Sleep changes everything about our day and is necessary for survival. It might sound too simple, but let's be real: we've all been on both sides of the sleep coin. A restful night of sleep can encourage vibrancy, new ideas, productivity, a passed test, safer driving, grace in a difficult conversation, an energized workout, a day of healthy eating choices, joy, and positivity. A fitful night of sleep or lack of sleep can encourage the inverse: grogginess, brain fog, laziness, a failed test, a car accident, pithy, lashing words in a difficult conversation, a sluggish workout (or no workout at all), a desire to eat sugary-carbohydrate-laden food, discouragement, impatience, and pessimism.
Now, let's say your someone who feels as though they can function rather well on little-to-no sleep. Maybe that's true. Maybe your mental, emotional, and outward physicality doesn't take too big of a hit. Maybe you are an anomaly when it comes to the amount of sleep you need to *feel* rested. Well, regardless of whether or not YOU notice how your lack of sleep is affecting you, science is noticing. Individuals who spend years of their life chronically sleep-deprived have an increased risk of "stroke, depression, diabetes, weight gain, heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease" (Neurocore). This is because when we sleep, our body is repairing muscles, organs, and other cells (WebMD). In deep sleep, your pulse and blood pressure lower allowing the heart and blood vessels to recover (WebMd). When we are sleep deprived, our body's internal organs are not getting the necessary repair they desperately need.
It is undeniable that sleep is necessary, but sometimes sleep is hard to come by. So if you're tired of being tired, give these 13 tips to improve your sleep a try.
1. Stay Active: Exercise for a minimum of 150 minutes each week. Exercise may allow for improved sleep (including spending more time in the deep sleep stage), and allow for greater alertness throughout the day.
2, Avoid Long Naps: Sleeping for long periods of the day makes it difficult to fall asleep/stay asleep at night, thus causing your body to crave naps.
3. Stay Hydrated: Drink half of your body weight in ounces of water. Even mild dehydration can cause one to feel tired, sluggish, and moody (Neurocore).
4. Limit Technology 2 Hours Before Bed: The activities engaged in via technology often stimulate one's brain. The light emitted from these technology devices reduce the production of melatonin -- the hormone that aids in sleep (Neurocore). Also, don't be too quick to dismiss this by using your blue-light eliminating glasses. Studies are beginning to show that warm light might be even worse for our sleep than blue light, but it is too soon to be completely sure. To learn more about blue light vs. warm light impacting our sleep, click here.
5. Your Bed is for Sleeping and Sleeping Alone. Don’t work, watch TV, eat, check emails, or do anything that causes stress in bed. We want our brain to associate our bed with solely sleep and relaxation.
6. Evaluate Your Diet: Too much caffeine during the day may cause you to stay awake at night. Caffeine can linger in your body for up to 12 hours, so it is important to not drink any after lunch. And, to be clear, some individuals CAN fall asleep with caffeine. But, caffeine inhibits deep sleep (Neurocore). So just because one can drink caffeine late into the evening and fall asleep, it doesn’t mean one is sleeping well and getting the recovery sleep his/her body desperately needs. Additionally, spicy foods and large meals right before bed may also negatively impact sleep (Neurocore). However, certain foods can increase melatonin production and improve sleep. These foods are: bananas, oranges, pineapple, tart cherries, sweet corn, barley, peanuts, oats, rice, tomatoes, mustard seed, honey, ginger root, walnuts, & asparagus (Neurocore).
7. Create a Bed Time Routine: Count out how many hours of sleep you need and then decide what time you should go to bed in regards to when you usually need to be awake. Then, go to bed and wake up at roughly the same times (and if possible, on the weekends too!) Additionally, before bed, do something relaxing. Try reading, listening to music, praying, deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation...etc.
**Keeping my sleep routine on the weekend is hard for me. Thus, I strive for small variances in wake/sleep times (like an hour or two). Nothing too wild ;).
8. Keep Your Room Cool: A hot bedroom can keep you awake. Try sleeping in a room close to 65ºF. Cool temperatures allow for the optimal production of melatonin (National Sleep Foundation).
9. Wake up with the Sun: If at all possible, wake up when the sunrises. This aids in resetting your body’s internal clock. If that is not possible, consider investing in a bio-light (Neurocore).
10. Make Your Bedroom a Calming Space: A cool color palette is best. Warm colors can actually increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. Darkness in your bedroom is important as light is a major brain cue to wake up. Make sure you have blackout shades and your phone is face down (Neurocore).
11. Keep a Notepad by Your Bed: If your to-do list, failures, past conversations, or just general overthinking takes over your mind when your head hits the pillow, keep a notepad next to your bed to jot down your thoughts. Release the thoughts and address them in the morning.
12. Shhh! Keep it quiet. Don’t fall asleep to music, a podcast, or the TV. If you need something to drown out the excess sound, use a white noise machine or a fan (Neurocore).
13. Can't Sleep? Get out of bed. No need to stress and watch the clock. Instead, get up and engage in a low-key activity until you feel sleepy.
If you still struggle to get a good night's rest, be sure to talk with your primary care physician to see what other tests or recommendations s/he has.
And remember, our culture glorifies fast-paced lives. Often it is seen as honorable to pull an all-nighter and get every last bit of work completed. But now we know, lack of sleep does not promote efficient work, healthy habits, or joy-filled relationships. So with that in mind, let's get sleeping!
Check out this graphic to see the sleep duration recommendations for you & your children.
National Sleep Foundation Resource: https://www.sleepfoundation.org
Neurocore* Resource: These notes were taken directly from some personal handouts I have received. To learn about what Neurocore is, visit: https://www.neurocorecenters.com