Sleep is an underutilized tool in our health today, and a common problem I see in many of my clients. Our society is filled stimulates and plagued by poor nutrition, and when combined this contributes to an increase in stress and lack of sleep. To best explain the importance of sleep and our health, I always relate our sleep pattern to that of babies. Think about how much a baby sleeps, and how fast they grow. It’s because of the rest they receive! As an adult you are no longer growing but your body is going through the same process of restoring and repairing itself from all the work and stress it’s been through that day. The optimal sleep range is 7-8 hours, some individuals even do better with closer to 9 hours! Getting to know your ideal sleep times will help you better schedule your routine and help you feel restored and refreshed just like when you were a kid! Here are some tips on how to improve your quality of sleep:
1.Do not wake up until 6 am- Our bodies are naturally “wired” to receive our best sleep from about 10pm - 6am. This is when are circadian rhythm functions best. Chinese medicine suggests each organ has a specific hour of repair time during the night. Waking up prior to this time does not allow your body to sufficiently restore and detoxify all of your organs.
2. Turn down electronics at 9pm, in bed by 10pm - the lights from our electronics can keep us stimulated for hours. By shutting them down an hour before bed it gives your mind time to relax and let’s your body recognize it’s time unwind and prepare for sleep. Take this one step further and keep electronics out of the bedroom. The light from electronics (including your alarm clock) interferes with our ability to relax and recognize it’s time for some rest.
3. Close shades- by blocking the light of streets, porches and other illuminating objects you allow your body to fully rest. Blackout curtains can be really helpful in this if you have no control over the lighting around your home or neighborhood.
4. Have your last meal no later than 2 hours prior to bedtime- This allows your body the time it needs to digest your last meal and allows it to shift its focus on other restoration functions throughout the night. As mentioned in #1, there are specific times of the night that are allocated for organ repair. If you eat too close to your bedtime you interrupt your body’s ability to repair because it’s focused on digestion. Your body is always in one of two states, parasympathetic and sympathetic. Basically when you’re sleeping or eating you should be in a parasympathetic state. When you eat right before bed you will disrupt this state. (When we are going about all other daily activities we are in a sympathetic state.)
5. Keep temperature of room at around 62-65 degrees. When the room is cooler it reduces your core body temperature, which is always lowest when we are asleep. This is healthy. The range specified is actually 60-67 but I think somewhere in the middle is best which is why I say 62-65. Taking a hot bath before bed is a great way to move your body from warm to cooler signaling it’s time for bed. You can also set your thermostat to increase about a half hour before you rise which can help signal your body it’s time to wake up.
6. Improve nutrition and digestion- Poor digestion forces your body to work harder. Just like when you are tired after a long day of work, your digestive system gets tired from having to break down processed foods, and when fighting foods that you may have unknown sensitivities to. By improving the quality of the food you put into your body you improve your digestive function. Sometimes additional supplementation is necessary for proper digestive support.
7. Have an outlet for stressors- journal, yoga, meditation, church. Pick what works for you! By having a place to put your emotions you enable your mind & body to let them go. Next time someone cuts you off in traffic take the frustration out in a healthy way. This allows your body to remove other internal stressors like chemical exposure and illnesses and places emphasis on the restoration of your organs and systems.
8. Create a routine - having a routine to get your body ready for bed allows you time to wind down and recognize it’s time to relax. Great ways to do this are reading, sharing a cup of tea with a friend or significant other, practicing a slower form of yoga, meditation, or other rituals that relaxes you. Remember the routine you choose should not include electronics.
9. Try diffusing or topically applying some lavender essential oils- The properties in lavender have a calming affect and help penetrate the blood/brain barrier. By diffusing or applying the oil as part of your routine it can help bring you down from the day a bit quicker, and aid in getting you to sleep. It’s also great if you enjoy a slight white noise in the background as the water from the diffuser creates a soothing sound.
Do you have any tips that work well for you? Share them below for others to try!