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While diet and exercise are well known to be key components to weight management, there is another major player that doesn’t get it’s fair share of glory: Sleep.

There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep. Our performance, how we look, the way we feel and ultimately our health are all influenced by how much sleep we get. While 9+ hours of sleep each night is ideal, less than 7 can leave us feeling foggy and irritable in the morning. But the consequences of sleep deprivation go way beyond waking up cranky. Countless studies have found that lack of sleep can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, slower reaction times, depression, cancer… and more.

Our bodies need sleep in order to reboot and repair. Think of sleep as a miracle drug with restorative powers. While we’re catching ZZZs, our bodies are working to regulate blood pressure, promote faster healing and muscle repair, and keep our memories sharp. It’s no coincidence that when we get a good night’s sleep we wake up feeling rejuvenated and just generally happier.

Benefits of sleep:

  • Contributes to weight loss and curbs carb cravings
  • Boosts mood and eradicates depression
  • Reduces blood pressure and stress levels
  • Reverses type II diabetes and minimizes the risk of heart disease
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Promotes faster healing and stronger immunity
  • Improves memory
  • Prevents cancer

While it provides a plethora of benefits, getting enough sleep is a lot easier said than done. With laptops, TV screens, and Smart Phones all around us it can be all too tempting to scroll through our Twitter feeds or watch that new episode of Scandal in bed. However, letting the hours tick by with these artificial lights isn’t doing our bodies any favors. And while a nightcap might seem like a good way to unwind after a long day, alcohol may induce sleepiness but it’ll disrupt your REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and leave you feeling restless. Just like nutrition and exercise, sleep is a vital element to a healthy lifestyle and it’s essential we give our body the time it needs to reset and revive.

How to get more sleep:

  1. Establish a routine. Consistency lets our bodies know when it’s time to wind down and when to wake up.
  2. Exercise regularly.
  3. Avoid large meals late in the evening. Opt for a light snack rather than heavy carbs prior to bed.
  4. Turn off electronics. Not only are they distracting and rob us of sleep, but the artificial lights can mess with our circadian rhythm (a fancy term for our internal body clock).
  5. Cut down on caffeine.
  6. Put away the wine. Alcohol leads to a disrupted sleep so choose an herbal tea or hot water with lemon instead.
  7. Avoid sugar. It will keep you awake and spike your blood sugar.
  8. Keep the bedroom on the cooler side. Between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.
  9. Try a soothing activity like journaling or meditation if you can’t fall asleep.

Sleep benefits our weight, health, heart, and mind so while it may seem counterproductive, we need our ZZZ’s to stay healthy both mentally and physically. Try some of the tips above tonight to get a good night’s sleep so when that alarm clock goes off, you’re ready to take on the world. Nighty-night!

What is your favorite nighttime ritual that helps you sleep? Share in the comments below!

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