The school year has started and for many people that means sleep schedules are changing and as daylight is getting shorter. As the light 'goes away', I often get a little blue, even though I know it’s a natural process.
As I’m sitting here thinking about the themes that are reappearing in my conversations lately - with both clients and non-clients alike - the most common of them is quality SLEEP. People are not getting enough of it, and getting too little sleep is becoming way too common. Many of us live in an overly-stressed and 'busy' (a word I love to hate ;)), modern world, and even if you don’t live in that kind of world, you may be facing other sleep challenges.
This is important because sleep deprivation affects our health! Often, not getting enough sleep affects our hormones, can make us hungrier, and cause us to store more fat — or crave things we might not normally reach for. Sleep can also impact our immune function, insulin resistance, mood and disease prevention (our organs need to 'rest and digest') and detoxification. The only time our bodies actually detoxify, the brain included, is while we're sleeping. (If you'd like to learn more, here are a few helpful links I got from a recent post by Dr. Mark Hyman: cardiovascular disease, mood disorders, insulin resistance, poor immune function, and lower life expectancy.)
On the flip side, getting too much sleep isn’t a good thing either, apparently. According to this study, getting more than 8 hours of sleep has been linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke.
I think we can all agree that getting the right amount of sleep is important, so here are some tips by Dr. Hyman and myself for getting a good sleep.
Get on a regular schedule and include natural sunlight as part of your daily routine. Going to sleep and waking at the same time each day creates a rhythm for your body. And remember, your bed is for sleeping and romance; try to avoid using it as you work or watch television. Aim for at least 20 minutes of sunshine every day, preferably in the morning, which triggers your brain to release chemicals that regulate sleep cycles. As a side note, most of us don’t get nearly enough sunshine - especially in the colder months - and I have found that most people I know are indeed vitamin D deficient, which can lead to all sorts of other problems. Here is a great resource that is helpful, and I also have my personal Vitamin D favorite — let me know if you need one!!
Limit electronics in the evening and do not keep a television in your bedroom. Studies show that artificial, bright light can disrupt brain activity and alter sleep hormones like melatonin. Your bedroom should be a quiet, peaceful haven. Avoid computers, smartphones, tablets, and television for one or two hours before bed. You might also try using blue light blocking glasses. While blue light is present in natural sunlight, we’re now exposed to it at all hours of the day from the screens of our electronic devices. Using blue light blocking glasses can help us maintain more balanced circadian rhythms, especially if you use screens after dark, since blue light suppresses melatonin production. Here are my favorite blue light blockers — I need a new pair also!
Clear your mind. Everyone knows that having too much on your mind can hinder sleep. But turning your mind off can become a challenge. Keep a journal or notebook by your bed and write down your to-do list or ruminations before you go to sleep so you can close your eyes and make it less likely for your mind to spin. I’ll add here that one thing that really helps me with this tip is having a headset next to my bed attached to an audio sound meditation — this does wonders for me, either if I can’t fall asleep OR if I wake up and have trouble falling back to sleep.
Perform light stretching or yoga before bed. This relaxes your mind and body. Research shows daily yoga can improve sleep significantly. I personally love including meditation, which can be done at any time of the day, as part of my stress management and sleep supporting routine. I often add in essential oils along with night time stretching or foam rolling — adding some lavender essential oil to my chest while taking long, slow, deep breathes helps me a lot. Deep breathing, in general, is definitely on my top 5 list!
Use herbal therapies. I recommend 300-600 milligrams of passionflower or 320-480 milligrams of Valerian root extract before bed. Other natural sleep supplements include melatonin or magnesium. I’m a big fan of magnesium and also CBD oil. If you'd like a discount on CBD oil go HERE and use the discount code ENJOY10% for 10% off!
Here are a few of my favorites:
Take an Epsom salt bath before bed.
Get some bodywork or a massage.
In the evening, eat complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes or other root veggies to help you sleep better.
Make sure you’re sleeping in a room that isn’t too hot. In general, the suggested bedroom temperature for optimal sleep is between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sleep is usually the first thing we compromise when life gets busy. Shifting that mindset and realizing your sleep schedule is just as important as everything else on your calendar will have immense payoffs for your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.