Health and fit­ness Not reach­ing your well­ness goals? Take a look at your night­time rou­tine

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Jae Ber­man Nu­tri­tion and food Seth McCon­nell, Den­ver Post file Sleep Move­ment Mind­ful­ness

We all think our day starts when we wake up. But what if the day re­ally starts the evening be­fore?

Why does it mat­ter? When you cre­ate an ideal night­time rou­tine, it is far more likely that your first step in the morn­ing will lead to a suc­cess­ful day.

Many peo­ple strug­gle to reach their health and well­ness goals. They cling to diet and ex­er­cise fads but over­look the im­por­tance of plan­ning in cre­at­ing con­sis­tent habits. A lack of plan­ning can have a snow­ball ef­fect: You start your morn­ing tired from a poor night’s sleep, then skip ex­er­cise and miss break­fast while rush­ing out of the house. Lunches at restau­rants are typ­i­cally heav­ier than those made at home, but pack­ing a lunch isn’t an op­tion if you haven’t planned for it. Sugar and caf­feine crav­ings may be el­e­vated all day due to fa­tigue from poor sleep. The whole day feels hec­tic be­cause it started off stressed and rushed. It’s a vi­cious cy­cle.

The goal of a night­time rou­tine is to set a tone to wind down and al­low for a peace­ful rest and re­set, which will lead to start­ing the next day a few steps ahead of the game. This rou­tine starts as soon as din­ner is end­ing.

How we eat and plan our meals is es­sen­tial for a suc­cess­ful day. Ideally, you want to eat in a way that al­lows your body to be ready for a good sleep.

• Don’t drink caf­feine after 2 p.m. or so, es­pe­cially if caf­feine makes you feel jit­tery.

• Set a time to stop drink­ing al­co­hol in the evening, and be sure to drink plenty of wa­ter. You can ex­per­i­ment with no al­co­hol on some nights to see how it af­fects your sleep. While it’s true that al­co­hol can make you sleepy, it usu­ally will cause you to wake in the mid­dle of night.

• If you crave sweets in the evening, find a tea that tastes sweet but has no added sug­ars or calo­ries. Teas such as camomile have calm­ing ef­fects and can be a nice night­time rit­ual.

• Avoid spicy or very heavy foods in the evening to pre­vent heart­burn or di­ges­tive is­sues.

Pack lunches in ad­vance. Ideally, batch cook for the week in ad­vance so that lunch prep is a sim­ple as­sem­bly line:

• If you’ve chopped or cooked veg­eta­bles in ad­vance, grab 1 to 3 cups and place in a con­tainer.

• Add a pro­tein made in ad­vance such as hard­boiled eggs, ro­tis­serie chicken, tofu cubes, burg­ers, beans, or canned salmon, tuna or sar­dines.

• Batch cook a large por­tion of a starch such as pota­toes, rice or squash.

De­pend­ing on how busy your morn­ings are, you can make break­fasts in ad­vance:

• Make a smoothie and freeze or re­frig­er­ate it the night be­fore.

• Make a frit­tata for the week and pre-cut into squares.

• Make overnight oats in in­di­vid­ual con­tain­ers or batch cook a large por­tion of oat­meal.

• Make snack bags on the week­end with a mix of nuts, fresh or dried fruit, seeds, crack­ers, jerky or chopped veg­eta­bles.

Get­ting enough sleep is es­sen­tial. Sleep af­fects mood, me­tab­o­lism and en­ergy lev­els. Many peo­ple strug­gle with sleep and as­sume there’s noth­ing they can do about it, while it may be that they haven’t cre­ated a proper space for a rest­ful night. As­pects of sleep hy­giene can make a pro­found im­pact.

• Play classical, jazz or other sooth­ing mu­sic as you wind down.

• Con­sider dim­ming or low­er­ing the lights in your home so you set your­self up for a rest­ful night.

• Place a pad of pa­per and a pen next to your bed to use if you wake up in the mid­dle of the night with an idea you feel you should write down.

• Make sure your room is dark, cool, un­clut­tered and free of tech­nol­ogy — no TVs, lap­tops, tablets, bright clocks or any­thing else that cre­ates a blue or bright light.

Ex­er­cise is usu­ally the first thing to get skipped when time is short. Some­times it’s just a mat­ter of hav­ing your work­out clothes ac­ces­si­ble to make it hap­pen. Also, even a quick work­out or stretch is bet­ter than noth­ing at all.

• When we’re rush­ing all day long, sit­ting in cars and desk chairs, our mus­cles of­ten get tight and our pos­ture be­comes weak. Con­sider a five- to 10-minute stretch­ing rou­tine to open the body.

• Fo­cus on what­ever feels good. Place a foam roller on the floor and roll your back up and down to open up the chest, stand against the wall to work on pos­ture and roll the body down the wall to­ward the floor to open the back and ham­strings, or try a deep squat to open up the hips.

• If you want to ex­er­cise in the morn­ing, set out your clothes near the bed so you can’t avoid them.

• If you want to ex­er­cise in the evening, pack your bag in ad­vance so it’s ready to go.

Pay­ing at­ten­tion al­lows for in­creased mind­ful­ness, which is an es­sen­tial part of stress man­age­ment. In­cor­po­rat­ing sim­ple breath work or med­i­ta­tion into your night­time rou­tine has the ben­e­fit of lead­ing to a bet­ter night’s sleep as well as in­creased mind­ful­ness in your life.

• Con­sider an app or web­site to sup­port guided med­i­ta­tion or breath­ing ex­er­cises.

• Set an alarm for even one minute, sit com­fort­ably and breathe. Pay at­ten­tion to your in­hale and ex­hale. As it be­comes eas­ier, in­crease the time.

• Small, sim­ple changes can make a big dif­fer­ence. Start to­mor­row off on the right foot.

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