Besides Diet and Exercise…Sleep!

When it comes to living a healthy, happy, and long life, food is king.  Exercise and activity are very important, too. And then there’s the bigger picture: lifestyle habits. Good lifestyle habits are the best medicine to combat chronic illness.

Let’s review

We live in a world where heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, strokes, cancers, and auto-immune disease are now out of control.  The results of this impact quality of life, being a burden on others, and overall life span.

Research suggests that eating a diet based on whole-foods, mostly plant-based, prevents these illnesses, and can reverse them in many cases, too.

How powerful is exercise?  30-40 minutes of aerobic exercise, 5-6 days a week, can cut your risk of heart attack and stroke by up to 50%!  That is only one example of its power.  Its tentacles extend out in many directions of healthy living and especially in mental health.


Aside from food and exercise, there are other aspects in lifestyle that make a huge difference. One of these aspects is sleep.

According to research done at the Mayo clinic, not sleeping enough results in impaired memory, slower reaction times, lack of alertness, and grumpiness.  Tired people are less productive at work, less patient with others, and less interactive in their relationships.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that more than 100,000 crashes each year are due to drivers falling asleep at the wheel.  For those of us who exercise regularly, we all know how unproductive a session can be when we have failed to get a good night’s sleep.

More recent research shows how sleep deprivation can contribute to higher cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and overweight/obesity.

Too busy for sleep

Before the electric light bulb was invented, people averaged about 10 hours of sleep per night!  Now, with all the temptation nowadays of working or socializing over multiple time zone being so easy, sleep (like anything else) has to be scheduled.  Many are at their computers late into the night.

In addition, stress and worries can keep us from sleeping enough hours and from sleeping soundly.

Getting more sleep

An adult between the ages of 18-24 requires 7-9 hour so sleep per night.  Practically speaking, what can we do to enhance our sleep hygiene? In her new book “What’s’ Missing from Medicine,” Dr. Saray Stancic has some good suggestions based on sleep research.

To fall asleep
  • Your bedroom should be cool, dark, and quiet.
  • Keep the bedroom for its purpose, a place to sleep. Not for reading, working, and being on the computer.
  • Have a good quality mattress; anything beyond 14-15 years is probably not helping you sleep well.
  • Set a bedtime routine. It can be a shower or bath, a few minutes of meditation, deep breathing, or other means of relaxation.
In order to stay asleep
  • Don’t eat or drink two hours before bedtime.
  • Use the bathroom before getting in bed even if you don’t feel an urge to do so.
  • If you drink alcohol, don’t before bed. It decreases the length of REM sleep.
  • Only drink or eat caffeinated drinks and food in the morning hours.
  • Smoking is a stimulant. If you haven’t quit, it’s time!
  • SCHEDULE YOUR SLEEP! Try as best you can to go to sleep and wake up at the same times daily.
  • Smart phones, tablets, and computers are stimulants. Studies show longer screen time equals less sleep.
  • Turn off your alerts and notifications when you get in bed—best to turn the phone off one full hour before bedtime.

Better sleep, better health

I can tell you from my clinical experience that when it comes to losing weight, clients with the best success are sure to get a good night’s sleep most nights.  I’ve also seen people who had trouble lowering their blood sugar be able to do so better once their sleep hygiene improved.

Lack of sleep will also disrupt your metabolism and will cause you to secrete more of the hormone cortisol.  This will increase your appetite and cause you to crave fatty foods.

If you try all of the tips we have suggested here over a period of time and you still can’t sleep, seek professional help from a sleep center or a physician that specializes in sleep disorders.  Getting adequate sleep is a key ingredient in order to “add hours to your day, days to your year, and years to your life.” 


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