Good, consistent sleep is essential for rest, repair and rejuvenation. Still, many of us find a good night's sleep elusive! Our bodies are actually hard at work while we sleep. Here are some of the critical processes that take place while we're in dreamland:
- Our bodies take out the trash, by removing toxins from the brain and metabolizing cellular waste products.
- New neurological pathways are established, and memories and experiences are consolidated.
- Cellular repair and regeneration occur throughout the body.
- Hormone balance and metabolism are regulated.
Modern lifestyles create obstacles to sound sleeping. Bright lights, late-night work schedules, electronics, stress and worry can work against the body's natural rhythm to rest at night. If sound sleeping doesn't seem to come naturally to you, this series is for you. In this post we discuss habits that set you up for a good night's sleep. Post 2 in this series describes breathing practices that can rescue you from a ragged night of tossing and turning.
Habits that Help You Get Better Sleep
Setting yourself up for a good night's sleep starts before we hit the sack! The habits below will help get you on the path to consistent quality sleep. If some of these don't fit your work schedule, that's ok. Start with the low-hanging fruit and do what you can!
- Spend time outside each day in natural light. If you can catch the sunrise and / or sunset, that's a bonus for your mental state and circadian clock.
- Be in bed and ready to sleep before midnight, preferably by 10 pm. Sleep occurs in 90-minute cycles of deep sleep and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. The ratio of deep, restorative sleep to REM sleep is greater earlier. If we consistently go to bed late, we don't get the amount of restorative sleep we need.
- Establish a consistent sleep schedule. Our circadian rhythms work best to maintain our health and sleep quality when we go to bed and get up at a consistent time.
- Put your electronics to bed at least 2 hours before you turn in, and turn down the (blue) lights. Light exposure suppresses melatonin production and throws off our circadian rhythms. Especially blue light, which is emitted by electronics, LEDs and fluorescent lights.
- Wear blue light-filtering glasses if using electronics in the evening. Also set your electronics to change to "night shift" mode in the evening.
- Stop eating 3 to 4 hours before bed. Our bodies want to enter a repair and rejuvenation phase at night. If we eat or drink calories before bed (including alcohol or any other kind of calorie), our body enters a wakeful digestion mode instead of repair mode, and our health, immunity and sleep suffer.
- Cut out evening caffeine. The caffeine in chocolate, tea and coffee takes 4 to 6 hours to metabolize and interferes with restorative sleep.
- Limit alcohol consumption in the evening. Alcohol may help you nod off, but it interferes with deep sleep. Have your drinks with dinner and then close the kitchen and bar.
- Limit fluid intake in the evening. Even calming herbal teas will make you get up at night for the bathroom if you drink a lot before bed.
- Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary! Keep your room clean and uncluttered, and put some relaxation-inspiring artwork on the walls.
- Eliminate light pollution from your sleeping space. Those red or white lights that beam at you from electronic devices can disrupt your circadian clock and stimulate production of waking hormones including adrenalin. Cover them up or unplug them.
- Stretch! Take 5 to 10 minutes to relax with sleep-inducing stretches before getting in bed.
- Take long, slow, deep breaths to clear your mind and body. Our next post will describe powerful breathing practices to help you sleep.
Let the plants help you sleep better!
Another tool for your sleep toolbox can be our Sleep Balm. This soothing organic balm contains a powerful blend of essential oils that aid in relaxation and sleep. Lavender, cedarwood, vetiver and a touch of patchouli promote calming and smell amazing. We rub it on our feet at night, also on the neck and pulse points. The essential oils are blended into mango butter, organic coconut & jojoba oil, shea oil and organic beeswax. A little dab of Sleep Balm will do ya!
Here's to restful sleep and vibrant days!
You might not do all of these things every day, but the more healthy sleep habits you establish and practice, the better you are likely to feel. See our second post in this series for powerful breathing practices that can help you get back to sleep.