Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man (or woman!) healthy, wealthy and wise.
It’s a quote, or even a proverb, that’s been thrown around for years, and almost seems cliche nowadays. I remember hearing it from family members and others I looked up to from a very young age, and it’s always stood out as important in my mind. But just because it’s important, it doesn’t mean it’s always easy live by. Just because we understand it intuitively doesn’t mean that it is a top priority, or even comes easily. In a world that is so connected, with schedules so packed, and social media feeds so enticing, getting quality sleep tends to often times take the back burner. We tell ourselves we can will catch up on it later this weekend, but it doesn’t work that way.
How many times have you stayed up late into the night watching your favorite Netflix series. Helping our children with last minute science projects is another frequent thieve of our sleep quality. What about semi-mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds, liking and commenting on photos and updates, and casually stalking on what our distant friends, relatives, and contacts have been up to? It’s enticing, and downright enjoyable, but often times we end up unconsciously sacrificing our sleep for it.
This is a huge problem.
Dozens of studies are finding that sleep quality is absolutely critical for our long term health and well-being. We live in a society that seems to glorify burning the candle from both ends, but it’s a surefire way to burn out our health much quicker than any of us would like. When we don’t give our bodies adequate rest, it leads to weight gain, increased risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, a weakened immune system, and negative affects on our hormone levels.
If you aren’t living with the health, vibrancy, and energy that you once did, the quality of your sleep is the first thing you need to address.
Use these simple strategies to ensure that your body is getting the time to rest and recover that it truly deserves.
Stick to a schedule
Go to sleep at the same time each night, and wake up at the same time each morning. Even on the weekends. Whether you’re a night owl, or an early riser, do your best to maintain the same schedule day-in day-out so your body can adjust to it. We truly are creatures of habit, and our sleep patterns should be no exception.
Power off an hour before you go to sleep
Our phones, computers, screens, and electronics emit blue spectrum light, which tricks our brains into thinking that it’s actually day time. It tends to mess with our circadian rhythm. Shut off all of your electronics an hour before you plan to go to sleep. If you are going to still use your computer, use an app like flux to have your devices cut down on the blue light.
Watch your diet
When you have trouble getting to sleep, or staying asleep throughout the night, your diet could be the culprit. Minimize caffeine consumption after noon, because caffeine can stay in the body for up to 12 hours after you ingest it. Avoid having a large meal right before bed time because your body uses energy to digest your food, which can make it difficult to have high quality sleep. Do everything you can to cut back on your sugar intake, because it causes spikes in blood sugar, which leads to cravings and crashes throughout the day.
Make a process that you can stick to each day as you wind down and get ready for bed. Take a hot bath. Have a cup of caffeine free tea to put you into a state of relaxation. Curl up on your favorite chair with a book that will capture your imagination. Meditate and process what happened throughout the day, so your mind isn’t racing and running through a mental to-do list as your trying to drift off to sleep. Whatever elements you want to add to your ritual, make it a habit to stick to them so your body knows what to expect as you’re winding down.
Supplement with Magnesium and Melatonin
On average, more than half of us are deficient in magnesium, a micronutrient that’s fights insomnia, helps our bodies relax, and cuts down on cortisol, the “stress” hormone. Take a serving of it prior to bed to help your body relax and get ready for a restful and rejuvenating sleep cycle. A great product to start with is Natural Calm – find it on Amazon, or at a local health foods store. If that isn’t doing the trick, supplement with melatonin as well. It’s a hormone that’s secreted by our pineal gland, and helps regulate our natural sleeping and waking cycles. Staring at screens too much, especially at night, is one way that our melatonin levels get out of whack.
Optimize your Bedroom for Sleep
Your bedroom should be your tranquil and peaceful place. It’s that area of the house that is our personal sanctuary. It should be reserved only for sleep, and intimate times. When we try to use our beds as a place to rest, and also a place where we watch tv and browse social media, it sends our bodies mixed signals. At night time when you’re trying to sleep, make the room as dark as possible. Drop the temperature a few degrees. Use essential oils like lavender or chamomile to promote restfulness and relaxation. Use a noise canceller or a fan for white noise to block out the sounds of creaks in the house, distractions from outside, and anything that could easily wake you from your slumber.
Turn your Devices on Airplane Mode
Most of us sleep with our phone within a few feet of where we lay our heads down to rest. Many of us use our phones and devices as alarm clocks, rather than the traditional clock on the bedside table. The last thing we need is a social media notification or text message waking us from our sleep, so turn your devices on airplane mode (or do not disturb mode) if you’re going to keep them in your room next to your bed.
Go for a run. Practice yoga. Lift weights. Swim. Bike. Hike. Dance. The world is such a rich, vibrant, and bustling place, and it’s very conducive to our physical well being. We evolved for millions of years as hunters and gatherers – a lifestyle that was not sedentary, and filled our days with exercise, and led to restful and peaceful sleep. Make a point to get your heart pumping because it will directly improve how quickly you fall asleep, and the quality of your restful time.
Sleep is a daily necessity for all of us. Guard the quality of your sleep as best as you can. When the quality of your sleep, or your life overall isn’t where you want it to be, look at the daily habits and practices that could have negative affects. The recommendations are all simple, but when compounded they are a powerful tool we all have access to have more restful and rejuvenating sleep.