8 Tips to Catch Better Zzzz's
Sleep is something that almost everybody loves, including our own body! It is also something of a troublesome burden to many of us as well. I often am asked how I can wake at 3 am daily and go to bed by no later than 8:30 in the evening. That is quite the day, and I do begin working at 3:30am with household chores, meal prepping, etc and off to my actual day job. When I arrive home I do more chores and work that can be done at home. This equates to a lot of work and makes many wonder how I get to sleep. I do nap for starters. I find time to be able to lie down for 45-60 minutes about 2-3x per week. I only do this when I am feeling incredibly exhausted or had a restless nights sleep the night before. While my sleep is great most nights, just like anyone else I still have restless nights that leave me feeling groggy in the morning and wanting to stay in bed.
As we all know, sleep is imperative for recovery, focus, and energy the following day. Nobody wants to wake up groggy and hating life, their body, or the way they feel. Here are some tips to set you up for a successful nights sleep and following morning.
1. Know your chronotype. If you aren't sure what a chronotype even is, this is your DNA telling you if you are a morning person or a night owl. Ever see someone get up and be full of energy first thing in the morning, no caffeine and spritely as the sun? (*coughs* ME) This morning energy upon waking is an indicator of what time you should be rising from your slumbers. If you aren't sure of what your chronotype might be, take a look here to take a quiz and find out more about how your body cycles it's circadian rhythm. I am a Lion.
(Image below from sleepadvisor.org)
2. Limit your screen time & light exposure. This one is pretty tough for most of us nowadays. Our phones are often right by our side if not right in front of our eyes. The blue light from screens causes the frontal lobe to stop producing hormones such as melatonin. Without melatonin we have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Blue light can make you feel more alert, awake and energized. "Photo receptors in the eye, which link to the areas of the brain that control alertness, are most sensitive to blue light. Therefore, when blue light hits them, the receptors set off activity in those brain regions, making you more energized," says Shadab A. Rahman, Ph.D. By limiting our blue light and regular light exposure we allow the mind time to calm and begin producing the hormone melatonin again. We begin this process in our home around 3-4 hours before we go to bed.
3. Light therapy. This has been a really great one for us since we moved into our new home. We have red and green lights everywhere! We use them to help calm the mind and body. Red lights help our bodies produce more melatonin and is recommended to be in about 30 minutes before bed. (We turn ours on about 5pm and are in bed around 7:30-8pm) Red light therapy also increases your performance for the next day by aiding in a restful nights sleep from production of the hormone melatonin. You cannot sit in a red light and stare at a blue light from your computer, phone, or tv screen. It will not be affective. They counter each other, one brings you alertness and the other brings you sleep.
4.Find regularity. This seems to be a tough one for many individuals. Often times I hear from friends, family and clients that they sleep in on their weekends to catch up on sleep. I'm about to burst your bubble so be prepared; There is no such thing as catching up on your sleep. (The podcast from Found My Fitness with Dr. Matthew Walker explains this further) Having a set schedule for your sleep can aide in a better nights sleep. Finding regularity means that you're in bed and going to bed at the same time every night and awaking at the same time every morning. Often times we lie down and reach for our phones. There is that blue light causing massive activity in the brain and blocking that melatonin production. Put it down and actually close your eyes. You will fall asleep!
5. Stop eating crap. This can be a tough one for a lot of individuals as well. I hear everything from " I can't afford to eat healthy it's expensive!" to "I don't like to cook, it is so much easier to order in." It doesn't matter what "healthy" restaurant your food comes from, the best is from the store to your home and into your frying pan. Where you can control the amount of sodium, fats, sugars, and other preservatives and chemicals put into foods to keep them "fresh". The lack of vitamins and minerals combined with preservatives will cause inflammation and an imbalance in the hormones. Eating wholesome and healthy foods for your body and goals will help you catch some better and more restful zzzz's.
6. No alcohol. Nowwwwww I know what you're thinking, "Kaie! How dare you! That is NOT my problem!" Wellllllllllllllll it very well could be a huge contributing factor. First and foremost alcohol is poison, sugar mixed with poison. One drop will stay in your bloodstream for roughly 2 hours. Sugar, as most of us know, causes inflammation and issues with the function of our frontal lobe much like alcohol. Alcohol also causes hormone imbalances and vitamin and mineral deficiencies and an inability to absorb and utilize vitamins and minerals. Alcohol is also a depressant, in other words it's a downer and it will make you sad. It interferes with the communication from the neurotransmitting receptors that line your stomach to your brain. A disruption in, not only the hormone production of the brain, but also the guts. If you must drink in the evenings, do it many hours before your regularly scheduled sleep time.
7. Meditate. Many individuals respond to this with a big, fat "HELL NO! I CAN'T SIT IN SILENCE THAT LONG!" Meditation is not about sitting in silence. It is about quieting the mind and body. It is about calming the self and reconnecting. On the scientific side it quite literally helps your hormones balance out to a proper homeostasis baseline. Letting go of the days mishaps, anxieties, fears, and worries can also help us sleep. Reminding us that tomorrow is a new day, with new and better opportunities. I often write down specific affirmations to help my subconscious know we are allowed to sleep well and sleep deeply.
Here are a few examples:
"I give myself permission to sleep deeply."
"I let go of all tense thoughts."
"I did my best today and that is good enough."
"I did all that I can physically do today, that is enough."
8. Exercise regularly. Here is another tough one. Most of us find exercise tedious and a nuisance, this is largely because it is not a focus of the American culture and is not emphasized toward an overall healthy lifestyle. Exercise is another activity that can help us balance hormones and keep us at an even keel homeostasis. Nobody is asking you to step in the gym and go HAM for hours, we simply ask that you do at least 20-30 minutes of vigorous exercise daily. This will help you sleep better, eat better, manage life better all around.
Now that you have a few great tips and tricks to help you sleep, I hope you can begin to change a few things around and get the restful sleep you deserve.
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