When you have your diet dialed in you may start sleeping better, this leads to a mental clarity that is super awesome… So, sleeping, I go to sleep when I can and wake up with a super loud alarm so I don’t oversleep it, right? Q.E.D. Next step please… Well not quiet.
To put it very simply, Sleep is an essential and natural state of rest for a healthy body and mind. When you sleep you give your body a chance to rebuild and get stronger from being broken down through working out and the regular stresses of the day. To properly rebuild we need enough restful sleep, which is normally between 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
When you get quality sleep your body goes into an anabolic state which allows you to rebuild your immune functions, builds muscle, aids in weight loss, promotes hormone regulation, boosts metabolism, increases energy and the process flushes out waste from the day.
On the flip side, when you do not get enough quality sleep your body stresses out and goes into a catabolic state, which is often referred to as the fight or flight response. This response to stress can become a vicious cycle. The result of getting poor sleep does not end with grabbing a cup of coffee as quick as humanly possible, but having poor sleep hygiene can result in a slew of psychological, metabolic, physical related illnesses, like depression, other effects are a weak immune system, type-2 diabetes, cancer, metabolic syndrome, and poor cognitive performance just to name a few.
To combat this from happening to you, I want to give you a few actionable steps to help you start sleeping better tonight. In a later blog post I will go into to the science side of sleep as well as more in-depth ways you can improve your sleep to help you crush everyday with the same enthusiasm you had when you were a kid. However if you want to read ahead, check out “Lights out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival” by T.S. Wiley. This book does not only tackle sleep, but it also goes into the studies that link sleeplessness to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, infertility, mental illness, and premature aging. The book also looks at the government backed high-carbohydrate diets and how they are ineffective and possibly deadly. This is definitely a book to check out.
For now, here are 5 few quick changes you can make for better sleep tonight:
- A good night’s sleep starts with a good morning. Yes a morning ritual is not just good for starting your day on the right foot, but your sleep as well. What I mean is, moving and being in the sun for a few minutes in the morning is great for waking you up, resetting your circadian rhythm (sleep/awake cycles). It doesn’t have to be a full blown work out, just a tabata of jumping jacks, push-ups/burpees, or 5 minutes of jump rope will do the trick. If you can do it in the sun that would be great.
- Step away from the caffeine. I know this one hurts me to write it, just as much as it hurts you to read it. You don’t have to kick it out of your diet, just no more late night coffee runs. What you want to do is cut off the caffeine about 6 hours before bed. Because caffeine is a stimulant, and 6 hours should give your body time to digest it. So you can sleep like a baby, rather than a kid crashing into a sugar coma.
- Have a bedtime ritual. This will help your body calm down and get into an anabolic state, which leads to better sleep. I try to start 1-1.5 hours before bed, during this time I minimize screen usage, pack lunches and prep my morning coffee, bathe my son, get myself ready for bed, and with any remaining time I either talk to my spouse or read a book. The key is to destress and wind down before bed.
- Avoid screens before bed. This is one of the best tips I can give you, since the blue lights that come off screens impacts sleep quality the most. Blue light tricks your body into thinking it’s daytime. This causes your sleep cycle to become disoriented. All screens give off this blue light, so if you need to use them make sure you are using blue blocking glasses of some kind. You can buy yellow tinted, blue blocking glasses from a sporting goods store. There are apps that have blue light filter for your phone/tablet. You can also install f.lux for the computer which syncs to your location and automatically eliminates blue light as the sun goes down. Even with these tweaks, I would not suggest you use your phone up to the moment you fall asleep. When you put down the phone you can wind down your mind, a calm mind also helps you get to sleep.
- Sleep in a cool, dark room. The darker the better. Lights from wifi routers, bathrooms and phone glows can mess with your sleep cycles. It is not just about what your eyes can see, research has shown that blind people are just as affected by daytime sunlight that affects your sleep as sighted people. The second part of this tip is sleeping in a cool room. Ideally it should be between 60-67 degrees fahrenheit. This will help you sleep because our body temperature fluctuates throughout the day, it peaks in the afternoon and is at its lowest in the early morning. Having a cold room when you fall asleep can help you fall asleep quicker and have deeper sleep. If you implement nothing else, do at least this, you will see a major change in your sleep from just keeping the lights off. All it takes is turning off the lights and down the thermostat.