More than two years after the onset of the pandemic, we are still struggling with the outbreak of Covid-19 – and that means building and maintaining a strong immune system should be a top priority.
As an immunologist and functional medicine doctor, I always remind my patients that while genetics, diet, and exercise play a role in our immune response, sleep is one of the most effective ways to prepare your body to fight infection.
Without enough sleep, your stress hormones can suffer from dysregulation, affecting your weight, gut health, and immune defense.
Sleep: Strengthen your body and strengthen your immune system
Exercising is not enough to get good quality sleep. I see patients who go to the gym every day and make sacrifices like getting rid of alcohol or sugar but still I can’t sleep well.
In fact, 50 million Americans suffer from some type of sleep disorder, and one in three adults in the United States sleeps less than the recommended minimum seven hours of sleep.
This, unfortunately, affects our health in many ways. Sleep deprivation not only makes us feel tired the next day, but it also leads to inflammation and increases the risk of disease. It has been linked to increased rates of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, depression and cancer.
How do you get a better sleep
The good news is that once you start prioritizing sleep, your immune system can quickly rebound.
Here are six things I do every night to ensure I get a good night’s rest:
1. Reduce the use of digital devices
You might be shocked by the amount of time you spend browsing the web, watching TV, and scrolling thoughtlessly on your phone. Once you’re honest about what you’re doing with your time, think about how you can cut back on those nonessential activities and make time for bed instead.
I also suggest putting your phone and computer in a drawer at the same time every evening. Experts in human behavior have found that being successful in making healthy lifestyle choices is less about innate willpower and more about creating a lifestyle that makes those decisions easier.
2. Create an ideal sleeping environment
Your bedroom should be a haven for your sleep. You don’t need expensive linens, a heavy blanket, or a cooling pad. A comfortable mattress, quality pillow, and soft bedding will do a good thing.
If you have indicator lights on electronic devices in your bedroom, cover them with black electrical tape. If you have bright street lights outside your window, use blackout blinds. If you can hear traffic noise, use a white noise machine to drown it out.
Finally, make sure your bedroom is nice and cool (the ideal sleeping temperature is around 65°F or 18.3°C).
3. Calm the mind before bed
Insomnia often results from ruminating on things that didn’t happen — or may never happen.
One way to calm your mind and body is to write before bed. Addressing your fears by writing them down has been found to help clear your mind of stressful thoughts so they don’t keep you up at night.
Breathing exercises can also help. If I am feeling restless or anxious, or feeling slightly better, I use the 4-5-7 breathing technique:
- Sit quietly, place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth near the back of your upper front teeth and exhale with a “whoosh” sound.
- Inhale through your nose for a silent count of four seconds, hold your breath for a count of seven, and exhale through your nose for a count of eight.
- Repeat this cycle three times, for a total of four rounds.
4. Magnesium Experience
Magnesium is often referred to as the “relaxation” mineral, thanks to its apparent ability to combat insomnia.
You can always take a magnesium supplement, but one of my favorite ways to use it to sleep is to take a warm bath of Epsom salt. Magnesium sulfate is the main component of Epsom salt, and by penetrating the skin and muscles, it can have a relaxing effect.
Even just soaking in a warm bath will help you fall asleep faster.
5. Wear blue light-blocking glasses
Blue light messes with your body’s ability to prepare for sleep because it blocks a hormone called melatonin that makes you sleepy.
Given the excessive amounts of blue light in our homes (for example, from smartphones, tablets, and computers), blue light-blocking glasses are essential to me. Wearing these glasses has been shown to significantly improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia.
The best eyeglasses usually have yellow or orange lenses and block higher percentages, some as high as 90%, of the blue spectrum light. My favorite glasses are Swanswick glasses, but there are many good manufacturers and prescription options as well.
6. Do some easy stretching
Doing stretching or restorative yoga before bed can help relieve pain, high blood pressure, restless leg syndrome and anxiety. Only some positions can engage your parasympathetic nervous system and help you sleep better.
I like doing leg raises up the wall. And the best part is that you only need five minutes or so to make a huge difference.
Heather Moday Board Certified in Allergy and Immunology and a Physician of Functional Medicine. She is also the author ofThe Immune Style Hack: Your Personalized Plan to Balance Your Immune System, Improve Health, and Build Lifelong Resilience. Follow her on Instagram Tweet embed And Facebook.
do not miss: