when it comes to temperature, so if you chug a bunch of icy water you’re making your body expend more energy on keeping itself at the same temperature. Using temperature to expend more energy is called thermogenesis and it’s one of the most efficient ways of cranking up your calorie burning—more on this further down.

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          6. Spice Up Your Meals

          Spices like cayenne, chilli, ginger and turmeric ignite your metabolism and make your meals a bit more exciting. If you make it a habit to add a little bit of spice to each of your meals it can be a habit that turns you into a fat-burning furnace.

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            7. Drink Caffeine

            No, drinking loads of coffee is not bad for you. The sugar and heavy cream you could be inclined to chase it down with might be though. Caffeine helps mobilize—that is, get rid of—adipose tissue, or fat. It also helps athletic performance, and some individuals report it to have appetite-curbing effects. If you’re very sensitive to stimulants, try not to have caffeine too close to bedtime though, as it can mess with your sleep.

            8. Plan Your Meals Around Exercise

            I know the title of this post says “…Without Working Out” but this trick technically is more a nutritional trick than an exercise-related one. When you’ve exerted yourself and, hopefully, broken down some muscle fibers, your protein synthesis, or the rate at which you build muscle, increases. So, having heavy meals after a workout will make sure those calories get stored in the right places. This is one of the reasons it’s a good idea to get a heavy session in before the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

            9. Do Intermittent Fasting

            It’s long been said you should always eat a heavy breakfast as it kick starts your metabolic rate. There hasn’t been any study proving this though. There have only been behavioral studies correlating obesity with breakfast skippers, but it’s always been a case of confusing correlation with causation. It’s not the fact that you skip breakfast that makes you fat; it’s the poor food choices you make throughout the rest of your day. Studies have shown that fat burning increases the longer you get into a fast, obviously depending on the body fat level of the individual. In fact, in one study lowered metabolic rate did not occur until 60 hours into a fast. Intermittent fasting is very much one of the bigger wins when it comes to increasing your metabolism.

            10. Use Cold Exposure

            For some reason it’s been common knowledge for a while that sweating increases metabolic rate. Scientist have known for a while though that the opposite is actually true; exposing yourself to cold temperatures increase your calorie burn significantly. Just slight shifts in your home temperature can mean pounds lost or gained when you gather the numbers yearly. How else do you think swimmer Michael Phelps is able to eat 12,000 calories a day? Obviously, he swims hours each day, but it’s not just the exercise he gets from swimming that allows him to consume such quantities of food, it’s also the amount of energy the body has to expend to keep itself at its baseline temperature in the cold water. So, taking ice-cold showers, decreasing the temperature of your home, or swimming in cool pools will help you burn a lot more calories.

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