Let’s face it. Sleep is typically one of the last things we prioritize. With all the school events, kid’s practices, appointments, workshops, fitness classes, grocery shopping…the list goes on and on! It’s all we can do to just get 5 hours of sleep, let alone 8! But we all know it: high quality sleep is VITAL for both healing and sustained wellness. Although there doesn’t appear to be much going on when we sleep (unless you sleep next to a sleep-walker like I do), it’s actually a time when our body is extremely active.
During our slumber we:
– Restock our supply of hormones
– Process toxins
– Repair damages tissue
– Generate vital white blood cells for immunity
– Eliminate the effects of stress
– Process heavy emotions
Because of our fast-paced lives, we are seeing an epidemic of sleep disorders ranging from trouble falling asleep to often-interrupted sleep to more serious insomnia. If you suffer from any of these sleep disorders, don’t worry because I have some simple remedies that can help! We need to remember that good sleep is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. When we get good sleep, we are more motivated to make healthier choices like eating better food, moving our bodies, and engaging in meaningful interactions with our loved ones.
We have all heard the word Melatonin before. But what is it actually? Melatonin is produced in the pineal gland, a small gland near the middle of our skull. It suppresses the activity of other neurotransmitters and helps to calm our brains down. For the most ideal sleep, melatonin should be rising steadily and cortisol (our stress hormone) should be rock-bottom low at bedtime. So how does the pineal gland know when to start producing melatonin?? DARKNESS!! But most people’s night time routine consists of tv, video games, emails, scrolling on social media, etc. These devices project a full spectrum light which mimics daylight tricking our pineal gland into thinking its day time. Eating a heavy meal later in the evening can also prevent or disrupt sleep.
So, what can we do about it??
1) Choose more calming, quieter evening activities that help you relax physically and mentally. Ex: reading a book, taking a bath, playing with your pet
2) Turn off all full-spectrum light a full hour before bed. Say goodnight to email, TV, and social media.
3) Avoid amping up your brain. Try to minimize activities like budgeting, next-day planning, or stress conversations an hour before bed.
4) Avoid caffeinated foods or drinks after 2pm (green or black tea, coffee, soda, chocolate). It CAN affect you that many hours later.
5) Make your environment quiet but not too quiet. I recommend soft foam ear plugs and/or the white noise of a fan.
6) Adjust the temperature. Rooms which are too hot or too cold tend to wake us up. Temperature extremes like this naturally increase our stress hormones which promote wakefulness.
7) Create a relaxing bedtime ritual. Herbal teas like lavender, chamomile, or passionflower can help us to relax and set the tone for sleep. Writing in a gratitude journal or reading an inspirational or spiritual book are great practices as well.
8) Quiet the digestion. I recommend no food at all for a full 3 hours before bed. If that is not possible, choose to eat a small meal or snack and save the big meal for lunch.
9) Wear blue light blocking glasses. Blue light is found both naturally and artificially. It comes from the sun and our electronic devices and light bulbs. When the sun goes down we should limit our exposure to blue light to prime our body for sleep. To learn more about the blue light blocking glasses Dr. Ryan and Dr. Allyson use check out BluBlox
Give these sleep hygiene principles a try to see how much better your sleep can be!