Sleep is so important to our overall health and wellbeing. There isn't one facet of your mental, emotional or physical performance that isn't affected by the quality of your sleep. It’s when your body regenerates and when your body actually does the vast majority of healing. Sleep is when growth hormone is released so that your body can maintain and repair muscle. Getting high quality sleep helps to fortify your immune system, balances your hormones, boosts your metabolism, and improves your brain function. When your sleep suffers, you suffer major consequences beyond the dark circles under your eyes. Think weakened immune system, diabetes, cancer, obesity, depression and memory loss, just to name a few. In our fast-paced society where stress and being busy is glorified, millions of people are chronically sleep deprived and are suffering the detrimental repercussions of getting poor-quality sleep.
Follow these simple and practical tips and tricks and get your ZZZ’s on!
1) Sleep in complete darkness
Personally, I use blackout blinds to block out light pollution because we sleep better in a dark environment. Although using an eye mask can be an improvement for some people, any light in your bedroom can interfere with the quality of your sleep. In a study conducted at Cornell University, researchers placed a fibre-optic cable behind the knee of a test subject and illuminated light onto a patch of skin no larger than the size of a quarter. Even though the test subject slept in otherwise complete darkness, that small amount of light was enough to affect the subject's body temperature and melatonin secretion! Take action, and black out your bedroom to get rejuvenating sleep!
2) Limit screen time before bed
Avoid bright lights, especially blue light from your TV, tablet, or smartphone before
bedtime as it may suppress your melatonin and confuse your circadian rhythms. The artificial blue light emitted by electronic screens before bedtime can trigger your body to produce more daytime hormones and can throw off your normal sleep cycle. Do yourself a favour and turn off all screens at least 90 minutes before bed time to allow melatonin and cortisol levels to normalize.
3) Keep your room slightly cool
Your core body temperature fluctuates during the day, reaching its highest point in the late afternoon, before it starts to cool down and prepare your body for sleep. Studies have shown that the optimal room temperature for sleep is actually quite cool, around 16ºC to 20ºC (60ºF to 68ºF). Sleeping within this temperature range can help you fall asleep faster, enjoy more restful sleep, prevent insomnia and improve your metabolism. If you and your partner prefer different temperatures, I recommend a mattress pad with a cooling and heating temperature control system like the ChiliPad. I personally have one in my household and it's amazing!
4) Have a caffeine curfew
I'll be honest...I love coffee! While you already likely know that coffee and other caffeinated drinks run the risk of keeping you awake at night, you probably don’t realize how big of a problem they can be. Caffeine has a half-life of about 5-8 hour, depending on your unique biochemical makeup. This means that 5-8 hours after drinking caffeine, half of it is still active in your system. This is why I personally have my cup of coffee prior to noon! A lot of people tell me they have no problem sleeping after drinking coffee. However a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine where test subjects had a cup of coffee or caffeinated tea 6 hours prior to bedtime revealed that even though subjects didn't notice any subjective difference with their sleep, their sleep monitors indicated that they had a measurable objective loss of 1 hour of sleep. If you're sensitive to caffeine, you may want to set an earlier curfew or eliminate it altogether.
You're not healthy, unless your sleep is healthy." - William Dement, MD
5) Create a night time routine and a sleep sanctuary
You get the most bang for buck by sleeping during the hours of 10:00 pm and 2:00 am because humans are designed to go to sleep within a few hours of the sun going down. Prior to bedtime, I sometimes unwind with a cup of sleepy time tea like Nighty Night by Traditional Medicinals or Restful Sleep by Yogi. Sometimes I will take an epsom salt bath 2 hours prior to bed or I'll apply a high-quality topical magnesium oil to my skin because magnesium will not only help you fall asleep, but it also plays a part in helping you achieve deep and restful sleep as well. I also keep an air purifier running in my bedroom and a journal on my nightstand to jot things down to calm my inner chatter before bed.
Sleep is one of the simplest ways to improve all health indicators, including weight loss, mental performance, better decision-making, and improved ability to fight illness. It's so important to prioritize sleep!