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Lack of sleep is proven to cause numerous health problems – but did you know that poor gut health is one of them? If you’ve experienced digestive issues like gas, bloating, or constipation, your sleep habits may be the culprit. Researchers believe that there’s a direct connection between gut health and our sleep patterns. However, they’re unsure if gut health influences sleep quality or vice versa. That said, we do know that a happy gut is a balanced gut. Balancing good and bad gut bacteria is key to relieving the symptoms of poor gut health. Prebiotics and probiotics help achieve this, but some of the best prebiotic (and probiotic) supplements come in the form of food. Fermented foods like pickles and sauerkraut fill the gut with healthy bacteria while fiber-rich foods like apples and bananas “feed” pre-existing gut bacteria and encourage microbiome diversity. Once you’ve got your gut health handled, turn your attention to sleep hygiene by establishing and maintaining healthy sleep-wake patterns and addressing sleep disruptions, like snoring.
Supplements fill in the gaps of our nutrition. Wherever our food intake is lacking, vitamins and supplements can help to maintain and boost our health and well-being. What’s more, sometimes they’re necessary. Calcium helps maintain healthy bone density, while prenatal vitamins like folic acid reduce the risk of birth defects in pregnant women, That said, some supplements are proven to cause sleep disruptions. For example, weight loss supplements usually contain caffeine known to keep us up at night. The timing and dosage of certain vitamins matter, too. Taking vitamin C too closely to bedtime fragments our rest, while a high intake of vitamin D and insomnia are closely linked. In summary, if you want better rest, there are certain vitamins and supplements that you should steer clear of entirely or closely monitor your dosage of to ensure your best sleep yet.
The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve within the body, responsible for helping regulate almost every day-to-day process including digestion, sleep, and overall well-being. It’s also connected to our ability to show compassion and empathy for others. When our vagus nerve isn’t functioning as it should, it’s often called “low vagal tone.” This dysfunction leads to inflammation, anxiety, poor sleep, and even digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome. Therefore, boosting vagal tone with vagus nerve exercises for digestion and improved sleep can make all of the difference in how we feel. For example, humming and singing are thought to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and, in turn, our vagus nerve. Breathwork is another hidden gem for improving vagal tone by shifting the body from a state of fight or flight into a state of rest and relaxation.
Naps are a seemingly regular part of childhood. But for many adults, there just isn’t enough time in the day to nap. Despite that, the majority of adults across the globe are seriously sleep-deprived. Napping is a quick, simple way to fill in some of the gaps and pay off sleep debt. In fact, a NASA study found that napping improves working memory performance, helping to reduce workplace errors while enhancing focus and attention. That said, the timing and duration of your nap matter. If you nap too long, you might wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle. This leads to grogginess upon waking, often called sleep inertia. Whether you’re interested in short cat naps or longer naps (like a 45-minute nap or 90-minute nap), rest assured that there are benefits to both. If you only have 15 minutes to snooze, you should utilize it and attempt to rest. However, if you can swing a nap that’s an hour and a half long, go for it! Just be sure to wake up at the 1.5-hour mark, or you may be left feeling groggier than before you laid down. Consuming caffeine before napping may help you feel more alert upon waking regardless of nap duration - as long as caffeine doesn’t affect you negatively in general.
Everyone wants to be debt free. But many people have racked up a dangerous amount of sleep debt without even knowing it. Like any debt, sleep debt is easy to acquire and difficult to pay off. As a result of high sleep debt, you may find yourself still tired after 8 hours of sleep. It takes multiple days to pay off even one hour of sleep debt, and fully paying off chronic sleep debt can take more than a week. However, it’s important to pay off sleep debt as soon as possible - the long-term effects of sleep debt are detrimental to our health. Over time, sleep debt increases our risk of inflammation and infection while weakening our immune response. Processing issues like brain fog and poor memory arise as a result of sleep debt, too. Even worse, sleep-deprived individuals experience a higher risk of developing cardiovascular issues like high blood pressure, heart disease, and even heart failure. Our modern lifestyle seemingly promotes sleep debt buildup with shift work, long commutes, and digital distractions. Luckily, sleep debt can be lowered with lifestyle changes that promote healthy sleep patterns.
Breathing exercises have gained popularity in recent years, but they’re actually rooted in ancient cultural practices centered around deep, controlled breathing. When we use our abdomen, or diaphragm, to breathe instead of our chest, our breathing transforms from shallow, fast breaths to slow, deep inhalations and exhalations. As a result, our bodies and brains shift out of a state of stress and into a state of relaxation. Countless abdominal breathing benefits follow, including improved mood, lessened pain, and even better digestion. Moreover, the more often you practice abdominal breathing, the stronger your lungs become. As the lungs strengthen, oxygenation improves, and boosted productivity and performance follow. If that wasn’t already exciting enough, deep breathing is linked to improved immunity and better sleep. Long story short, abdominal breathing is the quickest, most effective way to shift your mindset and physical body into a state of greater well-being.
Do you often struggle with a lack of sleep, eyes that are tired the next morning, and never-ending daytime grogginess? If your sleep-deprived eyes are becoming a daily distraction, addressing and correcting your sleep hygiene should be at the top of your to-do list. That said, lack of sleep has much more intense side effects when it comes to our vision than just tired eyes. Eye spasms and sensitivity are both tied to running short on sleep. Chronic dry, itchy eyes are, too. Moreover, undereye bags, dark circles, fine lines, and wrinkles may become more apparent when you’re short on shut-eye. But the damage isn’t just aesthetic - over time, sleep deprivation may even increase your risk of permanent vision loss. Glaucoma is more common in individuals who are short on sleep. Therefore, regular, consistent eye exams and healthy sleep habits are vital for seeing clearly in the long run.
The winter months are harsh and cold in more ways than one. Winter is the time of year when most of us get sick with a respiratory illness, the flu, or feel generally under the weather due to being stuck inside for so long. Thankfully, your nose is there to get you through the flu season.
Strengthening your immune system can be as simple as fixing your breathing! Use these nasal breathing exercises to ensure that you filter out bacteria and foreign particles with every breath you take.