When it comes to optimizing your health, sleep is a really big deal.
You can eat a clean diet and move your body daily, but if you are neglecting your recovery and dream time, your body will struggle to absorb and deliver the nutrition you are feeding it and your muscles will be unable to repair and rebuild. Your immune system will be compromised and your cognitive function will go out the window. And this is just a short list of negative consequences you will experience!
Do you feel like you are doing everything you can to lead a happier, healthier and more fit life, but still don’t feel stellar? Sleep much?
For years I thought that nearly every problem in the human body could be remedied with improvements made to diet and exercise.
I functioned (or so I thought) on 4-5 hours of sleep a night. I wore my sleep deprivation like a badge of honor. The more full my days, the more worthy I felt. Until, eventually, ALL I felt was sick (I literally became a germ magnet) and very, very tired.
My refusal to prioritize my sleep was negatively affecting the areas of my life I SAID I cared deeply about:
My family life suffered. (No one wants to be in the company an overgrown toddler, which I was.)
My movement practice suffered. (Hard to find motivation to move more when just the day to day responsibilities are feeling like a trek up Everest).
My ability to serve others doing what I love suffered. (Running on fumes is NOT an effective way to launch your gifts into the world…trust me.)
I am not alone. Sleep deprivation is a condition I see plaguing nearly every client I work with; an overflowing schedule combined with an unwillingness make sacrifices to live in accordance with what they say their priorities are.
If your health is truly a priority for you, you MUST protect your sleeping hours as if your life depends on it. ‘Cause actually…it does.
Life is dependent on hormonal synchronicity and cellular regeneration and those things are massively disrupted in a body that isn’t getting enough quality sleep. Lack of sleep ages you, ladies…faster!
So, how much sleep are we talking here?
7-10 hours depending on the individual (not including the 20-30 minutes it takes your body to get to sleep).
Yes. EVERY NIGHT.
I understand that getting 7-10 hours of sleep a night can feel challenging and even impossible.
Establishing any new habit feels that way at first, doesn’t it? It feels impossible, until you…well…start doing it.
Consistently commit to doing a little better than yesterday, and soon you will be reaping the rewards that come from sleeping better, more often.
Here are some ideas on how to get started with that “doing better consistently” part.
5 Tricks to Help You Decelerate:
1. Create a routine. Do your best to go to bed and rise at the same time every day. Our bodies love rhythm. Find yours and stick to it.
2. Do a brain dump. Spend 5 minutes writing down all of the things congesting your mind just before bed.
3. Breathe DEEP. Placing your hands on your belly, breathe deeply through your nose feeling your belly expand and exhale through your nose feeling your belly deflate for a total of 5 min. Deep breathing can greatly aid in reducing tension in the body and in clearing the mind.
4. Dim the Lights. Bright lights tell your brain it is still daylight (even when it’s not) and can delay the release of melatonin, the hormone responsible for winding you down, in the evening hours. Dim the lights in your house and shut off electronics at least 1 hour before getting into bed. (If you insist on staying online, consider an app like f.lux to allow your devices to emulate lighting similar to your time zone)
5. Supplement with Melatonin. If you really struggle to get to sleep at night, you can try supplementing with melatonin for a few nights to help your body unwind sooner and establish a rhythm with your sleep cycle. Tart Cherry Juice also help to naturally increase the production of melatonin.
4 Ways to Set the Stage for Deep Sleep:
1. Darken the Room. The blacker, the better. Be sure you are sending your body a clear message that it is time for rest, by making your room as dark as possible.
2. Turn On the White Noise. Fans and white noise machines help to block out any noisy distractions that may prevent you from falling asleep or that may cause you to wake in the middle of the night.
3. Apply Lavender Oil. It has a very calming effect on the body. You can take a few drops and rub it into your temples, wrists, palms or even spritz your pillow to help calm your body and your brain. (Having someone else apply it…even better)
4. Create a Chill in the Air. Studies show that cooler temps actually help people to fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer. What temp is ideal for sleep? Between 60-68 degrees Fahrenheit.
3 Tips to Get More Sleep:
1. Make it a Priority. You will be far more productive, happy and healthy well-rested than you are half-awake. ‘Nough Said.
2. Siesta. AKA “Take a Nap”. 10-20 minutes can completely revitalize you to take on the rest of your day.
3. Stop Feeling Guilty. My greatest hope after reading this is that you stop looking at sleep as a luxury you can’t afford but rather a necessary ingredient to regenerate your physiology and sanity! You can’t afford NOT to sleep, dear friend.
Know a sister who is trying to elevate her health but has a hard time giving herself permission to rest? Send this to her.
And if you have anything that you do to help improve your sleep time and quality that wasn’t mentioned here, please put it in the comments below.