As a health coach, before I address my client’s diet or lifestyle, I want to hear all about their sleep. I start there because it doesn’t matter if you’re eating the world’s best diet and have the greatest workout routine – if your sleep is off, your health is compromised. We all live very busy lives and sleep seems to be the one thing that we can skimp on – but at a cost (our health!). Sleep is essential to every aspect of our life and with these 5 healthy sleeping tips you can achieve your full, well-rested potential during the day.
Sleep deprivation can cause damage to your body in the short term. Over time, it can lead to chronic health problems and negatively impact your quality of live. 75% of health care problems are because of preventable stress-related diseases and nothing increases our stress more than sleep deprivation. Without adequate sleep our immune system is compromised, making us susceptible to getting sick more often. Sleep deprivation also causes sugar and carbohydrate cravings, mood swings, heart problems, headaches, diabetes, drowsy driving, and can put you at risk for depression and substance abuse. It’s time that we start to change the cultural norm around sleep by making it a priority in our culture. Here are 5 ways to help get a good night’s sleep to start practicing as soon as possible for good health:
10pm is the optimal bedtime for health and vitality. When we follow the natural patterns of the sun’s rising and setting, our bodies have the time to get the regenerative rest that we desperately need on a regular basis. When we sleep, our body actually cleanses itself one system at a time throughout the night. Think of when you turn on the dishwasher; you can actually hear it shift through cycles one after the other. If you were to interrupt it’s cleaning process and open the door sometime during it, the dishes would still be dirty. You have to allow the dishwasher time to transition through cycles until it is complete and the dishes are clean. Exactly the same with our precious bodies! 10pm may seem unrealistic depending on your life or job but even if you can aim to at least start your bedtime routine at this time to start letting go of your day and transitioning to bedtime.
Parents create a bedtime routine for their children (a warm bath, changing into cozy pajamas, dimming the lights, reading a story, etc.), and we need to do the same for ourselves! Once the sun sets, begin to dim the lights in your home. As tempting as it may be to catch up on TV shows, limit your show time and preferably watch them before you begin your nighttime routine. The bright/blue light from the TV, your tablet, phone or laptop actually fools your brain into thinking that the sun is still out therefore interrupting the production of melatonin, which keeps you stimulated and awake longer. Think of calming ways that will help wind you down from your day, because these are the activities that you want to do before you drift off to sleep. Perhaps it’s brewing a cup of herbal tea (such as chamomile or lavender) or massaging your feet or sore muscles with lotion. Maybe it’s reading an enjoyable book or magazine or soaking your feet in warm water with Epsom salts (which contain magnesium, a critical mineral that our bodies need which help to promote relaxation and help sleep).
Think of when your smartphone is operating on 10% battery – you scurry to find a plug to recharge it. We need to do the same thing for ourselves at the end of the day by escaping into a sanctuary of rest to rejuvenate. Your bedroom environment should reflect the activities that take place there – sleep, relaxation and intimacy. Having a TV, computer, tablet or smartphone in the room is counterproductive of all of these activities. Especially when the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth is activated on those items! Going back to that bedtime routine, include activities that do not have to do with these glowing, buzzing and beeping gadgets. Get back to basics and begin to embrace the feeling of unplugging from technology for the night to allow your body the rest it deserves.
Life can be busy and stressful, leaving us to and endless stream of thoughts by the end of our day that may disrupt our sleep and keeping us up at night. Try keeping a journal next to your bedside to jot down things you need to take care of that next day so that you can literally empty your brain of all the “to dos.” Another nice practice is to write down 5-10 things that you’re grateful for. Focusing on things that you’re thankful for is a healthy practice to get in the habit of. Gratitude will override negative thoughts or feelings which will help in your process of getting/staying asleep. This is definitely another wonderful activity to add to your bedtime routine.
Yes, you read that right. Conventional wisdom has us fooled to think that eating fat before bed (or in general) will make us fat. However, eating a healthy bedtime snack will actually boost your metabolism, help you lose weight and keep your blood sugar levels stable. Having a satisfied belly can actually help your body fall and stay asleep.
What’s a healthy snack, you ask? Think of a snack that is rich in fat and carbs such as a bowl of frozen berries with a spoonful or two of full fat coconut milk, almond butter and apple slices, mashed avocado and banana pudding, crushed nuts and berries over full fat plain yogurt, carrots and guacamole, sweet potato with coconut oil sprinkled with cinnamon and raisins, etc. Enjoying this snack in a small bowl or on a small plate will help you portion it out just right instead of going overboard. Do yourself a favor and enjoy a healthy fat and carb before bed so that your body can get the supportive rest it needs to keep you going that whole next day.