You spend half of your life asleep, but are you really reaping the benefits? When restful and healthy, our sleep cycles allow us to balance our moods, be more energized and productive during our time awake, digest food properly and faster (your metabolism is linked to your sleep!), and so much more. But when thrown off, your sleep cycle can wreak havoc on your moods, causing anxiety and added stress. Your lack of restful sleep can slow down your metabolism and cause unhealthy cravings of sugar and refined carbohydrates to strike. Needless to say, it can burden your adrenal glands and throw off your hormonal balance. It's even safe to say, the root of some of our most common health concerns are caused by a lack of restful and healthy sleep. But how can we change this? How can we make sure we are making the most of the time in our beds, and set the rest of our lives on track?
I've come up with some simple and basic steps to take to help take your sleep cycle into your own hands and give yourself the (MUCH-NEEDED) rest you need:
- UNPLUG: Yes. Exactly what you probably assumed I would begin with; your phone and electronics are a big cause of restless sleep and the inability to fall asleep. The blue light from our devices triggers our brains to be awake and alert, and it's short wavelengths affect melatonin production. Blue light is shown in studies conducted over the course of almost 20 (!) years to be suppressive to our body's natural production of melatonin, which sets our circadian clock (the inner clock that tells us when it's time to fall asleep, and balances our sleep between REM and deep sleep phases)*. Those who read with a light-producing device before bed (Nook, iPad, iPhone, etc) were shown to have a harder time falling asleep and less time spent in REM phase. They also were shown to have a harder time waking up and were much more groggy and unrested in the morning.
The fix? Plug your phone in to a charger across the room for you to avoid being on it at least 1 hour before your bed time. Read a traditional book rather than an iPad or other device. Remember that life is happening NOW, and while technology can be a wonderful tool, it can stop us from being present. Make time every day without your phone, especially in the evenings before bed.
- Avoid working out 2 hours before bed. You want to allow your body to become rested and ready to wind down. When you perform strenuous activity or exercise, your body is in an overly-stimulated state and this will make it harder to fall asleep.
- Take Magnesium an hour or 2 before heading to bed. This supplement is wonderful for relaxation! It helps to relax and relieve our muscles, and creates a sense of calm.
- Don't eat a big meal right before bed. Eating before bed, especially eating a lot, send blood flow and energy to our digestive system in order to properly digest. It SOUNDS like this should really help us fall asleep, since our brain functions slow down while we digest a big meal leaving us feeling lethargic and needing a nap. But the opposite is true. Eating before bed causes your blood sugar to rise (a rush of energy) and spike, before you even wake up. This interrupts your sleep cycle, or circadian rhythm.
The fix? Prepare your meal early, or prep the day before/morning of so that you can eat dinner earlier and have a restful, more beneficial night of sleep.
- Exercise! Cultivate a workout routine for yourself where you are hitting your favorite classes, going on walks and runs, and sweating regularly. As long as it's not right before your bed time, this will naturally cause your body to be ready for a night of sleep and rest.
- Stay hydrated throughout the day, night just right before bed. Forgetting to drink a proper intake of water during the day can mean we chug to catch up at night. This results in waking up during our sleep to use the bathroom. Try to make sure you are hydrating all day long so that this doesn't affect your z's.
- Lavender oil! Mix this into a bath before bed, or rub a tiny bit into the skin behind your ears and your temples. Lavender oil is a naturally relaxing, calming scent that lowers your heart rate and reduces anxiety. "Studies have shown that the compounds found in Lavender inhibit several neurotransmitters and have a sedative and pain-relieving effect", according to ScienceFocus.com.
Rest up, darling!