Sleep – something many of us are lacking and don’t realize the importance of! The more I study and go down my own health journey the more I’ve come to learn and realize the importance of this essential component that often gets overlooked. I used to stay up past 12, have difficulty waking up, and a lack of energy throughout the day.
As Arianna Huffington says in the basis of her book, The Sleep Revolution, ‘We’re in the midst of a sleep deprivation crisis.” We live in a society that doesn’t stop. The busier we make our schedules, the more we seem to brag about our ‘busy-ness’. In the midst of this, we overload on coffee thinking this is the solution (when really it’s not, and leaves our body in a state of fight or flight, draining our energy in the long run). We get used to feeling tired and exhausted all the time, and our bodies don’t function properly leaving us prone to sickness, aging, and weight gain.
There is more scientific research being done on the importance sleep has on our bodies, brain, and everyday function. Lack of sleep causes your levels of cortisol, the hormone associated with stress, to rise. Cortisol can eventually break down skin collagen, the protein that makes your skin look nice and elastic. Lack of sleep has been proven to affect our waistline, by increasing our appetite leaving us more likely to overeat and have less energy to exercise.
Sleep is essential for many reasons. When you sleep, your brain signals your body to release hormones and compounds that help:
- decrease risk for health conditions
- manage your hunger levels
- boost your immune system to fight off infections
- helps protect and strengthen your memory
- the brain flush out toxins
- reduce depression
Sleeping is a habit, and habits are what build successful routines, schedules, and people. Are you ready to make sleep a commitment? I hope so! Try these 5 things to get a better, healthier sleep:
1. Have a bed time (and keep it consistent)!
We tell children to have a bed time, so why don’t we honour to one as well? As I mentioned sleeping is a habit, like anything else in your life. You can have good habits or bad habits. Make sure to give yourself a bed time, that way you’re not aimlessly staring at the clock, watching Netflix until you realize it’s 11:30 or get caught down the internet spiral. When you give yourself a bedtime you’re more concious of paying attention to the clock. I set my bed time for 10:30 (or no later than 11:00). I like to wake up early, so your bed time might be 11:00 but decide on one and stick to it! Yes, that even means long weekends and holidays (that being said give yourself balance and sleep in that extra hour on a long weekend but don’t make it the norm). Habits take time to build and can easily be broken. Several studies show that as adults we need 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Anything less has been shown to increase weight gain, prone to sickness, depression, amongst many other diseases.
2. Turn off electronics 30 minutes before bed
I know, I know it’s hard but trust me the pros outweigh the cons in the long run. The blue light emitted from our electronics messes with our circadian rhythm, the 24-hour cycle in the physiological process of living beings. This cycle is important in determining the sleeping and feeding patterns of all animals, including human beings. This daily cycle is linked to a number of patterns including brain wave activity, hormone production, and cell rejuvenation. During the day the sun exposes us to a certain level of blue light, which increases our serotonin, the hormone that regulates anxiety, happiness, and mood. As the sun starts to set it emits red light which causes our body to produce melatonin, the hormone which helps control your sleep and wake cycles.
Our electronics emit high levels of blue light, which in turn messes with our circadian rhythm (you can read more about this in Dave Asprey’s book, Head Strong). Instead of producing melatonin to get our bodies ready for sleep, the blue light in electronics interrupts our biological patterns making it more difficult to fall asleep. I tend to put my laptop and phone away 30 minutes before bed time and do some reading. Your iPhone has a great setting called ‘Night Shift’ which shifts the colour of your display to warmer colours as opposed to blue light. I set mine to shift automatically from 7:00 PM to 7:00 AM. I love the f.lux app for my MacBook which does the same thing.
3. Magnesium & Tea
Some studies show that Magnesium may help with sleep. Unlike sleep medications which have unhealthy long term effects, calcium and magnesium work together in the body to promote falling asleep and staying asleep. Calcium is said to be directly related to our cycles of sleep. Some research shows that our calcium levels are higher during some of our deepest sleep. Magnesium also helps your muscles and nervous system function properly. I like to use Natural Calm, which is a great addition to your glass of water before bed.
As for tea, I’ve always been a huge fan! Not only is it natural and full of health benefits, there’s a tea for any occasion (sleeping being one of them). Coming from a Polish family, Chamomile tea has always been a favourite. Some of its health benefits include the ability to protect the skin, lower stress levels, aid sleep, boost the immune system, and treat stomach issues among many others. So whether it’s an upset tummy or a cup before bed I find it can also help curb the night time snack cravings you get.
Another tea I’ve been loving is the Nighty Night tea with Valerian from Traditional Medicinals. Some research has shown it has an helps individuals with insomnia or sleep troubles. Make sure you purchase organic tea! Organic tea is free of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. It also tastes better and is environmentally friendly. Some of my favourite brands are Traditional Medicinals, Pukka, Yogi, and Celestial Seasonings (Sleepy Time tea ftw).
4. Practice breathing
Breathing is an essential part of life (literally) and sometimes we tend to forget it’s importance! Breathing lies in the heart of Yoga. According to ancient Yogic texts, “Asana is meditation on the body, Pranayama is meditation on the breath (prana) and subtle energy currents (nadis) within us, and then we work with the mind directly, with the ultimate aim of transcending body as well as mind and experiencing the higher Self.” Making mindfulness meditation part of your bedtime routine will help you relax, and make the transition from busy-brain to sleepy-head almost effortless. People like Tony Robbins and Keri Glassman swear by it. Breathe in for a count of 8, hold for a count of 8, out for a count of 8, and hold for a count of 8 for 8 minutes.
5. Pamper yourself
Having a bedtime routine is crucial! Because guess what, you deserve having a good sleep and waking up feeling energized. I’m a big fan of self-care (because we all need some of it sometimes). Some of my favourites are taking a bath with sea salts and a few drops of doTerra Lavender or Serenity oil, making a cup of tea, a charcoal face mask, or spritzing some lavender spray on your pillow. What’s a better way to enter into sleep mode than giving yourself the relaxing love and affection you totally deserve! Grab your favourite book 30 minutes before bed, and let your brain slowly shut down for the night.
Do you have any other bed time favourites? I’d love for you to share them with me! I hope you can start incorporating even a few of these to see the impact it can make.
Sleep tight xo