Feel Your Best. Optimize Your Health and Productivity
Do you feel run-down and tired all the time? Are you fighting to stay awake in afternoon meetings? Do you feel irritated a lot of the time? These are signs of sleep deprivation - and you are not alone. The US National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults should sleep 7-9 hours every night for optimal health. A recent Canadian study found that one-third of Canadian adults get less than 7 hours of sleep per night.
It may seem like you really have to stay up late to prepare for tomorrow’s presentation or watch the end of The Bird Box, but it’s not a good idea. If you make this a habit, you will find yourself chronically sleep deprived and in sleep debt. Besides making you feel rotten, this puts you at risk of serious medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes. It has also been associated with a shorter life expectancy.
Build a Better Bedtime Ritual
Healthy sleep habits and a structured bedtime routine can make a big difference in your quality of life.
1. Exercise daily. Exercise has been associated with both improved sleep quantity and quality. Exercise at any time of day. Although you may have heard that it is not good to work out too close to bedtime, studies show no adverse impact on the quality of sleep. It only takes your body about one hour after strenuous exercise for cortisol (a steroid hormone), adrenaline (which increases blood flow to muscles), sugar levels and output of the heart, to get back to normal.
2. Wash the dishes. If your kitchen is closed for business, it will make you think twice before you give in to a snack attack. Try flossing and brushing your teeth after dinner as another way to help you to avoid night time snacking. For the best sleep quality, experts recommend not eating for 2-3 hours before bedtime. Going to bed too soon after eating can interfere with proper digestion. Eating a large meal could trigger night sweats because the body generates heat as it metabolizes the food. Lying down with a full stomach can also worsen symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux. Try to cut out coffee, tea and other sources of caffeine before bed. One study showed that having caffeine even six hours before going to sleep can have a significant disruptive effect on sleep. If you need a little something in the evening, try some herbal tea or our Golden Milk Latte recipe for a delicious drink to help you sleep and wake up refreshed. Make it with coconut or almond milk - both of which are rich in magnesium which increases the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, slowing your thinking down and helping you fall asleep. It also contains turmeric, which has been valued in India for centuries for its many health benefits, including powerful anti-inflammatory activity. If you use cow’s milk, this will also help you to achieve a deep sleep because it contains the sleep-inducing amino acid L-tryptophan which is converted to melatonin in the body, which helps to regulate our natural sleep state.
3. Read a book. Just say no to defaulting to Netflix after dinner because you are too tired to get up. The longer you watch, the more difficult it becomes to overcome the irresistible gravitational pull of the couch. An hour before bedtime, get ready for bed and grab a book. This will help your mind and body to shift into sleep mode while avoiding the blue light emitted by electronic devices like phones and laptops. A 2009 study conducted in the UK demonstrated that reading is the best way to relax and even six minutes can be enough to reduce the stress levels by more than two thirds. For some people, blue light exposure can make it hard to fall asleep by interfering with melatonin production. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics before bed or in the middle of the night.
4. Schedule a regular bedtime. Try to go to bed at the same time every night to optimize your sleep cycle. Ideally, you should stick to the same sleep schedule every night so your body can find its natural rhythm and settle into a regular sleep-wake cycle. To figure out when you should go to sleep, determine what time you need to wake up in the morning and then work backwards to ensure you get at least 7 hours of sleep. Everyone’s sleep needs are different based on their circadian rhythm (i.e. internal clock), and if your schedule is not working out, then you are likely not getting enough sleep so you may need to go to bed earlier or wake up later.
5. Do a brain dump. Before you go to bed, still your mind by getting your thoughts out of your head and on to paper. Write down your key tasks and activities for tomorrow before bed so that you are focussed and ready to go in the morning. Don’t stress about falling asleep - the worry alone may keep you tossing and turning.
6. Relax your mind and body. Try a short restorative yoga session at home before bed. You can do it on your own or find one on Youtube. Restorative yoga is great for releasing tense muscles, relieving joint aches, and transitioning the mind and body quickly from stress to calm. Enhance the effect by dabbing some headache balm or lavender argan oil on your wrists and inhale deeply. The benefits of lavender essential oil include lower heart rate and blood pressure, potentially putting you in a more relaxed state. In one study, researchers monitored the brain waves of subjects at night and found that those who sniffed lavender before bed had more deep sleep and felt more vigorous in the morning.
7. Dress for bed. Take care to prepare for sleep in the same way that you would for any important event in your schedule. Treat yourself to a warm bath or shower to relax your muscles and wind-down. Give yourself a face massage with lavender argan oil. Wear your favourite pyjamas that are loose-fitting and make you feel great.
8. Create a sleep cave. You can optimize your bedroom for sleep. Keep it cool – between 16-19 degrees Celsius. Your bedroom should be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep, and it should free from any light. Light exposure, even when sleeping, can suppress melatonin and this can result in sleep disorders, and it has been associated with various health conditions, including depression, cancer, reproductive problems and obesity. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, "white noise" machines, humidifiers, fans and other devices. Keep your phone out of the bedroom and keep the ringer off at night. Treat yourself to fresh sheets! Studies suggest that people are more excited to go to bed when the sheets have a fresh scent. In a recent poll, seventy-five percent of people said they sleep better on sheets with a fresh scent. Try to wash your sheets and pillowcases once a week, and keep a good quality spare set to use while the others are being cleaned. Find a laundry detergent with a smell that is pleasing to you - like lavender scented - or no smell at all, if you prefer.
Most people just don’t get enough sleep because they don’t get to bed on time and when they have to get up in the morning, they haven’t had enough sleep to meet their needs. Implementing these tips should help you. If you’re still having trouble sleeping, it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor. It is possible that you could have a medical condition which is impacting your sleep.