The science of sleep is fascinating, complicated and growing
Sleep is this daily thing that we all do and yet we’re just beginning to understand all of the ways it helps us and all of the factors that can affect it.
Lack of sleep affects just about everything in your body and mind. People who get less sleep tend to be at higher risk for so many health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer; not to mention effects like slower metabolism, weight gain, hormone imbalance, and inflammation. And don’t forget the impact lack of sleep can have on moods, memory and decision-making skills.
Do you know that lack of sleep may even negate the health benefits of your exercise program? (Gasp!)
OMG – What aspect of health does sleep not affect???
Knowing this it’s easy to see the three main purposes of sleep:
● To restore our body and mind. Our bodies repair, grow and even “detoxify” our brains while we sleep.
● To improve our brain’s ability to learn and remember things, technically known as “synaptic plasticity”.
● To conserve some energy so we’re not just actively “out and about” 24-hours a day, every day
Tips for better sleep
● The biggest tip is definitely to try to get yourself into a consistent sleep schedule. Make it a priority and you’re more likely to achieve it. This means turning off your lights 8 hours before your alarm goes off. Seven. Days. A. Week. I know weekends can easily throw this off but by making sleep a priority for a few weeks your body and mind will adjust and thank you for it.
● Balance your blood sugar throughout the day. You know, eat less refined and processed foods and more whole foods (full of blood-sugar-balancing fibre). Choose the whole orange instead of the juice (or orange-flavoured snack). Make sure you’re getting some protein every time you eat.
● During the day get some sunshine and exercise. These things tell your body it’s daytime; time for being productive, active and alert. By doing this during the day it will help you wind down more easily in the evening.
● Cut off your caffeine and added sugar intake after 12pm. Whole foods like fruits and veggies are fine, it’s the “added” sugar we’re minimizing. Yes, this includes your beloved chai latte. Both caffeine and added sugar can keep your mind a bit more active than you want it to be come evening. (HINT: I have a great caffeine-free chai latte recipe for you below!)
● Do a brain dump. We’ve all done it: Stared at the ceiling, long after lights-out, obsessing about all the things we’re supposed to do tomorrow, tossing and turning and getting more and more stressed by the minute. Try this instead: In the evening, take a few minutes to write out a list of whatever’s bugging you:
• Emails you need to send
• reply to calls you have to make
• project ideas
• creative thoughts
• that thing you should have said to so-and-so…
Whatever is in your brain, get it out and on to paper. Around here we call this a “brain dump.” It clears your mind for genuine relaxation.
● Stretch / read / de-stress before bed. What de-stresses you? Do that.
This could include:
• Gentle movement — such as stretching or yoga, or even a slow stroll around the block. Even 5-15 minutes can release tension and activate calm-down chemicals.
• Reading before bed — but make sure it’s not too engaging — otherwise you’ll be tempted to stay up with that thrilling detective novel until the wee hours.
• Meditation, deep breathing, or other simple relaxation exercises
● Have a relaxing bedtime routine that starts 1 hour before your “lights out” time (that is 8 – 10 hours before your alarm is set to go off). This would include dimming your artificial lights, nixing screen time and perhaps reading an (actual, not “e”) book or having a bath.
● Go to bed before midnight. Interesting factoid: According to some sleep experts, because of the way our natural circadian rhythms work, every hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours after. (Whether that’s true or not, or whether it’s even measurable, I’m not sure. But I’ve heard it repeated so often by sleep experts it’s probably worth consideration.) According to these experts, we’re meant to go to sleep when it gets dark, and to wake when it gets light. That old saying about early to bed and early to rise still stands the test of time.
So how many of these tips can you start implementing today? Even if you start with one or two and practice those consistently until you can add another one. Each step towards a goodnight’s sleep means a calmer and more productive you!
Recipe: Caffeine-Free Chai Latte
1 bag of rooibos chai tea (rooibos is naturally caffeine-free)
2 cups of boiling water
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon almond butter (creamy is preferred)
2 dates (optional)
Tip: You can try this with other nut or seed butters to see which flavour combination you like the best. Cashew butter anyone?
When we fuel our mind body and spirit, magic happens!
Your Health Coach,