Rest

When people, even the experts, talk about health, they talk a lot about movement.  Get up and exercise, get off the couch, walk to the store, park further from your office, take the stairs – MOVE! MOVE! MOVE!  What many people fail to realize is that there is another equally important component to good health — and that is getting good rest.

Rest, both in the form of good, healthy sleep, and plain old down time are both critically important to good health – and something women over 40 rarely get enough of or prioritize the way they should.  Women in their 40s are more likely to be working, raising kids, and taking care of aging parents, which means even less time for taking care of themselves.

Studies have shown that poor sleeping habits and not getting enough sleep have been linked to obesity, high blood pressure, and decreased heart health.  Getting good sleep is literally a lifesaving activity, as much as getting exercise.

To rest well, you need to be able to put away the stresses of your day.  That can be very difficult and sometimes impossible in the world we live in.  There are things you can do, though, that will help.

First of all, eliminate any chemical contributions to your poor rest.  Do you drink a lot of caffeine (coffee, tea, soda) throughout the day or late in the afternoon?  Do you drink energy drinks to get you through the day?  Eliminate the sources of caffeine in your diet; a cup or two of coffee in the morning is fine, but after that you should switch to water and vegetable juice.

Second, learn to let go of stress.  When you are stressed out, you don’t rest well. Meditate.  Get a massage.  Leave work at work.  Turn off the TV if the news is making you crazy with worry.  Get out with some girlfriends and blow off some steam.

Third, improve your diet.  Reduce the amount of sugar and simple carbs you are eating.  They will make it more difficult for you to rest well. Increase the amount of whole grain fiber, fruits, and vegetables.  Eat oatmeal for breakfast instead of skipping or having white toast.  Eat a small piece of chicken and some broccoli for dinner instead of spaghetti made with white flour noodles.

Finally, exercise.  If exercising exhausts you, do it at the end of the day so that you will go to bed ready to rest.  If exercising exhilarates you, do it in the morning to help you get through the day without your caffeine crutches and you’ll still feel more like sleeping at the end of the day.

Try to practice preparing yourself for rest at nights. We often get into bed so weighed down we cannot sleep and even if we sleep, we don’t really get rested.  Try to carve out some quiet time for yourself, maybe 15-30 minutes before you get into bed. Do some deep breathing and relax your mind and body.  You will be pleasantly surprised at the difference it makes to the quality of your rest.

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