#11 Ways to Take Your Sleep to the Next Level
In today’s busy world, many people are working longer hours and sacrificing their sleep. Studies suggest that we should be getting at least 7 hours of restful sleep each night. Many of us are getting just 4-6 hours each night but the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” mentality may actually be knocking healthy years off of your life.
Poor sleep affects your hormones, mood, and brain function so it’s no surprise that disease and obesity are on the rise during the same time that we are getting less sleep. Alternatively, having good, deep sleep each night is shown to improve productivity, brain function, energy levels, weight loss, and reduce the risk for diseases such as heart disease, stroke, depression, and type 2 diabetes.
If you struggle to get a good nights sleep or even just want to improve the sleep that you are getting now these #11 tips will bring your sleep to the next level.
#1 Keep your circadian rhythm (the bodies natural time clock) on track by having a consistent sleep schedule. Try to lay down for bed and wake up around the same time each day. The hours between 10 pm and 2 am are optimal for rejuvenation. Your body releases hormones during that time that allow for repair and rebuilding. Try to schedule your bedtime and wake time around these optimal hours for sleep.
#2 Get plenty of sunlight during the day. If you work or spend most of your day indoors make it a point to spend some time outside. Natural sunlight is vital to increasing your energy during the day and allowing you to have better sleep at night. It helps to regulate your circadian rhythm and signals your body to make melatonin (the sleep hormone) at night.
#3 Limit naps during the day to 20-30 minutes. A short nap during the day can help you boost your alertness and mental clarity. Napping is a great way to relax and refresh but napping for too long can have negative effects. A long nap may disrupt your regular sleep schedule causing your nighttime rest to lose quality or length.
#4 Lay off of the alcohol. While it is true that alcohol may allow you to fall asleep faster, the quality of your sleep is compromised when you drink alcohol before bed. Alcohol disrupts your sleep cycle causing you to wake up more frequently or come out of REM sleep during the night. When you do not get adequate REM sleep you may feel grogginess and lack mental clarity during the day. Avoid alcohol for 1-2 hours before bed. On the same note, the effects of nicotine stay in your system for several hours and should also be avoided before bedtime.
#5 Establish a caffeine cut-off time. Caffeine can stay in your system for 6-8 hours after it is consumed. The effects of caffeine on the nervous system can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep in the evening. If you crave a cup of in the evening or with your dessert, opt for decaf. If you are sensitive to caffeine it may be best to avoid altogether.
#6 Reduce your exposure to blue light from devices such as TV, laptops, and your phone. The blue light tricks your eyes into thinking it is day time and signals your body to create more daytime hormones, such as cortisol. If you must have screentime before bed there are many tools available to help reduce blue light such as glasses and downloadable apps.
#7 Workout in the morning or early afternoon. Exercise is important and exercising consistently can help to improve your sleep. Exercising too late, however, can stimulate hormones that may make it difficult for you to fall asleep. Make sure that your workouts are done at least 4 hours before bedtime to allow your body time to unwind.
#8 Avoid late night snacks. You should allow yourself 90 minutes after your last meal or snack before you go to bed. Late night meals may cause indigestion. High carbohydrates can cause a drop in blood sugar while you are sleeping which may disrupt your sleep. Carbohydrates also increase your insulin which uses the same receptors of a vital night time peptide called IGF-1 that your body uses for repair while you are sleeping. If your receptors are being used for insulin, your body can not utilize the valuable IGF-1.
#9 Keep it dark. Your skin has light receptors and as we have previously discussed, your body responds to light by making certain types of hormones, daytime hormones or nighttime hormones. Keeping your room dark allows for your body to go into a nighttime mode, producing less cortisol and more melatonin. Cover your windows as well as any other bedroom lights like alarm clocks so your body does not get tricked into thinking it is daytime.
#10 Stay Cool. Your body naturally wants to reduce it’s temperature each night to support optimal sleep. When you become hot, your sleep is disrupted. Keeping your room around 70 degrees at bedtime helps with this process and allows for ideal restful sleep.
#11 Relax. Now that you are not watching TV, working on your laptop, scrolling Facebook on your phone, or drinking a glass of wine at bedtime, what should you do? Find something relaxing to do such as meditation, soaking in the tub, or reading a book that you enjoy. This will help put your mind at the body at ease so that when you lay down you are ready to fall asleep. If you lay down in bed and do not fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and do one of these relaxing activities again until you are tired and then return to bed.
Which one of these tips will you try today to improve your sleep?
Functional Medicine & Cellular Health