Sleep Hygiene: What is it & how do we achieve it?
About 1/3 of our life is spent sleeping. But 1 out of 3 American adults have a sleep disorder. Sleep is such an important part of our overall health that lack of sleep contributes to considerable health issues: Type-2 Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases, Depression, Obesity, plus there's an association between lack of sleep & cognitive disorders. When we're awake, the effects of lack of sleep are similar to the effects of alcohol impairment.
Sleep & Weight Loss
More than half of my wellness clients have a goal of weight loss. While I recommend a nutritional protocol that has an unprecedented success rate (learn more here: https://monicabstaley.isagenix.com/en-us/products/weight-loss), educating my clients on the importance of sleep is crucial for their overall wellness & success. No matter what we're eating or how much we're exercising, if we're not getting enough quality sleep (or we're not managing stress levels... that's for another blog post), losing unhealthy weight will likely be a struggle. This is due to how the body's hormones are affected by lack of sleep. Without enough quality sleep, our hormones can make our hunger increase, our satiety decrease, and our stress levels increase... makes you want to hop into bed right now, doesn't it?!
Sleep & Brain Health
Any idea what your brain's doing while you're deep in sleep? The human body is so cool! During deep sleep, the brain conducts a cleaning process, removing waste products that built up during the day. An exchange of fluids sweeps the brain, washing out these potentially harmful substances. This is why sleep deficit worsens cognitive functions, including memory, reasoning, decision making, and may be associated with dementia & Alzheimer's disease. For high quality supplements that support brain health & deep sleep, check out: https://monicabstaley.isagenix.com/products/vitality-well-being/pak/brain-sleep-support-system.
Sleep & Exercise, Immune Health & Overall Wellness
Sleep is also essential for the recovery from exercise. It is rest & recovery that allows the body to build an adaptive response (muscle strength & size) to exercise. Every aspect of our body & overall well-being (including the current buzz of immune system health & support) are affected by our quality & quantity of sleep. For high quality supplements that support athletic performance & immune health, check out:
Now that we know some of the reasons sleep is so important. How then, do we get the recommended 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night?
Sleep Hygiene: 9 habits that promote adequate high-quality sleep.
Create a relaxing sleep environment. Avoid working or eating in your bed or bedroom, if possible. Reduce noise. If necessary, use a white noise machine (or I like the sound of rain on leaves). Create a dark environment with shades or curtains. Wear an eye mask if your bedroom is not dark enough. Room temperatures between 60-68° F seem to be the most conducive to sound sleep.
Follow a consistent sleep schedule. Go to sleep & wake up at the same time each day. This helps to strengthen the circadian rhythm that contributes to a good night's sleep. Setting an alarm to go to bed/start your bedtime routine can be helpful.
Follow a soothing bedtime routine. Pursue relaxing, quiet activities for 30-60 minutes before bed. These might include reading, a warm bath or shower, a relaxation or meditation practice (I'm a huge fan of the Calm meditation app), or listening to relaxing music. I also like to review my gratitude list from my morning routine (a future blog post, perhaps) before I fall asleep. If an overactive mind is the cause of nighttime wakefulness, mental relaxation before bed is especially important.
Limit exposure to bright light, especially blue light. Avoid exposure to electronic devices and television screens as bedtime approaches. TV & using electronic devices too close to bedtime exposes us to blue light, which interferes with melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that makes us sleepy. It is produced by the pineal gland, which regulates the circadian rhythm. Material viewed on TV & devices can also present disturbing images that are not conducive to relaxation & good sleep. If device screens must be used before sleep time, progressively darken your screen as night time approaches. Some sleep experts go as far as to recommend eliminating electronic devices from the bedroom completely.
Try to be exposed to natural light early in the day. Bright sunlight helps regulate the circadian rhythm, so you feel more wakeful during the day & sleepy at night.
Exercise daily. Even 10 minutes of aerobic/cardio exercise a day (brisk walking, swimming, running, or cycling... where your breathing & heart rate increase), is associated with better quality sleep.
Naps. Some people sleep better at night if they avoid daytime naps. Others are fine with a short (30 minutes or less) nap each day.
Avoid caffeine & alcohol. Some people sleep better when they give up caffeine entirely. Others are fine with caffeine early in the day (AMEN!). While alcohol can cause people to fall asleep more quickly, sleep patterns during the second half of sleep can be disrupted by periods of wakefulness or less deep sleep. For people having trouble getting enough quality sleep, alcohol should be avoided or at least consumed in small quantities (1-2 drinks), with food & water, at least 2-3 hours before bedtime.
Avoid eating a large meal too close to bedtime. In general, allowing enough time for food to leave the stomach is associated with less discomfort while falling asleep. Two hours is usually enough time for the stomach to empty, although it can depend person to person and with meal volume. Fluids should be limited at bedtime too, to reduce the need to use the bathroom in the night.
For how important sleep is to our overall health & well-being, simply too many people struggle to get enough quality sleep. Between chronic, life-threatening illnesses, weight management, and the health of our brain & disease fighting immune system, it's time we focus on less & rest. The days of counting sheep are over. It's important to take sleep & sleep hygiene seriously! Don't think you can tackle all 9 habits tonight? Progress over perfection. Which 2 or 3 habits seem most doable or most important for your own lifestyle & sleep goals? Commit to those this week, then add on. Like other health goals, it's a journey. See what works for you. Additionally, accountability is an important tool for the implementation of any health goal. Share this blog post with a couple family members & friends to encourage, help hold each other accountable, and achieve your sleep goals together.
For more information on any of the links in this blog post, or to sign up for a free wellness consult, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sweet dreams!
ACE - The Professional's Guide to Health and Wellness Coaching - Empower Transformation Through Lifestyle Behavior Change (2019)