Food and exercise together will radically improve your health, reverse many diseases and prevent several chronic health conditions. They get all the headlines on T.V. from the experts. Without adequate sleep; however, they are ineffective and potentially damaging to your health.
As a nation, Americans suffer from a severe sleep deficit. The average American sleeps under 7 hours a night. And the consequences of this accrued debt may be worse than any financial ‘cliff’ that this nation has faced!
The Importance Of Adequate Sleep
Since the discovery of and the invention of artificial sources of light, humans have progressively become more sleep deprived. The importance of sleep cannot be overstated.
Adequate sleep is essential for optimal hormone production; it also minimizes the damaging effects of stress, supports your body’s detoxification systems and repairs your body.
Your sleep and wake cycles are regulated primarily by your lifestyle and your exposure to external cues that influence your circadian rhythm. Light and darkness are the most important ‘zeitgebers’ that regulate your sleep.
Consequences Of Sleep Deprivation
Inadequate sleep contributes to weight gain because hunger and satiety hormones like leptin and ghrelin stop functioning properly; you can become leptin resistant.
Affects Your Mental Health
Insufficient sleep also increases your risk for mental health problems like depression and cognitive difficulties like ADHD.
Affects Your Hormone Levels
Without enough sleep, you will produce less melatonin and excessive amounts of cortisol. Melatonin is a hormone that is secreted by your pineal gland in response to darkness.
It helps you to fall asleep more easily and stay asleep during the night. It is also a very powerful antioxidant and studies have suggested that it reduces your risk of cancers, like prostate cancer.
Exposure to sunlight during the day (or high lux artificial lights) suppresses your secretion of melatonin and helps to reset your circadian rhythm.
7 Strategic Tips To Help Improve Your Sleep
Before we talk about simple strategies to help you improve your sleep, there is no one ‘magic’ number of hours that you need. Listen to your body. Your needs for sleep will vary according to the cycles of nature (in the winter months the days are shorter, darker; in the summer months the days are longer and there is more sunlight) and your lifestyle.
As a point of reference, if you are like the average American, you ARE sleep deprived and the consequences are very damaging. Survey studies from the National Sleep Foundation indicate that 63 % of Americans do not feel that their sleep needs are being satisfied (the reported average number of hours of sleep being under 7 hours).
In addition to sensible sunlight exposure, practising good sleep hygiene is important. Use the following simple recommendations to promote sleep:
1. Stick To A Consistent Sleep-Wake Schedule
The most effective and simplest strategy to improve your quality of sleep is going to bed at the same time each evening and waking up at the same time every morning.
2. Make Time For Relaxing Activities
You also want to develop a night time ritual to help you transition into sleep. Try reading, listening to relaxing music or practising a relaxation exercise like meditation an hour before you go to bed.
3. Take A Warm Bath
You may also want to soak in an Epsom salt bath to help you relax. Try adding 2 cups of Epsom salt and a few drops of an essential oil like lavender. Soak in the tub for 20 to 30 minutes.
4. Avoid Eating/Drinking Before Bedtime
To help you sleep more easily, it is also important to avoid certain stimuli and avoid drinking or eating within 3 hours of your bedtime. Eating before you sleep can interfere with restful sleep as your body is still digesting food.
5. Dim The Lights Ahead Of Your Bedtime
As a rule of thumb, you also want to dim the lights in your room or house 2 hours before bed time to help your body produce more melatonin.
6. Power Down Your Digital Devices
Minimize or avoid your use of electronics like your TV, computer or smartphone as they emit a blue spectrum light that can interfere with your body’s secretion of melatonin.
If you must work and use a computer or your smartphone, use software like f.lux to reduce the interference on your computer and IPhone or EasyEyez for Android.
7. Maintain A Consistent Room Temperature Overnight
Set the ambient temperature in your bedroom down to at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Your core body temperature drops during sleep and setting your climate control higher can contribute to restless sleep.
Upon waking, take a moment to notice how you feel. If you feel refreshed and alert, make a mental note of what you did the prior night and repeat the cycle.
Ideally, you will wake up without the need for an alarm. Otherwise, you need more sleep and need to adjust your schedule so that can go to bed earlier. It is best to set your intention and go to bed by 10:00 pm and allow for eight to nine hours of sleep.