“I will sleep when I am dead.” One of the favorite sayings by so many and one of the sayings that I silently lived by for way too long in my life. The concept of consistent sleep seems so trivial and unnecessary in the grand scheme of things. I mean, think about it- we, as humans, literally make a plan to lay down at night and fall asleep. Just close our eyes and do nothing for 5, 6, 10 hours, depending on what your plan is that you created. Like a machine, we “go to sleep” to recharge our batteries. It seems like such an odd concept and, on the surface, it may be challenging to wrap our heads around the importance of it for overall functioning and health. But, just as interesting of a concept of why the human was created to sleep in the first place is why it is so dang important for optimal health. See, we are like our cellphones. We turn it off, plug it into it’s power source, and, within hours, the cellphone is charged and ready to perform optimally. As that battery drains, we get warning signs that it needs to be recharged. If we ignore those signs, the cellphone runs out of battery and it can not function. If we only charge it half way, the cellphone functions for shorter periods of time. Can you see how that relates to you and sleep? Getting proper amounts of sleep and proper amounts of the right kind of sleep will make or break your day. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone with a newborn or anyone who burns the candle at both ends and works crazy amounts of hours!
Limited sleep makes us cranky and easily stressed. It creates imbalances in our hormones and raises cortisol levels, increasing weight gain and decreasing fat-burning. It causes digestive problems and gut-related imbalances. It increases emotional and mental instabilities and promotes us to be more depressed and anxious. This is only the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more! Let’s explore a little…
- Lack of sleep can make you fat. Short sleep duration has been directly linked to increased weight gain and obesity in adults and children.
- The well rested are more likely to eat fewer calories. Hormones influence our cravings and appetite. Decreased shut eye time creates an imbalance in those hormones, therefore, those who are well rested are less likely to overeat and have insatiable appetites. This directly translates to less food cravings and less calorie intake.
- Sleep improves concentration and productivity. A good night’s rest increases problem solving skills and enhances memory, while poor sleep increases brain function impairment.
- Getting a proper amount of good sleep can maximize your athletic performance. Studies have shown that it can significantly improve speed, accuracy, reaction times, and mental well-being, therefore, you will gain more out of your workouts. This equates to more intense bouts in the gym, increased grip strength, faster cardio speeds, and increased resistance in your strength and workouts.
- Inadequate sleep increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. At least a whopping 15 studies have linked increased cases of heart disease and strokes to those who sleep less than 7-8 hours per night consistently.
- Sleep deprivation can cause pre-diabetes in health adults. Actually, it can do this in as little as 6 days. Healthy adults who push sleep to the wayside consistently are at a much greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Decreased sleep equals increased depression. You got it! Studies have linked sleep quality to depression and have shown that an estimated 90% of patients with depression complain about sleep quality. This has even been shown to link to higher suicide rates. If you already have a sleeping disorder because of other health issues, poor sleeping patterns may strongly increase the depression that may already exist.
- Poor sleep increases inflammation within the body. Increased inflammation in the body can increase cell damage and has been linked to the onset of disease and cancer. Disease and cancers exist in an inflamed body and are often the result of inflammation and damage to the digestive tract. Poor sleep has been strongly linked to long-term inflammation of the digestive tract and gut lining, therefore increasing your chances for disease and cancer.
After reading those, I bet you are a little more motivated to get some deep, quality sleep tonight! But, what if you truly struggle to fall asleep, regardless of how badly you want to get more sleep? That can be a huge problem for a lot of people, even the healthiest of the healthy. When I am hyped up or have a lot on my mind, sleeping seems like the most challenging activity and quieting my mind— forget about it! Rest assured, there are some key practices that you can put in place that will help to calm your mind, rest your body, decrease your stress, and allow you to be more likely to fall into a deep slumber. What are they? Let’s look at a few…
- Prepare to have 7-9 hours of sleep per night. If it is 1 am and you know that you have to be awake by 6 am to get ready for work, then your stress levels will be more likely to increase and falling asleep will appear to be unattainable. Prepare a routine that will allow for 7-9 hours of sleep so that you can begin to wind down. 7-9 hours of deep rest is the optimal amount to reset your entire system and allow for the healing process to take hold.
- Create a nightly routine. A low stress, winding down routine to your evening is absolutely essential. If your system stays revved up all the way until you want to fall asleep, chances are that you will not. By incorporating a nightly routine to signal your body and brain that it is time for bed, you will begin to train yourself to naturally fall asleep. Begin your nightly wind down 1-2 hours before you actually go to bed. Try reading, listening to soothing music, taking a bath, or laughing with your kids. This is also a great time to turn down the lights and begin to allow your natural body rhythms to respond as they know how.
- Turn devices off 1 hour before bedtime. The blue light on devices is a killer of sleep and rest. One hour before you prepare to sleep, turn off your television, get off your phone, put away your computer, and cover up that bright alarm clock light that is like a beacon in the night. Because EMF waves from your electronic devices and your WiFi can highly impact the quality of your sleep, I would suggest decreasing their impact. I put my cellphone at least 8-10 feet from me when I sleep and turn the WiFi off in the house.
- Have sex. The pink elephant has entered the room- No one wants to talk about how sex is one of the best ways to decrease stress and improve feelings of calmness. But, it is! Here’s the deal— being close to someone you love and having skin to skin contact is healing and increases Oxytocin. And, having an orgasm greatly decreases your stress levels and helps to release soothing neurotransmitters to the brain that will help to calm and stimulate the pleasure center. When this happens, we can more readily access our ability to fall into a deep slumber.
- Warm your belly and eat soothing foods. One of my favorite night-time routines to signal my brain that it is time to sleep is by drinking a calming tea or a cup of warm coconut milk. Adding a bit of vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamon to the coconut milk is a soothing overload to the senses. Eat some walnuts, almonds, and cashews. Not only are they heart healthy, but certain nuts are shown to increase levels of melatonin and tryptophan in the body.
With all the chaos, noise, stimulation, and environmental disturbances in our modern world, getting quality sleep may seem to be a distant memory. It doesn’t have to be! There are simple tricks that you can take, if you dedicate the time to implementing them, that will get you on the fast track to deep sleep.
Take action now! Do you get enough rest or are you running on empty? Be honest with yourself and look at your life and see how a lack of sleep is affecting your health and setting you up for future problems. Once you allow yourself to accept that “sleeping when you are dead” is not a good habit, you will be more likely to stay committed to your new change. Set a plan- that is where you start. I would start with creating a nightly plan to get yourself used to winding down and preparing to “become sleepy.” Finding the specifics that create your sleepiness and prepare your mind for a restful night. Now, share my “Shout And Share” with all your friends to help get them set up for success in their new habit!
Go to the comment section. Make a comment and let me know what you have struggled with, what you have tried, and what your action plan is. The best discussions start between like-minded friends! Share this with your friends and get more people in on the action.
Do you want to learn more? This was a just a snippet into how you can apply this to your own life. If you are craving more and need to make a change in your life right now (or even if you are scared and don’t know what to do), I am here to guide you in the right direction. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about what you can do to get you from where you are now to where you always dreamed you wanted to be!
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