Throughout my time spent working in supplement and alternative health stores, I was amazed by the consistent devaluation by consumers of the power of sleep. Customers would come in on a daily basis with various colds and illnesses and would hand over countless dollars for their supplements and pharmaceuticals. Yet they could not “afford” to give themselves the one-day’s rest that might keep them from having to purchase any of those pills to begin with. Since when did sleep become overrated?
Countless studies have shown the power that sleep has on our body and mind. Research shows that women who sleep 5 hours or less a night are 15% more likely to become obese than those that have 7 hours or more. Sleep deprivation affects both men and women in terms of health effects but it tends to have a more noticeable effect on the hormones responsible for weight regulation in women. Why the correlation between weight gain and sleep loss? When we are sleep deprived we operate on an empty tank and our bodies struggle to find energy to keep on running. Our hunger levels go up and our satiation levels go down, forcing us to eat more. We also usually lean towards eating foods with a high glycemic index that will give us that jolt of energy we need to keep our eyes open. These sugary foods usually lead to an immediate drop once our high wears off, leading us wanting more.
Sleep deprivation not only negatively impacts our weight and energy levels but also affects our memory and ability to function effectively throughout the day. For those that make the argument that they do not have enough time to get in proper sleep at night, I invite you to think about how much money you would save over the course of the day if you were not purchasing countless coffees, sugary snack packs, caffeine boosters and other supplements to keep you running? What if you could focus more effectively and get more done in a shorter period of time because of the clarity you had from having a full night’s rest? Would that be sufficient enough to make you at least pause and consider its value?
Perhaps now you are starting to warm up to the idea that MAYBE more sleep could be beneficial for you. If so, the next step is in making the behavioral change. How exactly do we get more sleep, and a restful sleep at that? I have outlined 5 simple tips and tricks to begin a new rest regimen for your evening that will hopefully leave you feeling energized and refreshed!
1.) Create wind down time between when you stop working and when you go to sleep:
Throughout the day, our minds are racing a million miles a minute with all the information we consume. One way to help reduce the mind chatter is to create a meditation practice before bed that can help you tune out the white nose and relax your body and mind to ease into a more peaceful and quiet space before bed time.
2.) Reduce amount of artificial light you are exposed to at least one hour before sleep:
We are extremely light sensitive creatures and in today’s modern world, especially those of us living in cities, we are surrounded by light 24-7. This can create a false sense of alertness in the body leading to higher energy levels, which make it harder to fall asleep at night. Watching television, playing on your computer and reading texts on your phone all stimulate energy increases in the body that can prevent you from being able to wind down and fall asleep at night. By turning off all electronic devices at least an hour before bed, placing your phone on airplane mode and placing them far away from where you will be sleeping, you will find your body naturally has the space to unwind and will begin to feel tired long before your head hits the pillow.
3.) Make sure you have a comfortable mattress and pillow:
Speaking of pillows, make sure that your mattress and pillows that you sleep on are comfortable. Uncomfortable bedding can have you tossing and turning at night and can disturb your natural sleep cycles, leaving you feeling restless and exhausted the next morning. Though higher quality bedding can be more expensive, think of it as investing in the foundation in which you sleep on.
4.) Make sure not to eat heavy meals before sleeping:
Eating heavy meals before sleeping can cause your stomach to work to create energy in order to digest the food you’ve eaten. Thus, you will find that many times after a heavy meal late at night it is nearly impossible to fall asleep. The lighter the meals you have before sleeping, the easier it will be for your body to naturally slow down in to a space where it can rest and turn in for the evening.
5.) Leave emotional baggage in the journal:
Many times during our day if we haven’t had quality guy/girl time with our best friends to talk about the latest drama in our lives or we don’t have an excellent therapist, the emotional stress of whatever might be happening in our personal lives can begin to weigh on us. Those thoughts and feelings can keep the mind racing, preventing us from slowing down and easing into a deep state of rest. One trick to solve this is to keep a journal by your bed and if you are having trouble falling asleep, take out the pen and paper and just write out your negative thoughts, feelings or emotions until you feel the energy has transferred on to the paper and you are ready to sleep.
In implementing these changes to your sleep regime you will find yourself operating more efficiently throughout your day and having increased energy levels and a greater sense of joy than any supplement package or local caffeine tap could possibly provide!
Source: The Institute for Integrative Nutriton Lecture – “The Sleep Secret, ” Rubin Naimin, PHD