Sleep is something most of us don’t get enough of. We have crazy schedules, a busy family life, and poor sleeping habits keeping us tired and exhausted. Did you know only 21% of adults get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night? Everyday you see people discussing nutrition and fitness but not many are stressing the importance of good sleep. I’m not here to tell you to get more sleep. I am going to show you how to get a better quality of sleep. You’re about to learn how to optimize your sleep cycles. You can get away with a minimum of 6 hours of sleep a day as long as you are sleeping smarter.
There are several terms I will refer to so let me go ahead and define them for you so we are on the same page.
MELATONIN- a hormone that regulates sleep–wake cycles.
SEROTONIN – a monoamine neurotransmitter. It has a popular image as a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness, though its actual biological function is complex and multifaceted, modulating cognition, reward, learning, memory, and numerous physiological processes.
REM SLEEP – a kind of sleep that occurs at intervals during the night and is characterized by rapid eye movements, more dreaming and bodily movement, and faster pulse and breathing.
10 Tips For Amazing Sleep
- BAN ELECTRONICS FROM THE BEDROOM
All electronics need to be charging on a table somewhere outside of the bedroom. When we go to bed with our phone or devices within reach the temptation is there to look at them as we drift to sleep. This can be bad for a few different reasons. It causes you to stay up later. We might go to bed, but then we spend 30+ minutes on our phone resulting in less sleep. Also having the stimuli of your phone before bed delays your internal clock. It delays the release of Melatonin. Plus, they wake you during the night. We might not even realize it but notifications wake us during the night constantly disrupting our REM sleep.
2. LEARN TO RELAX YOUR MIND
How many times do you go to bed and your mind is still going a mile a minute? In order to go to sleep effectively we must learn to relax the mind. If you go to bed thinking about your To Do List then take a few minutes before bed to brain dump and write everything you need to do on a notepad. Sometimes just getting it all out can help you to relax and let it go. Another great tool for relaxing is meditation. Take 10 to 15 minutes to clear your mind. Lie with your eyes closed and focus on just listening to the sound of your own breathing. When you catch your mind straying, stop, and begin to focus on the sound of your own breathing again. Relaxing primes your body for sleep and lets it know it’s time to release the Melatonin.
3. MOVE YOUR EVENING WORKOUT
Temperature is very important for effective REM sleep. When you workout at night you are raising your core body temp which in turn, causes you to sleep lighter. Your body temp is naturally at its highest between 2 to 6 pm. Try working out then when your muscles are primed and ready for peak performance. Or workout in the morning for a productive start to your day.
4.GIVE YOUR BODY GOOD SLEEP NUTRIENTS
When we talk sleep supplements many of you will think of Melatonin but, did you know that there are other nutrients that will aid your sleep? Vitamin C is a great nutrient for sleep. It actually calms the nervous system and even boosts the production of Serotonin. Another excellent sleep nutrient is Magnesium. 50% of Americans are deficient in this important nutrient. Magnesium regulates Melatonin. It also quietens the nervous system, calming the mind and body.
5. PROPER USE OF LIGHT
Getting sunlight during the day starts the process of a great nights sleep. Sunlight increases Serotonin production which is the opening act for Melatonin. At night you need to get rid of light pollution. For Melatonin to properly release your room needs to be dark. Even the smallest of lights can make a difference in your sleep. Someone who works the night shift can still have great sleep if they get the proper amount of sleep, get some sunlight and darken their room to mimic night when they sleep. It isn’t necessary about when you sleep but, more about allowing your body to properly cycle through the sleep cycles. While we are talking about light let’s discuss blue light. Blue light which is emitted from the screens of most of your devices can delay the release of Melatonin, increase alertness, and reset the body’s internal clock. Blue light also elevates Cortisol levels. Cortisol is your body’s stress hormone. Cortisol can actually break down muscle to use as energy and is known to cause weight gain. It’s best to avoid blue light 2 to 3 hours before bed. Most devices can be set to go into night mode which makes the light a warmer tone. For devices that don’t have night mode built-in f.lux is a free app to remove blue light from your devices after a set time.
6. USE ESSENTIAL OILS TO RELAX
One way to relax the body is by using “bedtime” essential oils. Calm the atmosphere with lavender, cedarwood, and clary sage. Mandarin oil is another great oil because of its potentially sedative properties. Patchouli oil is great if you need to relieve stress. Put any of these oils in a bedside diffuser and breathe your way to a great nights sleep. Get a double whammy by diffusing oils while you meditate.
7. LIMIT YOUR CAFFEINE INTAKE
Did you know caffeine has a half life of about 8 hours? Caffeine is a stimulant and can keep you from reaching a good deep sleep. Because of this it is best to drink your coffee or tea in the morning and then avoid caffeine the rest of the day.
8. BE INTIMATE BEFORE BED
I’m sure all the husbands out there are going to love this one. As much as I hate to admit it, sex can give you better sleep. To get technical, when you have an orgasm several chemicals are released into your body. There are three in particular that help to get a great nights sleep. The first is Oxytocin. Oxytocin helps to reduce the stress hormone we mentioned earlier, Cortisol. Prolactin is also released. Prolactin helps you to feel sleepy. The last is Norepinephrine. Norepinephrine helps you to get REM sleep which will actually aid your memory.
9. TURN DOWN THE TEMPERATURE
The body actually initiates sleep cycles when the core body temperature is decreasing. Just decreasing the room temperature a couple degrees can help but, the optimal temperature for sleep is 62°- 68°F. If you don’t have AC in your room (like many of us in Puerto Rico) there are special mattress pads that cool your core body temp. I have a ChiliPAD on my wish list. These systems can be expensive but, it’s an investment in your health.
10. TAKE CARE OF YOUR GUT
We all know Melatonin and Serotonin are produced in the brain, right? Did you know that you have 400 times more Melatonin in your gut than in your brain? Did you know that over 80% of your Serotonin is in your gut? It is definitely worth it to protect your gut microbiome to get a good nights sleep. Your gut microbiome is all the good bacteria in your gut. The first way to protect the good bacteria is to avoid processed sugar. Sugar actually stalls the colonization of good bacteria in the gut. Another way to protect your gut microbiome is to avoid chlorine. Chlorine is an antibacterial. So, if your gut is full of healthy bacteria and your ingesting an antibacterial guess what’s going to happen? That’s right, the good bacteria are killed. Death of the good bacteria can promote fungus in the gut. Plus, the American Chemical Society released research showing that chlorine may encourage the formation of antibiotic resistant bacteria. That’s pretty scary. So how are you ingesting chlorine? Tap water. Yes, you need water but if at all possible don’t drink it straight from the tap. There are great water filters that will remove harmful chemicals like chlorine. Personally I use the Alexapure water filtration system. There are several others out there. These too can be expensive but again, they are an investment in your health.
I encourage you to implement as many of these tips as you can. No only will getting better sleep make you feel better but, it will give your body time to recover from daily stresses, it promotes healing, it helps your memory, and can even help with weight loss.