I always feel SOOOOO much better when I consistently go to bed early (before midnight) and sleep for a solid 7 to 8 hours. When I don't get enough sleep - life feels like a bit of a struggle to be honest!
Not only do I feel more alert and like I can tackle the day's events without a hitch -- I look better! Beauty sleep IS a real thing.
Sleep is when we restore and repair our bodies and our minds.
It's even been likened to a dishwasher for the brain with research showing how we actually “detoxify” our brains as we sleep!
The synaptic plasticity that occurs during sleep improves our brain's ability to learn, process, and remember things!
It also helps us to process our emotions including traumatic experiences. Sleep facilitates our ability to "put emotional experiences into context" and produce "controlled, appropriate responses."
Sleep is a basic biological necessity. This is why sleep deprivation has been used as a method of torture. It's been described as a profound assault on the entire biological system at the foundation of that person’s mind and body." Yikes!
Besides looking and feeling better -- something as simple as sleep governs your hormone balance, metabolism, digestion/elimination, inflammatory response and is potentially protective when it comes to serious diseases.
Unfortunately falling asleep or just sleeping through the night isn't that simple for everyone.
If you are feeling exhausted or “running on stress hormones” all day - I have some great tips for you!
4 Tips for better sleep
1. GET IN SYNC WITH THE SUN.
During the day get some sunshine and exercise. These things tell your body it's daytime; time for being productive, active and alert. By doing this during the day it will help you wind down more easily in the evening.
This also means to limit your caffeine intake after 12pm. Even if you aren't a coffee drinker your evening doses of raw cacao or chocolate might be impacting your sleep pattern!
Here is a chart I got hip to in the early 00's that I really like. It shows our normal circadian rhythm and how it correlates to the sun/moon cycle.
2. KEEP YOUR BLOOD SUGAR BALANCED THROUGHOUT THE DAY.
Eat less refined and processed foods and more whole foods (full of blood-sugar-balancing fiber). Make sure you're getting some protein and fat every time you eat. Eating carbohydrates on their own might give you an energy boost but that boost is then followed with a crash. If you tend to feel these crashes on a daily basis, look into your typical eating patterns.
3. MAKE YOUR BEDROOM YOUR SANCTUARY.
It doesn't necessarily have to look like a "sanctuary" but it should feel like one. Reserve your bedroom (or at least your bed if you live in a studio apartment) for sleep and sex only. If you tend to watch TV, work, or eat in your bedroom - your brain won't as easily shift into sleep mode when it's time to hit the sheets.
4. GET ON A SLEEP SCHEDULE.
The biggest tip is definitely to try to get yourself into a consistent sleep schedule. Take your sleep as sleep as your other priorities and you'll be more likely to achieve it!
This means to begin your relaxing bedtime routine 1 hour before "lights out". This means dimming your artificial lights, nixing screen time, maybe wearing blue-blocking glasses, perhaps reading an (actual, not “e”) book or taking a long hot shower. Then turn off your lights 8 hours before your alarm goes off EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THE WEEK. Weekends can easily throw us off but by making sleep a priority for a few weeks - your body and mind will adjust and thank you for it.
So how much sleep do you need?
The National Sleep Foundation recommends:
Older Adults - 7 to 8 hours
Young Adults and Adults - 7 to 9 hours
Teenagers - 8 to 10 hours
School-Aged Children - 9 to 11 hours
Preschoolers - 10 to 13 hours
Toddlers - 11 to 14 hours
Infants - 12 to 15 hours
Newborns - 14 to 17 hours
When we are in growth phases - typically when we're young - the more sleep we need.
However, if you train hard in or outside of the gym, sleep is also very important for repair of your muscles and nervous system. So if you're an adult who fits into that category or if you're trying to learn a new skill - you want to make sure you stay in that range of 7 to 9 hours to be most effective!
Remember: Lack of sleep compromises all normal functioning of your body and mind.
Take it seriously.