by Jessica Smith, REDBOOK
You eat right, you exercise, you take vitamins, but you still aren't losing weight or feeling that great. So what's missing? It could be something more important to your body than food: SLEEP!
According to recent studies, sleep may be as crucial to your health as diet and exercise. And while insomnia sufferers know that they are missing sleep, many disrupted sleepers may not even realize that they aren't getting a full night's rest. So what can you do to make sure this isn't happening to you?
Try these 3 ways to improve the quality of your sleep tonight:
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1) Cut off caffeine after 11:00 a.m. Sure, you know too much java can keep you awake, but did you know that caffeine can stay in your system for up to 14 hours? And we aren't just talking coffee here - that includes chocolate, Diet Coke, iced tea - even Midol. The Mayo Clinic recommends healthy adults consume at or under 300mg per day (the average chocolate bar has 30mg, 2 Midol have 120 mg), and for better sleep, stop your supply after 11:00.
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2) Have a glass of red wine at night. While too much alcohol can cause sleep disruption, several studies found that having just one single glass of red wine before drifting off can help your body's production of melatonin. The effect only works with red wine, as the highest levels of melatonin are found in the skins of red grapes and are brought out during the fermentation process (so grape juice won't have the same effect). The highest melatonin levels can be found in Nebbiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon wines.
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3) Adjust your exercise schedule. A recent study found that aerobic exercise is an effective prescription for insomnia, and afternoon exercise may be even better for improving your sleep. However, some evening exercisers may find it harder to fall asleep at night, so you need to find the best time for both your body and schedule needs. Experiment to find out what works best for you: if you find that you are more alert at night when you work out after 4 p.m., you may need to schedule your workouts earlier in the day.
Jessica Smith is a certified fitness lifestyle expert and creator of the 10 Pounds DOWN DVD series.
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.