The Importance of Rest and Sleep
Proper Sleep is one of the most under-acknowledged aspects of our health. It is the cornerstone of improving our quality of life. We know we need to exercise and eat well, but most do not prioritize getting enough sleep. Just like water and food, sleep is a key “nutrient” our body needs on a daily basis.
What does Sleep do?
· Essential repair and recovery for our brain, our nervous system, all our organs, muscles, etc.
· Initiates Detoxification and Cleansing of our cells (also known as Autopaghy)
· Improves organ function
· Creates and synthesizes hormones
Unfortunately most Americans are not getting the proper sleep that is necessary!
· 70% of Americans suffer from sleep problems, such as insomnia, sleep apnea or narcolepsy
· Almost 40% of adults sleep less than 6 hours a night
· Almost 10 million use sleep aids, over the counter or prescription
· Over 40% have reported to have used sleep medications in the past, whether it be acute or chronic use
What people don’t know is how lack of sleep is a HUGE stress to our entire body.
Sleeping less than 6 hours for one night is enough to negatively affect your health!
Sleep Deprivation Effects:
· Lowered Cognitive/Brain Function
· Loss of brain tissue
· Decrease in memory
· Depressed Moods and erratic mood swings
· Decrease in overall repair and recovery of body
· Low energy and fatigue
· Imbalance of hormones
· Weakened Immune System
· Increased Heart Rate and Blood Pressure
Long Term effects increases your risk of:
· Getting sick more frequently and decreased recovery
· Weight Gain
· Insulin Resistance and Diabetes
· Metabolic Syndrome
· Heart Attack & Cardiovascular disease
As you can see, sleep is the foundation for everything! Without consistent & quality rest, your entire health will suffer and you won’t be able to live optimally.
We know we need to get more (and better) sleep. So where do we start? We need to take a look at our lifestyle.
Our Circadian Rhythm is our body’s “internal clock” and regulates our wake and sleep cycles.
We have specific hormones that are released at certain times of the day. When our routines get interrupted, this disrupts our circadian rhythm, ultimately affecting sleep duration and quality.
What can disrupt our Circadian Rhythm and Sleep?
· Poor light exposure in the morning & throughout the day
· Excessive light exposure at night (specifically blue light from electronics)
· Caffeine & other stimulants
· Traveling and changing time zones
· Shift Work & Schedule changes
· Stress (mental and emotional; feeling “wired”)
· Change in Hormones
· Exercising late in evening/night
· A diet high in sugar or processed foods
· Lack of a “Night Routine”
In today’s society, we must address our exposure to light and technology use. When we are exposed to TV, computers and smartphones, the three primary forms of blue light, our brains think it is still day time. This blue light (and other factors above) can lower the production of melatonin, one of the hormones that regulates sleep and wake cycles.
So to optimize our sleep, we must address our Night AND Morning Habits!
· Get exposed to light ASAP. Natural light is optimal, so open those shades & turn on the lights!
· Avoid multiple alarms & Snooze button: the extra 5-10 minutes of laying there restless doesn’t make you feel better in the long run. Just get up & get going!
· Morning movement: Doing physical activity boosts blood flow to the body & brain, increases energy & is a great ritual to get the day started. This could be structured exercise, mobility flows, stretching, yoga, walking etc. I personally set aside 20-30 min first thing for some cardio & stretching.
· Schedule exercise: Exercise has so many benefits, including boosting energy, cognitive function & hormone regulation. Timing & amount is key; too much can spike cortisol & leave you feel “wired & tired” at night. Exercising in the morning/daytime vs. at night has been shown to help with sleep.
· Avoid multiple stimulants and naps to “get you through” the day. Avoid caffeine after 2pm, since it can stay in the bloodstream for 8-10hrs!
· Create a Technology Curfew. Create a Rule (set an alarm if need be!) of when you’re “off” from technology. Aim for 2 hrs before bed off the computer/tablet & 60 minutes no phone.
· Use a blue-light filter on your gadgets in the evenings. Fluxx is a free software for devices & there are ton of free apps for phones. Blue light raises cortisol & suppress Melatonin, a key hormone that regulates our circadian rhythm. Melatonin relaxes the body & primes us for sleep.
· Use amber blue-blocking glasses if using devices or any screen use after 7pm.
· Cut out caffeine & stimulants by 2 p.m.
· Aim to finish your last meal 2-3 hours before bed.
· Avoid exercising late in the evening/night. It is recommended to exercise during the day, or at least 3 hours before bed. Light movement and physical activity, such as walking, yoga or stretching, have been shown to help relax the body and improve sleep.
· Avoid stimulating & heavy foods in the evening: high sugar, processed & packaged foods, chocolate etc.
· Stick to a bedtime schedule. Aim to go to bed/rise within an hour every day of the week. Avoid extreme sleeping in on the weekends.
· If possible, be asleep by 11pm. The deepest most healing sleep occurs between 10p-2a.
· Create a night-time “relaxing” routing to calm down your nervous system & body. Find what works for you; meditation, prayer, journaling, reading, a bath/shower, etc.
· Set your bedroom to a cool temperature (under 70F).
· Limit light exposure in your bedroom with dark/black out curtains or shades.
· Using dimming lights & limit bright light at night.
· Consider using calming high quality pure grade essential oils, like lavender, copaiba, vetiver & cedarwood.
· Consider supplementation: magnesium complex, herbs and adaptogens, melatonin, etc.
All of these lifestyle habits can contribute to better sleep, thus helping you to your best health!