While sleep might sleep like a pretty passive activity, there are actually a multitude of things going on behind the scenes that help keep your body in tip top shape. And one of most important
is a reduction of inflammation — especially if you're sleeping well, and making an effort to give your body what it needs.
"When we sleep, our bodies are able to heal and rejuvenate,"
Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., tells Bustle. "Better sleep is associated with decreased inflammation, while disturbed sleep can lead to increased inflammation."
Basically, the body needs to shut down in order to recover. "When you sleep, you give your body a break so it can focus on doing what it needs to do to keep you healthy,"
Samantha Eaton, certified nutrition & eating psychology coach, tells Bustle. "For example if there are areas that need to heal, the brain triggers the release of hormones to encourage tissue growth to repair blood vessels and produce more white blood cells to attack viruses and bacteria that might hinder healing. That can help sore and damaged muscles heal faster as well as things like wounds."
If you want
to reduce inflammation — and stay healthy — good sleep is where it's at. So consider trying a few of the hacks below, not only to get better sleep, but to give your body the boost it needs to make the most of your time in bed. Nadezhda Manakhova/Shutterstock
While quality sleep can lower inflammation, it is possible to go overboard. "Some research suggests that getting too much sleep can cause
higher levels of inflammation," Brantner says. "The key is to get the recommended amount of sleep: seven to nine hours. Set a schedule and stick to it, even on the weekends."
Pick up a magnesium supplement from your local health food store, or make a point to eat more magnesium-rich foods, especially if you think you
might be deficient.
"Eating magnesium-rich foods before bed or taking magnesium powder can [...] help to reduce inflammation while you sleep," Dr. Axe says. "And to boot, magnesium helps to
enhance sleep quality, too."
"Low levels of magnesium have actually been linked to
inflammation in several studies, and increasing magnesium intake has shown to decrease inflammation," Dr. Axe says. "Many sources of magnesium (like avocado, spinach, chard, almonds, and dark chocolate) also contain beneficial antioxidants and phytonutrients that work to reduce inflammation."
Taking a few minutes each night to sit with your thoughts before bed, whether that means writing in a journal or meditating, can go far in
helping to lower inflammation, too.
"By resting your mind and focusing on your breath, you're putting yourself in a relaxed state prior to sleep,"
Hilary Russo, a certified health coach, tells Bustle. "This 'state' can be helpful in reducing stress, which will not only provide a better night of sleep but [lessen your] chances of a flare up."
While it can be a tough habit to break, try not to watch TV, scroll through your phone, or use your laptop in the hours before you go to bed.
"In addition to
overexposure to blue light, which interrupts our circadian rhythm, it's also more likely to stimulate brain activity," Brook says. "We need that time to wind down so our brain can rest."
But if you must look at a screen, try to protect your eyes. "Use [protective glasses] in the evening (after sundown) or applications on the phone/computer timed to sunset to
reduce blue light exposure to the eyes," Dr. Terry Wahls, MD, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa, tells Bustle. "Again this will improve circadian rhythm, reduce inappropriate cortisol, and improve the ability to produce melatonin (sleep hormone)."
Have A Glass Of Water (Or Two)
As you know, water is everything when it comes to good health, and "proper hydration also reduces inflammation as we sleep," Alysa Boan, NASM certified personal trainer at
FitnessTrainer, tells Bustle. "Making sure [you] drink enough water throughout the day and before bed, should not only improve sleep but will also reduce inflammation throughout the day and night." Ivanna Grigorova/Shutterstock
While it may sound strange, tart cherry juice has been shown
to reduce inflammation. So pick some up, and have a swig before bed.
"Tart cherry juice has one of the highest
levels of antioxidants of any food on the planet and it helps the body produce its own melatonin," Brooks says. "A little tart cherry concentrate dissolved in water is a great sleepy time tonic. It will aid in the body's own ability to reduce inflammation."
Use Lavender Essential Oil
Apart from making your bedroom smell nice,
lavender essential oil may help lower inflammation while you sleep.
All you need to do is spritz some on your pillow, or rub two to three drops onto your chest before bed. "Lavender has
powerful anti-inflammatory properties," Dr. Axe says. "Plus, it works as a mild sedative and can help to improve your sleep while reducing inflammation."
Allow Yourself Time To Digest
"For most people, ending all food consumption by 8 p.m. gives the body enough time to digest the last meal," Boan says. "This allows it to
focus on rest and recovery through the night." And, as you know, that's what sleep is all about it.
By following some of these hacks, you'll set yourself up not only for a good night's sleep, but you'll also be giving your body
exactly what it needs to reduce inflammation.