3 Ways To Snooze Towards Better Health

by Kristen Keen, MBA, RD, LDN

Last Updated: August 13, 2020

The human body requires daily sleep for optimal rest and repair. When you don’t get enough sleep you may feel angry, moody, irritable, and generally run down. The body needs sleep in order to properly process food choices and day to day activities. We’ve put together three things you need to know about the importance of sleep and how to optimize your non-waking hours.
  1. How much sleep do we need?
    Whether you are a night owl or a morning person, most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Practicing good sleep hygiene is key. A good night’s sleep has been shown to improve overall health, mood, help with weight management, concentration, and energy levels. Lack of sleep over long periods of time has been associated with decreased immune system response, increased risk of stroke and heart disease, increased feeling of hunger, headaches, increased risk of certain types of cancer, low energy levels, and increased risk of obesity. Many may be used to getting less than 7 hours of sleep, but that doesn’t mean you still may not need more.
  2. Foods that affect our sleep.
    While some foods may help with better sleep, some may also hinder sleep. Eating a varied diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains (popcorn, whole wheat options, oatmeal, and brown rice), lean protein (heart healthy fish, chicken, nuts and seeds, and beans), heart healthy fats (avocados, nuts and seeds, fish, and olive oil), and a good water intake have been shown to aid in sleep and improve healthy sleep patterns. Some foods naturally contain melatonin, and which can aid in improving sleep. A few foods that contain melatonin include cherries, corn, asparagus, broccoli, grapes, oats, walnuts, pistachios, flax seeds, and mushrooms.

    There are also foods that have been shown to have a negative impact on sleep, especially when consumed close to bedtime. These foods include processed or refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, and trans fats.
  3. Sleep routines.
    Developing a nighttime routine can help to increase sleep, aid in practicing good sleep hygiene, and decrease stress and anxiety. Routines can consist of a wind down like meditation, sipping on a hot beverage like tea, writing in a journal, self-reflection, or reading a book. You can also try a slow form of movement like yoga, a walk, or activities with family or friends. Find what your body likes to help relax and stick with it. See these tips for better sleep from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    Decreasing screen time in the afternoon and into the evening has also been linked to better sleep patterns. Although it is tempting to watch TV before bed, try to decrease your exposure to the TV, phone or laptop and pick up a book or just take a few minutes of much needed time for yourself.

If you are a fan of tracking your sleep numbers and want to see how these new tips may be increasing your sleep, there are many apps, smartwatches, and tools you can use to be more in tune. When you have that little bit of extra time, grab that quick nap if your body is asking for it. Listen to your body's cues and take that time to relax to improve your health.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

Kristen Keen, MBA, RD, LDN

Kristen Keen, MBA, RD, LDN

Kristen believes having a strong relationship with nutrition is key to having a healthy life and that relationship should center around the power of self-love!