Not too long ago, my husband was diagnosed with sleep apnea and ordered by his physician to start using a CPAP machine. At first, he was highly skeptical because he claimed that he felt fine after a good 7-8 hours of sleep each night, but our doctor quickly put him in his place.
She explained that not only was his body essentially starving for oxygen every night, but it also explained his weight gain over the past few years, his high blood pressure, his lack of focus, afternoon sleepiness and almost every other negative symptom in his medical chart for the past two decades.
Now, I’m not trying to scare you into researching about the potential risks of sleep apnea. You should consider asking about a sleep study if you occasionally wake up feeling like you need to catch your breath, but that’s not what today’s topic is really about.
The point I want to get across to you loud and clear is that there is no substitute for quality sleep. It is the number one factor in how quickly our bodies’ age, and new studies are also tying sleep quality to key factors in heart disease, obesity, circulatory problems and dozens of other things we usually attribute to getting older.
Proper sleep also plays a huge factor in how our skin ages and more importantly, how it regenerates every night. So let’s take a look at a few things you can do to increase your overall sleep quality-
Developing a Consistent Sleep Routine
Doctors have insisted for decades that the average adult female requires at least seven hours of restful sleep per night, and there is nothing out there in recent medical journals that suggest otherwise. However, it is now believed that deep REM sleep is the most beneficial when we get our bodies on a solid sleep schedule.
What does that mean, exactly? When your body is in its deepest sleep mode, it realizes hormones that revitalize the body. But evidence suggests that if you’re frequently switching up when you go to bed and when you wake up, the body is nowhere near as efficient in handling this task. So your best bet is to choose a sleep time that works for your weekly schedule and stick to it seven days a week.
Eliminate Overnight Noise and Distractions
I am personally a big fan of watching television in bed until I’m ready to doze off for the night. Sometimes I’ll listen to music as well. But doctors consistently say that these kinds of activities can become distractions as we sleep and prevent us from ever reaching the deep sleep levels that our bodies need. So for this reason alone, you want to focus on having a quiet bedroom once it’s time for lights out.
We tend to think of sleep in just two forms- either we are awake or we aren’t. But science shows that there are many different levels of sleep…perhaps even hundreds! Simple distractions like a loud noise on television or a horn honking may not bring us all the way up to a conscience level, but it awakens the brain and instantly cuts off REM sleep. The same goes for bright lights or other stimulus; each can bring us out of deep sleep.
Start Sleeping on your Back
Additionally, you’ll want to make major efforts to sleep on your back as much as possible from now on. While it may not seem like the most comfortable position, it is easily the best for your facial muscles and your skin in particular. So choose a pillow that supports your head nicely and maybe try a second pillow beneath your knees to relieve tension in the lower back.
The other health benefits from sleeping on your back include keeping your spine in perfect alignment during rest periods and allowing your body to breathe more naturally (due to opening the diaphragm). So while it may take a little bit of time to get used to, it’s definitely worth the effort for the long-term.
Get Some Exercise Before Bed Time
Finally, I want you to get into the habit of doing some light exercise right before bedtime. Feel free to choose from walking a few laps around the house, peddling a stationary bike for 15 minutes, some stretching exercises or whatever naturally helps you relax. Numerous studies have shown that light exercise before bedtime creates a nice cooldown period between the grind of your normal day and jumping in bed. With just 10-15 minutes of exercise, you’ll likely fall asleep faster and reach REM sleep more frequently.
As I’ve said to you repeatedly over the past month, your body needs the right combination of diet, exercise and rest to maintain a youthful appearance. Sleep should be the easiest of the three to master, and it will also reward you the fastest with more energy throughout the day.
Be sure to let me know how each of these tips work for you!