Let’s talk about sleep- one of the most overlooked components to your overall health.
Unfortunately, you can follow the best diet and exercise regime in the world, but if you aren’t sleeping well or aren’t sleeping enough, you’re missing a huge part of the puzzle. ‘Work hard play hard’ sounds cool… until your hormones are f****ed up, you’re not seeing any progress in the gym, you’re exhausted all the time, and that “spare tire” around your belly just won’t go away.
The ‘recommended’ sleep amount for adults ranges between 7-9 hours a night- but most of us are closer to 5-6.
While it may be possible to get by on less, the benefits of aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep almost every day are more than you would think! What happens is that sleep keeps getting pushed to the bottom of the priority list, or saved for weekends or when the kids finally grow up and leave home.
Yes, I know that families and jobs demand a lot of our time- so sometimes getting a full 8 hours of sleep just isn’t possible! However, take a long, hard look at what you are doing with your time- is it really that important that you watch an extra episode of your favorite show? That said, even if you can’t sleep MORE, here are some simple changes you can make to help you sleep BETTER.
1. Make your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary.
If you have a lot of noise pollution from outside, invest in a fan or white noise machine, or try a pair of earplugs. If light comes in from outside, think about changing your curtains or wearing a sleep mask. Invest in sheets that feel good, and a comfortable pillow. If you have work documents, video game console or a TV, move it out of the bedroom. Your bedroom should be welcoming, relaxing, cool and dark- perfect sleep conditions.
2. Have a caffeine cut-off time.
Caffeine has a half life of about 5 hours- so your after lunch coffee or late night dark chocolate snack could be contributing to your bad sleep. Soda as well as black and green teas include some caffeine as well- so take a look at what you are consuming in the later part of the day. Yes, you may not feel like caffeine affects you, but if you are struggling to sleep well, just try a cutoff of at least 8 hours before you would like to go to sleep!
3. Get some sun.
Biologically, we are programmed to sleep when it is dark and be awake when it is light, and studies show that by getting a dose of sunlight during the day (ie. NON artificial light) can help you wind down at night. The problem is if you work in an office, you may only be exposed to artificial light all day long- so kill two birds with one stone and go take a walk during your lunch break to get some extra movement in your day and help you rest better at night.
4. Start prepping for bed before you head to the bedroom.
About 2-3 hours before bedtime, start lowering the light around your house- turn off overhead lights, and try lower lit lamps. Keep evening and nighttime lights dim, and get a night light or very low light to use to guide your way to the toilet at 4 am. Turn down the light on your computer screen, use the night vision settings on your phone, and keep volumes down on music and the TV.
5. Get rid of the late night Instagram scrolling, Game of Thrones watching or work-email responding.
This is probably the NUMBER ONE thing that you can do to help your sleep. If you are looking at your phone or computer up until the moment you decide its lights out time, don’t be surprised that you have trouble falling or staying asleep. Try a screen cut off time of about 30 minutes before you would like to be asleep… and for best results keep screens out of the bedroom completely! Turn your phone on airplane mode and/or keep it face down so that any incoming messages or calls don’t disturb you.
I could go on and on about different ways for you to improve your sleep quality and quantity.
In our modern world it can be SO difficult to manage the demands of our busy lives, get everything done in a day, and manage to also assure that we get a good night’s sleep. Like we work on in nutrition coaching, it can be helpful to start little by little- don’t try to change EVERYTHING all at once, but pick one or two of these tips and work on them one at a time. Let me know how it goes!