Are you getting the right amount of sleep you need every night? If you aren’t getting at least seven hours of restful sleep, you’re putting your health and longevity at risk!
A third of all American adults are not getting enough sleep regularly, which can lead to an increased risk of developing chronic health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, stroke, heart disease and high blood pressure as well as impaired mental health, according to the CDC.
A sleep cycle adjustment
The first step to get better sleep is understanding how your natural circadian rhythms (sleep/wake cycle) actually work to help your body optimize the regulation of your hormones and build a more solid foundation for good health.
As the sun rises, your cortisol levels also rise and peak between 6-9 a.m. Then, they drop a little but remain high through the midday, supporting daily activities. In the afternoon, cortisol levels begin dropping significantly, especially as the sun goes down. Decreasing cortisol levels allow the release of melatonin and increase the levels of growth and repair hormones.
If we follow our natural sleep/wake cycles, we start winding down as the sun sets and should fall asleep by about 10 p.m.
Physical repairs mostly take place when the body is asleep, between about 10 p.m.-2 a.m. After 2 a.m., the immune and repair energies are more focused on psychogenic (mental) repair, which lasts until you awaken.
Eight steps to a better night’s sleep
If you need to work on your sleep hygiene to ensure your body’s sleep/wake cycle becomes a more restful and healthy part of your day, here are eight steps you can take to help you naturally get to sleep and stay asleep.
- Get to sleep by 10:30 p.m. If you need time to wind down before you sleep, make the appropriate adjustments. Getting in bed at 10 p.m. and reading until 11 p.m. defeats the purpose!
- Avoid the consumption of stimulants (caffeine, sugar and nicotine) after lunch. If you’re unable to sleep well, be particularly mindful with desserts, especially ones that contain alcohol, sugar or caffeine.
- Minimize your exposure to bright lights, particularly fluorescent lights, for at least two hours before going to bed. If you don’t have dimmer switches, try lighting your house with candles or lamps with low wattage light bulbs. You can also wear glasses that block blue light in the spectrum, which is emitted by digital devices and most indoor lighting, that negatively affects the release of melatonin. (I recommend the Ra Optics brand of glasses that feature daytime and evening versions.) If you can’t wear blue-blocking glasses, avoid all screens (phones, TVs, computers and tablets) for at least two hours before you go to bed.
- Sleep in a room that is completely dark. Check for any lights on alarm clocks or other electrical appliances or power outlets. You can cover small lights with light-blocking stickers to block reduce the glare, available from Amazon and other online stores.
- Try unplugging all electrical appliances in your bedroom, including clocks, TVs and lights to reduce electromagnetic stress. If your sleep quality improves, rearrange your bedroom so that all electrical devices are as far from your bed as possible and preferably in a different room. Don’t use an electric blanket and make sure your phone is on airplane mode, if you sleep with it next to you. You may also try unplugging your wifi router before you go to bed.
- Drink plenty of good quality water during the day. Our bodies have very little water reserve and, once dehydrated, the body responds as if it is experiencing stress. Remember, if your body is stressed it will produce more stress hormones that keep you awake.
- Get your exercise! Some type of exercise or physical activity during the day will generally help you sleep better at night. However, be aware of the time of day and the intensity of your training. You may find that sleep patterns are disrupted if you exercise after dinner, particularly if the exercise is intense. For example, cardiovascular exercise, particularly when performed for more than 30 minutes, can increase cortisol levels, making it harder for you to get to sleep.
- Try taking a herbal supplement or calming tea before bed. I have had very good results with Ned’s Sleep Blend, which is an infusion of organic and wildcrafted botanicals such as lemon balm, oatstraw, passion flower and skullcap, plus organic MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) oils, full spectrum hemp and Cannabinol (CBN). Although there is not much research on CBN and sleep in humans at the moment, there is growing evidence that it can be used to relieve pain and stress, in addition to offering antibacterial, anti-convulsive, and anti-inflammatory benefits. (One of my favorite teas to drink before I go to sleep is Yogi Bedtime tea which contains Passionflower, Chamomile Flower, Valerian Root, Lavender and Skullcap, all herbs renown for their calming and sleep-inducing properties.)
Follow these eight steps and you may be surprised how getting a good night’s sleep every night can improve your mood, your health and your overall well-being!
Love and chi,
P.S. Check out Ned’s Sleep Blend and other products at their website and save 15 percent on your first order by using the promo code CHEK.
How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy! (now an ebook)
Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience