Are your nights filled with restful sleep, or do you toss and turn until morning? Do you spend your afternoons stifling yawns, but feel wired when you finally crawl into bed? Inadequate rest can cause a host of issues, but sleeping well can be impossible if your health is less than optimal. Wondering how to break the cycle? You’ve come to the right place! Throw a fresh pair of sheets on the bed, and prepare to sleep your way to better health.

The Consequences of Poor Sleep

Lack of sleep has been linked to everything from an increased cancer risk to heart disease. While many are familiar with these risks, sleep seems to fall at the very bottom of our lists of priorities. This essential need is treated like a luxury, while our bodies are forced to rely on stimulants like caffeine and sugar to function. This adds more strain to an already weakened system. Wondering what else those bouts of insomnia may lead to?

· Weakened immunity

· Mood disorders

· Increased risk of alcoholism

· Diabetes

· Heart Disease

· Obesity

· Impaired kidney function

· Accelerated tumor growth

· Heightened cancer risk

· Cognitive impairment

· Inflammation

· Infertility

· Memory Loss

· Lowered life expectancy

Can Sleep Improve Health?

In a culture of I’ll sleep when I’m dead, many are rushing towards poor health, physical discomfort, and mental impairment. While the negative effects of poor sleep are frightening, the good news is that many of these risks can be eliminated by simple getting adequate rest. Sleeping well also offers the following benefits:

· Improved healing

· Boosted immunity

· Improved memory

· Lowered risk of depression

· Reduced inflammation

· Weight loss

· Increased energy

· Slower aging

When Health Interferes with Rest

For many, poor rest is a result of living a high-stress lifestyle. It can be impossible to rest well with a system that is over-taxed and toxic. For those living with a chronic illness, food sensitivities, hormonal imbalances, and other undiagnosed health issues, getting optimal sleep can seem like a far-off dream. Add to this the underlying symptoms of many of our modern ailments, and it can be a recipe for disaster. Insomnia may be only one result or symptom of a much larger problem.

How to Break the Cycle

If you’re ready to improve your health, it is essential that you change the way you think about sleep. Rather than collapsing into bed at the end of the day with tablet or remote control in hand, sleep must become a priority. We cannot “catch up” on sleep. Instead, set aside time to prepare for a successful night’s sleep. Once we learn to value this time, our relationship with rest changes dramatically.

Turn Off the Screens

It can be tempting to curl up in bed and browse through the newsfeed from the day. However, the blue light emitted from these screens can disrupt melatonin, which is essential for a healthy sleep/wake cycle. Try to keep the use of these devices out of the bedroom as much as possible, and skip the exciting television show you’ll be tempted to binge-watch. If you crave entertainment before bed, choose a soft light and read a relaxing, old-fashioned book.

Skip the Sugar

Snacks laden with sugar, empty carbs, and processed foods can cause a blood sugar spike that provides temporary energy, followed by a crash. Often, we cycle between reaching for that pumpkin-spiced drink to get through the morning, and a quick pick-me-up sugary dessert after dinner. Sadly, the more we rely on these substances, the less our bodies can regulate our blood sugar, causing sleep disturbances, among many other issues.

Look Beneath the Surface

Many people suffering from sleep issues have an underlying hormonal imbalance. Women may experience fluctuations around their menstrual cycles and as they approach menopause. Over- and under-active thyroid conditions also affect the sleep cycle. Testing these levels is a quick, simple process that can have life-altering results. Finding a doctor that specializes in functional medicine ensures that you’ll do more than just treat the symptoms of these imbalances.

Create a Relaxation Ritual

If you find that you’re suddenly wide awake as soon as your head hits the pillow, create a nightly routine. It can be as simple as sipping a cup of chamomile tea 30 minutes before you plan to fall asleep. A warm (not too hot) bath can relax tired muscles, and a few drops of lavender essential oil will help relax your mind. Climb into bed at the same time each night to reinforce that it is time for sleep.

Supplements for Sleep

While prescription medication for sleep is a booming industry, these pills can be habit-forming and can have devastating side-effects. Instead, opt for a natural solution. Passion Flower, Valerian, and Hops are a few of the many herbs that can help you sleep well. Be sure to consult your practitioner before starting any herbal regimen to ensure that you’ve chosen the right herbs for you.

Sleep is one of the most natural functions of the human body, yet it remains elusive for many of us. Examine your lifestyle and your health now to take control. By evaluating your sleep hygiene, balancing your hormones, enjoying a sleep-inducing diet, and choosing supplements that help, you’ll be on your way to better health, one good night’s sleep at a time.

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