It is time to turn down those thermostats, cover up to get warm and cozy, and put on those blue blocking glasses because it’s time to talk about sleep!
Sleep is one of the weirdest things you could do. If you think about it we are spending perfectly useful time pretending to be dead, rather than getting things done, right?
Well maybe not, but many people view sleep as optional or worse like it is a waste of time. So first let’s look at sleep at its most basic. During sleep, we are allowing ourselves to rest and repair from the days’ stresses, even if it is good stress. So in order to get the gains from your workout or move that study you read from short term to long term memory, you need to sleep to get those gains be them gym or intellectual in nature.
The problem is that many of us think we are doing all the things right, when really, we are either nocking ourselves out with sleep drugs, or we are blasting ourselves with bright lights and caffeine all day and we are expecting ourselves to somehow be ready for bed after having the equivalent a milkshake each time we have a caffeinated beverage. I can understand this state of mind because I was there.
Why should you value sleep?
So we know the drawbacks, but sleep? Easy! Because without it we would die, it is also a necessary process our to file away what we learned for the day as I mentioned before. Generally speaking, your eyes are closed and you lose consciousness, partially if not fully; this causes a decrease in body movement and there is a lack of response to outside forces, save for someone shaking you awake.
The Question still is, why does pretending to be dead restore me? To be simplistic, being awake and moving around breaks you, and can ultimately break IE kill you, this is called being catabolic. So the flip side should restore you or build you up, this flip is sleep and is sleep this is an anabolic process. Since sleep in an anabolic state, you grow and get rejuvenated from your sleep. Think about when kids go through growth spurts they not only eat more but most importantly, they sleep more. When you sleep you build up your immune system, skeletal system, muscular systems it also allows your body to balance hormones, boost metabolism brain function, energy as well as mood. Overall this helps to keep us youthful and vibrant [1, 2].
Now that I have hammered you with why sleep is important let’s get to the goods! Now we talk about how we can actually get a good night’s sleep.
- A good night of sleep starts with your morning. When you are early to rise it makes winding down for the night easier. On a technical note waking up early helps with further balancing your our hormones, in this case cortisol (the hormone that helps you wake up) and melatonin (the hormone that helps you mellow out) heck it helps with all endocrine functions and the regulation of hormones, for sleep it is mostly these two that we need to worry about . When we wake up too late it can lead to the “tired; yet wired” feeling when we are pushing it too hard. If you want a deeper understanding of what I mean, please check out the blog I wrote about my morning routine.
- Get out in the sun. Again like the last tip, getting sun, AM sun specifically really helps regulate the body’s natural melatonin cycle. Melatonin is produced in the brain by the pineal gland and it sends a signal to regulate your sleep-wake cycle[4, 5]. The sun matters because the production and secretion of this hormone changes based upon your light exposure. This will be important to other tips. But the goal should be to get as much sunlight as you can during the day.
- Limit your caffeine window. This will not apply to all people, but it will for most people. Caffeine has a strong stimulant effect to your nervous system, if your nervous system is simulated it is difficult for your body to wide down and get restful sleep. Generally about 6 hours before be should be good. So around 3-4pm should be a good cutoff for most people.
Develop an evening ritual
- Avoid the glass. Do you remember melatonin? Well if not is it what helps regulate sleep. This tip is most likely the number one thing you can do to improve your sleep quality tonight. The artificial “blue” light that is given off by electronic screens trigger your body to produce the wake-up, daytime hormones, like cortisol. So this means that you should eliminate or mitigate the blue lights at night. Things like computers, tablets, TV’s, smartphones, etc are keeping your mind excited and the blue light that can give you major sleep problems. If you want good, quality sleep turn off all screens at least an hour before bedtime.
- If you need to use a blue light blocker. If you do need to deal with tech before bed, do it with protection. Specifically blue blocking glasses. Most phones come with a blue blocking feature on most of them, also you can download a free application called f.lux that automatically eliminates all of the problematic blue light from my computer screen at a certain time each day. If you want to read before bed it is best to use an amber tinted bulb in your lamp, which would keep you from needing to use the glasses.
Moving on to the room!
- Your sleeping environment should be a cave. What I mean by this is that it should be pitch black when the lights are off. Put tape over the blinking lights, put up blinds, whatever you need to black it out[9, 10].
- Keep it cool. Ideally, you want to enjoy being under the warm covers, you really want to shoot for between 60-68 degrees F[9, 10]. If you go too much warmer or cooler, you may be too uncomfortable.
- Sock it to me. If you find that you are not getting warm or comfortable enough try socking up. It may help you drift off to sleep easier.
- Quiet your mind. To quiet the mind and drift off to sleep easy you may want to try deep breathing, meditation or us a guided meditation to help you if you do not know where to start. Meditation may seem silly at first, but it will help calm the inner chatter that oftentimes leaves us tossing and turning because we cannot turn our mind off.