Why Prioritizing Sleep is So Important, Healthy Sleep Suggestions
Why Prioritizing Sleep is So Important
"Day is over, night has come. Today is gone, what's done is done. Embrace your dreams, through the night. Tomorrow comes with a whole new light."
Things do often seem more positive/clearer after a good night's sleep, don't they? Sleep really is the cornerstone to good health. It's like a dishwasher for the brain, it cleans out the debris from the day, don't miss this chance for restoration. Not getting adequate restful sleep can be a genuine health concern for many people. I see it a lot. Many people suffer from difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, waking frequently. In our society today sleep can be undervalued. Getting by on only a few hours a night has become a badge of honor. Sleep deprivation is a chronic condition because of temptations such as electronics, late night TV, 24 hour online shopping, surfing the internet, social media....these are all addictive/time wasting practices that keep us from getting enough sleep. We can get into bad sleep habits. It's important to have a healthy sleep routine.
Research has shown that sleep is more powerful than any drug in its ability to restore and rejuvenate the human body and brain. Wow!
So how much sleep should you aim for? Ideally 7.5 - 9 hours a night on a regular basis. If you get less than 7 hours sleep a night, you're doing your body no favors. Chronic lack of sleep contributes to hormonal imbalance, weight gain, low energy, reduced motivation to exercise, food cravings, advanced aging, poor food choices, mood swings, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, memory loss plus it increases your risk for diabetes and heart disease.
Your hormones work on a schedule. Cortisol, the main stress hormone, regulates at midnight.
Therefore, if you go to bed after midnight, you never truly get a break from your fight/flight stress response. You miss that chance for it to re-set itself. Your body then feels like it is in a constant state of stress.
Healthy Sleep Suggestions
- Try to be in bed by 10pm each night. This ensures you give yourself the chance for enough hours for adequate sleep
- If you're a night owl, start going to bed earlier, even 30 minutes extra to start with is a bonus and build on it from there
- Go to bed and get up around the same time, seven days a week. This ensures a constant sleep rhythm
- Exercise regularly. Moving your body for at least 30 minutes a day promotes good quality sleep. Some people notice if they exercise too close to bedtime it keeps them awake....everyone is different, choose your best time for exercise and do it often
- Get some sunlight each day, this improves melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone made in your brain that helps control your sleep and wake cycles
- Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible. Any form of light can disrupt your natural sleep cycle
- Keep the temperature in your room no higher than 70F. Many people keep their bedrooms too warm and stuffy. Studies have shown that the optimal room temperature for sleep is between 60-68F. A room that is too cold or too hot can lead to restless sleep
- Plug in electronic devices such as your phone, ipad, laptop outside your bedroom. They emit EMF's (electro-magnetic fields) that disrupt sleep. I encourage all my clients to not sleep with their phone on their nightstand because of the EMF's plus it is too tempting to stay up on your phone checking emails etc if it is right next to you and if you wake up in the night, it is also a temptation to check your phone which wakes you up and makes it hard to fall back asleep.
- If you tend to use your phone as an alarm, consider getting one of those alarm clocks that simulate sunrise that lets you wake up gently and gradually rather than a traditional alarm clock with a loud and jolting sound.... that is always a rude awakening! If the alarm must be your phone, plug it in on the other side of the room/ in your ensuite bathroom where you will still hear the alarm. This way you are not as close to the EMF's and you can't reach it to check it if you wake up during the night. If you use your phone for meditation apps etc to fall asleep, can you switch to using an ipod?
- If you have trouble winding down/falling asleep, invest in a sound machine to put by your bed, you can buy them cheaply at Bed, Bath and Beyond or on Amazon. They come with a variety of relaxing sounds such as rain, ocean waves, white noise.
- Avoid watching TV or using your computer/iphone one hour before going to bed. These devices emit blue light which tricks your brain into thinking it's daytime. Give your brain some wind down time.
- Soak in a hot bath 1-2 hours before bed with some epsom salts and lavender oil. This promotes relaxation and raises your core body temperature. When you get out of the bath, your body temperature abruptly drops, signaling your body that you are ready to sleep. After the bath, avoid checking your phone etc as this will re-stimulate your brain
- Avoid caffeine after 3pm
- Eat your lightest meal at dinner time. Avoid sugar and heavy carbs. Stop eating 2-3 hours before bed. This gives your body time to digest the food and promotes a sounder sleep
- If you tend to get up frequently to urinate in the night, cut off liquids 3 hours before bed to see if this helps you wake less. For these people, it is important to get your daily quota of fluids in earlier in the day. Empty your bladder right before you get into bed
- Meditate, do some gentle yoga poses, dim the lights, curl up with a soothing book (avoid watching the news, reading anything that stimulates the brain), listen to some calming music or drink some herbal tea before bed. This eases the body into a sleep friendly state
- Some calming herbs and minerals are chamomile, lemon balm, valerian root and magnesium....these come in teas/capsules/powders
- Rub some lavender oil on your wrists and temples, place a few drops on your pillow or infuse in your bedroom
- Consider using an eye mask to block out light and earplugs if you sleep with someone who is likely to snore and disrupt your sleep!
- In the colder months, wear socks to bed. I am a big fan of this one. If our feet are warm, then the rest of the body tends to feel warmer. Wearing socks to bed can reduce night waking. Or you could use a hot water bottle near your feet
- Start a journal/keep a notepad beside your bed. This encourages you to write down any racing thoughts/things to do the next day that may keep you from falling asleep. The mind can then relax and switch off
- Avoid alcohol. I know this will not be good news to some of you, but alcohol does disrupt sleep. Although it makes you drowsy, the effect is short lived and you will often wake up several hours later, have patchy sleep, wake frequently....has anyone noticed that when you drink? That's because your liver is busy processing the alcohol which makes your sleep restless. Alcohol also prevents you from entering the deeper stages of sleep, where your body does most of its healing
- Address any hormonal imbalances that may be keeping you up at night.....this applies to pre-menopausal and menopausal women.