Sleep is when most of the important repair work is done, but nowadays one of our biggest health challenge is the lack of enough time for resting and repairing.
When I started my business, unfortunately I wasn‘t really able to keep up with my usual eight hours of sleep per night that I otherwise love to allow myself. Through my self-imposed deadlines, I almost felt as if I was thrown back into old university times; night shifts before the finish line… Luckily our bodies are able to keep up with this sometimes, but it usually takes a couple of days to recover again.
What does lack of sleep do to us?
What most of us don‘t realize is that even after just one week of only six hours (or less) of sleep per night, our brain is already getting damaged. We usually only realise it when we get older though. Then we gradually get more and more forgetful, along with many other health problems, moodiness, lack of energy, depression and wrinkles. Do you need any more reasons to get some sleep?
Yes? Okay, here we go:
Sleep is also very important when it comes to weight control. When you don‘t get enough quality sleep however, your hormones will be all over the place, especially the one that tells you to stop eating when you‘re full, which is leptin. There will also be higher levels of the hormone ghrelin, which increases your appetite, and higher levels of orexin, which increases food cravings.
Studies also show that sleep deprivation plays a big role in developing Alzheimer‘s, especially in women.
What‘s the good stuff that sleep can do for you?
It boosts your immune function, improves cognitive processes, your mood and your metabolism. Unfortunately good sleep is one of the first things we let go of when we get busier, even though it‘s actually one of the easiest things to do. Just lie down, close your eyes and breath.
So what can you do to have better quality sleep?
1. Try to maintain a natural rythm of exposure to sunlight during the day and darkness at night. We spend too much time inside nowadays which means that we don‘t get enough natural light since the outdoor light is so much more intense than any indoor light can be. Yes, even if it‘s dull and raining outside and you walk around with an umbrella.
In the evening though, there is usually too much light compared to the outdoors, where the light is usually long gone. This lowers the production of melatonin dramatically, a hormone that has a big impact on what your body thinks what time of day it is.
This includes your electronic devices, no matter if it‘s your computer, phone or tablet. The blue light waves are similar to the light outside. If you can, turn them off at least an hour before bedtime. In addition, there is an app you can download that eliminates the blue light after a certain time in the evening. Get it here for free: www.justgetflux.com.
However, you‘re better off leaving them outside of your bedroom or at least turn the airplane function on.
2. Try to go to bed at night and get up in the morning at the same time every day. You will be surprised at how quickly your body gets used to it.
If you‘re going to bed later and later each night while still having to get up early in the morning you will be left feeling tired which in turn might cause you to have that coffee in the morning. You‘re probably using the snooze button a lot which means less time in the morning for the little things that are important, like having a workout or preparing a green smoothie. When we feel rushed, we‘re not in the best mood, so having a better sleep schedule might just lead to a happier morning.
3. The tiniest amount of light, even from an alarm clock, can make it challenging to get to a place of deep sleep. Sleep in a very dark bedroom with blackout shades or if that‘s not possible, a sleep mask can do wonders, too.
4. Eat healthy foods all day long like leafy green vegetables, raw or steamed, fruit that has a calming effect on the mind like lemons or berries and gluten free whole grains that increase your serotonin, the well known feel good and sleep regulating hormone.
Don‘t get a heavy meal close to your bedtime and avoid caffeine after noon.
5. Don‘t work out hard before going to bed as that will increase the bloodflow to the brain, which can be overstimulating. Go for a relaxing walk or to Yoga instead and do your intensive exercise earlier in the day.
6. Have a hot bath or shower about half an hour before you go to bed, maybe with a few drops of essential lavender oil or some fresh rosemary. The heat will increase your body temperature which opens up the blood vessels in your arms and legs. If the room temperature in your bedroom is cool, as it should be, your body temperature will drop immediately, making you feel sleepy and ready for bed.
7. Have a beautiful hot drink before bed, that will increase the levels of the sleep regulating hormone serotonin, like chamomile tea or warm almond milk with a teaspoon of honey, and listen to soothing music or a guided meditation to allow your mind to get into a resting mode.
8. Avoid over the counter or prescription sleep medication as they have many side effects and can leave you feeling exhausted the next day.
9. Make your bedroom an inviting place of calmness and love and leave anything to do with work outside so you can look forward to getting into bed at night. An uncluttered bedroom can help make a room peaceful and calming.
10. Make love! Yes, sex helps to release tension and we all know it. During orgasm the chemical oxytocin is released, promoting sleep and creating a feeling of overall well-being which helps decrease anxiety and stress.
All in all, your bedroom should be reserved for sleeping and love only.
And if you can‘t sleep because you have too much on your mind, try to train yourself to let go of what you can‘t change at the moment. Tell yourself you‘ll take care of the challenge in the morning or even better, keep a pen and paper next to your bed and if your mind wakes you up at night, write down your thoughts for the next day.
When you feel refreshed and rested, you feel energised, think clearly and are much more likely to make better choices about eating and exercising.
Let‘s all try it tonight. Go to bed earlier if you don‘t usually get your 7 – 9 hours of sleep. And tell us in the comments below how you prepare for a wonderful and deep rejuvenating sleep.