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4 tips for better sleep

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By Derek Beres
From
Completely You


Nothing can ruin a day like a bad night's sleep. And while there are many reasons you might have trouble falling asleep, they all have one thing in common: high cortisol levels.

Cortisol is the stress hormone; your body releases it during difficult times to increase your blood sugar, which keeps you wired. It also suppresses your immune system, and that's why people who don't get enough sleep often get sick. And since your cortisol levels naturally rise between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. in preparation for the day ahead, you'll often wake up between these hours, unable to fall asleep again, if you go to bed wired.

What to do? Try the better sleep tips below to help keep cortisol and stress at bay from the time you wake so you can you achieve a deep and restful sleep at night.


Better Sleep Tip No. 1: Consider getting a good night's sleep after an all-day affair.


You can't treat your body badly all day and expect to drop off peacefully at night. Cortisol levels should be highest when you wake up and slowly decline as the hours pass. But if you don't properly address anxiety as it arises, your body might hold onto it and still be in overdrive when the evening comes -- even if you believe you're calming down. Eat healthfully and find ways to manage your stress throughout the day so it doesn't catch up with you at night.


Better Sleep Tip No. 2: Move, meditate and breathe
in the morning.

There is truth to the idea of waking up on the "wrong side of the bed." By simply doing 10-15 minutes of exercise during your first hour awake, you'll vastly improve your chances of never rolling off that side. Morning exercise -- whether it's jogging, yoga or even a simple walk -- helps you channel that abundance of energy you have (remember, cortisol levels are highest in the morning) and focus throughout the day. Need some exercise ideas to get started? Check out my easy, energizing yoga moves.


Better Sleep Tip No. 3: Reap the benefits of herbs.


Using herbs throughout the day can make a big difference at night. They are not a quick fix to undo damage you do by ignoring other good habits. But using them for maintenance can prove to be extremely helpful. Here are some worth considering:

Turmeric is one of nature's most powerful anti-inflammatory agents. Since inflammation is a symptom of poor sleep patterns, it can help lower the risk of the associated diseases that arise from it.

Tulsi helps lower cortisol levels and regulate blood sugar. It's a member of the broccoli family and can be made into a delicious tea or taken in pill form.

Ashwagandha increases mental alertness, fights fatigue and helps you sleep better at night. It's best consumed in liquid form (though it is very sharp-tasting) but can also be taken as a pill.

Gynostemma is an antioxidant and adaptogen (i.e., it regulates your metabolism, increasing your ability to adapt to, and avoid damage from, stress). I'm a big fan of this member of the cucumber family: I brew a wonderful herbal tea and use it, along with coconut water, as the liquid base for my morning smoothie.


Better Sleep Tip No. 4: Practice the "yoga of sleep."

Also known as the "yoga of sleep," Yoga Nidra consists of restorative postures, guided meditations and gentle music. It has been found to help reduce anxiety and the effects of stress (e.g., headaches, abdominal pain and sweating) as well as help practitioners sleep. It's so effective that it's currently used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder too. To get started, try this book by creator Swami Satyananda Saraswati. It's a great place to learn key concepts. For a more experiential approach, I recommend these CD's by Kripalu teacher Jennifer Reis. You can also watch a helpful video here.





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