As life gets busier it seems that there is no time to sleep. Even when you do grab a few hours, they usually aren’t very restful and leave you feeling just as fatigued as you were before. The sleep crisis facing many children and adults has caused them to become irritable, chronically tired, and even sick due to a compromised immune system.
Sleep is incredibly important for energy, restoring tired systems, and healing the body. In fact, the healing you experience while asleep is much more effective than anything you experience while awake.
With this in mind, a lack of sleep or sleep that isn’t restful becomes all the more alarming. Fortunately, there are various natural ways to improve sleep as well as treat insomnia.
The Importance of Restful Sleep
Restful sleep is one of the most important parts of life for a number of reasons. Children, teenagers and young adults under twenty-five require restful sleep to aid in their physical and mental development as well to keep their bodies working properly.
For older adults, sleep is important to keep up the immune system as well as help the body to age gracefully and heal when sick or injured. People often sleep after a trauma or ordeal because it is the body’s way of repairing itself after it has been stretched beyond its limits. For the day to day life, sleep is important for keeping up your energy and stamina as well as maintaining a strong immune system to fight disease and other illness.
Restful sleep is defined by deep sleep that may include dreaming, also known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. When restful sleep is achieved, you wake up feeling refreshed and energized rather than tired and groggy, and can go about your day with renewed enthusiasm.
Focusing on whole foods that are high in fiber, lean protein, healthy fats like omega 3-s, and lots of anti-aging antioxidants is an effortless way to stay slender. Individuals who used to struggle with dieting and weight loss are able to transform their bodies by simply basing their meals on clean, simple foods. A few staples are:
Almonds - serving 1 oz.
Great for salads, yogurt, oatmeal and on-the-go snacking.
Key attributes - fiber, healthy fats, lean protein
Avocado - serving 1/2 avocado
Great for smoothies, salads, and guacamole; a healthy alternative to mayo
Key attributes - healthy fats, lean protein, antioxidants
Black beans - serving 1/2 cup
Great for soups, salads, and fajitas
Key attributes - fiber, lean protein
Broccoli - serving 1/2 cup
Great for soups, salads, and side dishes
Key attributes - fiber, antioxidants
Dark Chocolate - serving 1 oz.
Great for a healthy sweet-tooth fix
Key attributes - antioxidants
Kale - 1 cup
Great for soups, salads and side dishes
Key attributes: fiber and antioxidants
Olive Oil - serving 1 tbsp
Great for salad dressings and marinades
Key attributes - healthy fats
Salmon - serving 3 1/2 oz.
Great for breakfast (smoked), lunch, or dinner (baked, grilled or steamed).
Key attributes - healthy fats and lean protein
Spinach - serving 1 cup
Great for soups, salads and side dishes
Key attributes - fiber and antioxidants
Walnuts - serving 1 oz.
Great for salads, yogurt, oatmeal and on-the-go snacking
Key attributes - fiber, healthy fats, antioxidants
Exercise makes you pay attention to its sensations, such as breathing faster, and the things around you. It also helps you disengage from worry. In one study, by Jasper A.J. Smits, PhD, professor of psychology at UT; he found that exercise slashed anxiety in half! Studies show that it is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate. When stress affects the brain, with its many nerve connections, the rest of the body feels the impact as well. Or, if your body feels better, so does your mind. Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins — chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers — and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress. Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. About five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects
Yoga sessions three times a week improved people's mood and anxiety levels after 12 weeks in one study conducted by the Boston University School of Medicine. The level of GABA, an amino acid in the brain, is lower in people who report anxiety. Among study participants who took a yoga class, GABA levels increased and reports of anxiety decreased after the session. Yoga's deep breathing "stimulated the parasympathetic nervous system, which is associated with the ability to relax, says Chris C. Streeter, MD.
Norwegian researchers discovered that sleep-deprived people are more likely to be anxious. Here's why: "Sleep loss activates areas of the brain that are also activated during anxiety," says Jack B. Nitschke, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine in Madison. To ward off the willies, aim to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. It is also suggested to refrain/step away from electronic devices 30 minutes before bedtime and jotting your worries down on paper.
In anxious people, researchers have seen a deactivation in areas of the brain that govern thought, enabling worries to spiral out of control. Mindfulness meditation helps stop the cycle of worry. Studies have shown that anxiety levels of meditators eased up to to 39%
This heavenly therapy slows the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol, which are linked to anxiety. Research by the University of Miami School of Medicine found that a month of weekly 20-minute massages lowers cortisol levels by 31%. Massage also causes a relaxation response, which eases anxiety.
Taking Kava for 6 weeks eased anxiety for 26% of people with GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) in a 2013 study. Research shows that it's effective for up to 6 months. Kava is available in capsules and liquid tinctures; follow label directions
Andrea Stewart Roa, M.S.
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