My brother introduced me to a book when he had two toddlers that did NOT want to sleep.
It’s a hilarious “children’s book” for grown-ups about the perils of getting a toddler to sleep among the requests for water, a snack, not that snack, a cuddle, a blanky turned just that way, a trip to the potty, the light a little dimmer, no not that dim. You get it.
Well, this I ask of all of us! As adults, some of us are just not sleeping as we should.
There is arguably no better question to give me a picture of your health than “Tell me about your sleep.”
Many people just laugh. Many people roll their eyes. Like “What sleep?” And they mean it.
Many people tell me they are doing great! They fall asleep in an instant and sleep like a log. Then when I ask how many hours they typically get, they proudly answer “Usually at least 5!” (While it is true that some people need more sleep than others, you will never convince me that five hours is doing great. The data just doesn’t play out.)
With our stressed-out, super-busy, hyper-caffeinated, modern world and the numerous responsibilities we juggle daily, quality sleep often takes the back burner. And those repercussions show up in our health and around our waistlines.
I read an article once that proclaimed “Sleep does as much for weight loss as exercise.”
Think about it...inadequate sleep can quickly sabotage your efforts at getting healthy and losing weight. Sleep is a major cornerstone for an energetic, joyful, healthy life. Not getting enough sleep or getting poor-quality sleep adversely affects hormones that make you hungry and store fat.
One study found just one partial night’s sleep could create insulin resistance, paving the path for obesity, diabetes, hormonal imbalances and many other problems. Others show poor sleep contributes to cardiovascular disease, mood disorders, poor immune function, and lower life expectancy.
And it works the other way too. If you carry extra body weight or tend to have a thicker neck, you are at risk for sleep apnea. This is a condition that is extremely hard to diagnose if you aren’t looking for it, in which when you lay down and relax you pause your breathing multiple times per night. Luckily, your body is wise and it wakes itself up to breath. But as a result, you never get enough deep, restful sleep and all the while you think you’re just sleeping and sleeping! Yet you are waking up feeling groggy, maybe with a dry mouth, headaches, dozing during a movie or worse at the wheel.
Trust me. I know what a challenge getting sleep can be. We just have to prioritize it. We will be MORE productive, MORE energetic, have BETTER memory, concentration, mood, libido.
Now that I have your attention, here are ways to achieve a better night’s sleep:
Get on a regular schedule
Treat yourself like a toddler and go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. It creates a rhythm for your body.
Only use your bed for sleep or romance
Don’t keep a television in your bedroom. Studies show the artificial, bright light can disrupt brain activity and alter sleep hormones like melatonin. Your bedroom should be a quiet, peaceful haven.
Get natural sunlight
Aim for at least 20 minutes of sunshine every day, preferably in the morning, which triggers your brain to release chemicals that regulate sleep cycles.
Avoid computers, smartphones, tablets and television one or two hours before bed
You might also try low blue light exposure for about three hours before bed. Low blue spectrum light helps your brain reset for sleep and increase melatonin.
Clear your mind
Everyone knows how something resonating in your mind can hinder sleep. Turning your mind off can become a challenge. Keep a journal or notebook by your bed and write down your to-do list or worries before you go to sleep so you can close your eyes and make it less likely for your mind to spin. Take a peek at your schedule for the next day so you are confident in what to expect and can put thoughts of the day aside.
Perform light stretching or yoga before bed
This relaxes your mind and body. Research shows daily yoga can improve sleep significantly.
Use herbal therapies
A natural sleep supplement like melatonin or magnesium can be helpful to relax and train your sleep rhythm. Try calming essential oils such as lavender or roman chamomile to send that relaxation signal to your brain.
Use relaxation practices
Guided imagery, meditation, listening to nature sounds or deep breathing calm your mind and help you drift into sleep.
And remember, practice makes perfect!
Just like you don’t get six pack abs in a day, you can’t train your sleep “muscles” in a day. Plan on working on these things for weeks to get them down.
And of course, if you are trying your best and still having problems, please chat with me or your doctor. There are many conditions and situations that can interfere with sleep that we can help you with!
Leave a comment below and let me know what sleep rituals you currently have that work well, and which new ideas above you can start implementing tonight!
To Your Best Health,