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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 August 15, 2018

          7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

          7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

          Bodyweight exercises are gaining ground in the fitness world due to the practicality and simplicity of getting in shape using your own body weight. Planks are one form of bodyweight exercises that will never go out of fashion. Planks are one of the most effective exercises you can do. Why? Because they require a small time investment on your part, and offer the chance to achieve substantial results in a relatively short span of time.

          Video Summary

          Why is it important to train up our core strength?

          There are numerous sites and blogs which detail ways to build your core muscles or core strength. Often though, these sites neglect to explain what your core muscles actually are, and why building them is important.

          This is quite surprising, as core muscles are quite easy to explain. Your core muscles are a series of muscles in your midsection, and are used in most forms of movement. Though they aren’t housed in your arms or legs, your core muscles can help transfer force from one limb to another, or are used in addition to muscles in your arms or legs to increase their effectiveness. As such a strong core will make a big improvement on your ability to move and exercise further.

          Also they are great for helping other muscles in your midsection such as your abdominal muscles. Your abdominal muscles are important for supporting your back and spinal column, and as such are important aids in preventing injuries. However for them to be most effective you need to spend a lot of time developing your core muscles.

          In short, planking exercises can make a huge improvement in your muscles down your whole body. Making them a hugely effective exercise to perform.

          One Exercise, multiple benefits

          There are few forms of exercise as effective at building your core as planking exercises. However, planking exercises benefit far more than just your core strength.

          By holding yourself in the position for a planking exercise, you’ll notice that your biceps, neck, and shoulder muscles are also being tested and strained. This this encouraging their buildup and development. This is great news if you like to do press ups, developed shoulder muscles will have a big impact on your press up performance.

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          When planking, you are holding yourself up through your arms and biceps and so by holding a planking position, your arm muscles are being toned and developed. Making planking a great alternative exercise to other forms of bicep developing exercises.

          Moving down your midsection, successful plank exercises actually develop the muscles in your butt! These muscles tend to be ignored by a lot of exercises, so this is another great benefit of plank exercises.

          In much the same way as you develop your biceps and arm muscles, holding the planking position helps develop the muscles in your thighs too.

          What is even better is that planking exercises don’t take much time at all. In fact you should probably only spend about ten minutes max per day in the planking exercise.

          What will happen when you start doing planks every day

            1. You’ll improve core definition and performance: 

            Planks are an ideal exercise for the abdominal muscles exactly because they engage all major core muscle groups including the transverse abdominus, the rectus abdominusthe external oblique muscle, and the glutes. The importance of strengthening each muscle group cannot be underestimated either, for all of these groups serve their own purpose. If you strengthen these muscle groups you will notice:

            • Transverse abdominis: increased ability to lift heavier weights.
            • Rectus adbominis: improved sports performance, particularly with jumping. This muscle group is also responsible for giving you the renowned six pack look.
            • Oblique muscles: improved capacity for stable side-bending and waist-twisting
            • Glutes: a supported back and a strong, shapely booty.

            2. You’ll decrease your risk of injury in the back and spinal column

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              Doing planks is a type of exercise that allow you to build muscle while also making sure that you are not putting too much pressure on your spine or hips. According to the American Council on Exercise, doing planks regularly not only significantly reduces back pain but it also strengthens your muscles and ensures a strong support for your entire back, especially in the areas around your upper back.

              Check out this article if you would like to find out about how doing planks on different surfaces can impact the effectiveness of this exercise in strengthening your core.

              3. You’ll experience an increased boost to your overall metabolism

                Planking is an excellent way of challenging your entire body because doing them every day will burn more calories than other traditional abdominal exercises, such as crunches or sit-ups. The muscles you strengthen by doing this exercise on a day-to-day basis will ensure that you burn more energy even when sedentary. This is especially important if you are spending the majority of your day sitting in front of a computer. Also, making it a daily 10- to 1 minute home exercise before or after work will not only provide an enhanced metabolic rate but it will also ensure that that metabolic rate remains high all day long, (yes, even while you are asleep).

                4. You’ll significantly improve your posture

                  Planking exercises have a great impact and improvement on your posture. This is great news as a strong posture brings with it a huge number of fantastic benefits .

                  A good posture keeps your bones and joins in the correct alignment which means both your bones and joints will be better maintained and more healthy, but also means the overall effectiveness of your muscles will be improved.

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                  A good posture will ensure your back or spine is in the correct position and so you will suffer less back pain.

                  On top of everything, someone with good posture looks better, healthier, and more confident.

                  5. You’ll improve overall balance

                    Have you ever felt that when you tried standing on one leg, you couldn’t stand up straight for more than a couple of seconds? It’s not because you were drunk- unless you happened to be at the time!-  but rather, it’s because your abdominal muscles weren’t strong enough to give you the balance you needed. Through improving your balance by doing side planks and planks with extensions you will boost your performance in every kind of sporting activity.

                    6. You’ll become more flexible than ever before

                      Flexibility is a key benefit of doing planks regularly, for this form of exercise expands and stretches all your posterior muscle groups – shouldersshoulder blades, and collarbone – while also stretching your hamstrings, arches of your feet, and toes. With a side plank added in to the mix, you can also work on your oblique muscles. This will provide you with further benefits when it comes to hyper-extending your toes, a movement that is crucial for supporting your body’s weight.

                      7. You’ll witness mental benefits

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                        Plank exercises have a particular effect on our nerves, making them an excellent means of improving overall mood. How? Well, they stretch out muscle groups that contribute to stress and tension in the body. Just think about it: you are sitting in your chair, at home or at work, all day long; your thigh muscles get tight, your legs get heavy due to being bent for several hours; and tension develops in your shoulders due to being forced to slump forward all day. These are all circumstances that put too stress on the muscles and nerves. The good news is that planks not only calm your brain, but they can also treat anxiety and symptoms of depression– but only if you make it part of your daily routine.

                        How to hold a plank position

                        1. Get into pushup position on the floor.
                        2. Now bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms.
                        3. Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending.
                        4. Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
                        5. Hold the position for as long as you can.
                        6. Remember to breathe. Inhale and exhale slowly and steadily.
                        7. When your form begins to suffer, pull the plug. You’re only benefiting from the plank by actually doing the plank.

                        Watch the video if you have any doubt!

                        Here is a great infographic that shows the best plank variation exercises to evenly target all abdominal muscle groups:

                          How to improve your plank time gradually

                          1. Start with the easier variation if needed. You can start with a bent-knee plank if you can’t perform a regular plank yet. If you can hold a plank for more than two minutes with ease, you can move on to these tougher variations.
                          2. Practise every day. Space your planking exercise throughout the day and do 3-4 times every day. Try to hold the position 10 seconds longer each time.
                          3. Perform other body-weight exercises at the same time. Push-up and squat will improve your core strength too.

                          Are you ready to devote 5-10 minutes of your day, every day, to stay fit, healthy and, most importantly, strong as a bull? Then jump in and make doing plank exercises a part of your life.

                          Who Should Be Cautious Doing The Plank?

                          You need to be cautious doing Planking exercises if any of these risks apply to you:

                          • Prolapse
                          • After prolapse surgery
                          • Pelvic pain conditions
                          • Weak or poorly functioning pelvic floor muscles
                          • Previous childbirth
                          • Overweight

                          Choose an alternative pelvic floor abdominal exercise or consult your doctor before performing plank regularly.

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