The Top Four Ways to Sabotage Your Sleep

More than a third of Americans are good at one particular thing...

Being exhausted.

If you love the feeling of tired eyes, being rundown, and being more irritable than usual, this is the perfect time of year for you... with the cold weather and cold and flu season running rampant.

But what if you want to feel really worn out?

Today, we've got four ways to sabotage your sleep.

We've also thrown in ways to fix sleep troubles... for those of you interested in reaping the health benefits of a great night's sleep.

1. Depression. One reason people feel depressed in the winter – known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – is mostly due to a lack of sunlight. Many of us leave for work in the morning when it's dark and come home in the evening after sundown. This wreaks havoc on mental health.

A good fix: Get plenty of sunlight. Sun benefits our health by triggering our bodies to produce vitamin D isomers (different versions of the basic chemical). Studies show that having adequate amounts of vitamin D reduces the risk of Alzheimer's, lessens symptoms of mild depression, and helps our bodies regulate calcium absorption, which keeps our bones strong.

Simply exposing your skin to sunlight for 20 minutes or so a day can be enough to fight winter depression. I try to take a walk or two during the day when I'm at my office in Baltimore... even if it's just to go get lunch. I also keep the shutters on my windows open to let in as much light as possible while I sit at my desk.

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2. Temperature. It sounds odd to talk about heat during the winter, but it happens. Many folks crank up the temperatures indoors, but it can backfire.

Keeping it too warm can dehydrate you faster, which makes you tired. It also means you're burning more energy to try and balance your core temperature.

A good rule of thumb is to keep temperatures down. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy recommends keeping your home around 68 degrees while you're awake and lowering it to about 62 while you sleep during the winter. If you decide to go a bit warmer, remember to still lower the temperature when you're away to help you save money. You can save up to 10% a year on your bill by turning your temperature down by seven to 10 degrees for at least eight hours a day.

3. Diet. When we eat, we take in food and break it into usable energy in the form of glucose. Once that glucose gets into our bloodstream, it travels to our cells and keeps them running. The transfer from blood to cells is facilitated by the hormone insulin.

If we take in too many calories or keep eating repeatedly, our insulin levels stay elevated. Over time, our bodies stop responding to insulin as well – a problem called insulin sensitivity. That means sugar stays in our blood for longer periods of time (instead of getting stored as glycogen or fat), leading to high blood sugar, a hallmark of diabetes.

What's more, too much blood sugar makes us feel tired and sluggish. Some of the biggest culprits: Processed foods, carbohydrates, and sugars.

Adding more fresh fruit and vegetables to your diet and cutting back on these trigger foods will help modulate your blood sugar. Additionally, a good way to fight the post-meal slump is to get active. Take a 20-minute walk about 20 minutes after eating. If the weather's bad, trying walking around your home or office.

4. Inactivity. It might be hard to find the energy to exercise, but it will help boost your energy. According to a few studies out of the University of Georgia, just one 20-minute session of moderate level exercise increased energy levels of the participants. What's more, regular exercise also helps combat seasonal depression.

If you're stuck on how to get started, first incorporate walking into your daily routine. Once you do that, try a short exercise routine like the high-intensity interval training I've recommended.

Starting new routines during the winter might seem impossible, but with a little effort, you'll start to see the payoffs in your energy levels.

Have another trick you use to beat the daily slump? Send it in to us at: [email protected].

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
Baltimore, Maryland
February 8, 2018