One of the best ways to ignite your health is with better sleeping habits. You should be getting 7-9 hours of sleep to keep your brain healthy.
When you get the right amount of sleep, you reduce your stress and increase your ability to focus as well as make important decisions. You have more energy to keep going throughout your day.
So what happens when you can’t? Some days, things happen. You can refresh your brain with 15-20 minute naps and get back to business.
But beware chronic sleep deprivation. You can seriously damage your brain that way. Let’s look at all of this in more detail.
How Sleep (or Lack of It) Affects Your Life
If you’re failing to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night, you are operating at a cognitive disadvantage. You can also be accelerating the aging of your brain. Your health and career will pay the price.
New scientific research also has shown that going without enough sleep for more than an occasional day or two can have a negative impact on your memory, concentration, temper, ability to make decisions and your overall wellness. Studies have shown that those who sleep only five hours a night have more than twice the risk of developing heart disease.
And a 2008 study at the University of Chicago’s school of medicine kept young, healthy volunteers alert for all but four hours a night for six nights. The results were that the hormone leptin jumped, and all the students were ravenously hungry. In addition, their blood glucose shot up to pre-diabetic levels.
And that’s all after less than one week of poor sleep.
Plus, you have elevated levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. So you’re going to feel even more stressed and anxious than normal.
You can’t bank extra sleep. So you should work on better sleeping habits today. You will see a noticeable difference in your quality of life after you’ve caught up.
So how much will you need to recover? Well, that does depend upon how long you’ve been depriving yourself of sleep. You should be all caught up within a week if you’re getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night.
Simple Steps to Better Sleeping Habits
There are some easy things you can do to improve your night’s rest. And they will also ignite your health and happiness in many other ways.
Put Away the Technology
I know it’s not easy. Sometimes it feels like you’re relaxing when you check email or social media. Unfortunately, it elevates your adrenaline. Plus, the constant checking releases dopamine to where you’re physically becoming addicted to the interactions on social media.
When watching television or reading from your tablet, you’re sending the wrong kind of light that helps your body relax for sleep. The blue light wakes you up.
If you read on a tablet or other device, look to see if you can switch to the red light or night mode.
Have a Comfortable Room
Your bedroom should be your sanctuary. Clean out everything that doesn’t belong including other people’s clothes and toys. This is your room.
The temperature should be between 18C and 21C when you’re sleeping. This ensures that your body stays at the optimal level for sleep. But it’s not too cold that your sleep is interrupted with shivering.
And make sure you remove the television and computer. You did read the first tip about how the light will keep you awake, right?
Next, make sure you have good airflow. We don’t sleep well when it’s stuffy. If you can, open a window or have a fan running.
If you live in a noisy area, look at getting good earplugs. You can also mask noises with a white noise machine. A fan can also provide the white noise but may not mask the exterior noises as well as earplugs or a white noise machine.
If you wear nightclothes, ensure that they’re comfortable and won’t constrict you in the night.
Finally, buy the best pillow and mattress that you can afford. And don’t forget to buy quality sheets. That doesn’t mean it has to be 2000 thread count.
You can have soft and comfortable sheets at 500 thread count. Just make sure you buy good quality cotton so that everything breathes against your body.
Get Good Exercise
Do the heavy sweating and weight lifting earlier in the day. In the evening hours, keep it light like walking or yoga which will aid digestion. Quigong is another great exercise to use to relax and release any stress, anxiety or depression.
Make sure you’re getting at least 30 minutes of healthy aerobic exercise at least 3-4 times per week. You want your heart rate up to transfer lots of good oxygen into your blood.
Keep A Regular Schedule
It’s important to go to bed at approximately the same time every day. It helps your body know when to start adjusting the internal temperature and transition your brain into sleep time.
You also should have your set routines when going to bed. Do things in the same order and it will signal the brain that it’s time to rest.
Keep your bedroom as dark as possible. Some experts also recommend keeping your alarm clock out of the bedroom because of the light. And if you have insomnia, the worst thing you can do is watch the clock.
Many people are moving away from standard alarm clocks and using their smartphones as alarms. You should keep your phone out of the room but near enough so that the alarm will wake you up. Another suggestion is to put your phone on Airplane mode so it won’t ring and wake you up in the middle of the night.
While you’re still using the alarm, don’t forget the 5 Second Rule and avoid hitting your snooze button. You will get back into a sleep cycle and not feel on top of things all day long. (You may want to reread my review of The 5 Second Rule)
When you have a set routine, you may find you no longer need an alarm as your body will naturally wake up at the same time.
Update Your Meals
Try not to eat within 4 hours of going to bed. You want to be able to sleep after having done the majority of the digestion from dinner. This also reduces your chance of waking up from acid reflux in the middle of the night.
If you need a nap, look at foods like warm milk, chamomile tea, and bananas.
You may be able to increase your ability to sleep with supplements like taking 250-1000mg of Magnesium before bed.
Some people also take 1-3mg of Melatonin.
Talk with your doctor before you start just in case there may be some interactions you aren’t aware of. For example, melatonin shouldn’t be taken by people with auto-immune diseases, diabetes, or epilepsy. There are other conditions which could provide negative results. Start slowly and see how your body responds.
For herbs, chamomile tea has been used for centuries to relax. Valerian root is also considered to be an effective natural remedy. And kava is another one that’s great for a good night’s sleep. Most people take about 150-200mg approximately 30 minutes before going to sleep.
Don’t drink anything with caffeine after lunch. Caffeine can stay in your body longer than you realize.
You should also make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day. And you may want to taper off a bit before going to bed otherwise you’ll be up in the night.
Alcohol can be good for relaxing. However too much will impair your sleep. You may wake up feeling dehydrated. Or you may have the “sugar bounce” when your body has processed the alcohol into sugar.
Eat smaller meals so your body can fully digest. However, make sure you eat enough, and that it’s well balanced so you’re not hungry again at bedtime.
Food allergies can also upset your sleep. So you may wish to get tested to see if you have any food allergies if you’re doing everything correctly but still not able to sleep.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation for Better Sleep
Progressive muscle relaxation is a simple yet effective technique to achieve a deep full body relaxation. You can use it anytime you’re feeling tense.
Starting with the muscles in your face, you will tense and then relax the muscles as you work all the way down to your feet. Take one muscle group at a time and tense it for a count of ten. Then slowly relax the muscles and wait for twenty seconds before moving on to the next group.
- Neck and Shoulders
- Total right arm
- Right forearm and hand (using a fist)
- Right hand
- Total left arm
- Left forearm and hand (again with a fist)
- Left hand
- Total right leg
- Lower right leg and foot
- Right foot
- Total left leg
- Lower left leg and foot
- Left foot
It doesn’t take that much time. And you release all that tension right as you’re going to sleep.
You can also meditate and use positive visualization to relax. Use meditation to release all your stress and negativity.
You should also keep a NOT Worry Notebook by your bedside. This can be any blank notebook that is easy for you to write in. If you are feeling anxious about something, you can write it down. This assures your brain that you’ve taken care of it, and it’s easier to release the stress and worry.
I can’t promise that the worry will be legible the next day. However, it will be out of your brain which is what you want.
Aromatherapy for Relaxation
Use essential oils in a diffuser in your bedroom to relax. Or in a warm bath to unwind before bed. You can also use essential oils in a carrier oil and massage your feet. Or have someone massage your neck and shoulders.
If you remember from my article on essential oils, lavender is a wonderful scent for relaxation.
Power Napping for Success
Ten minutes may be all that you need to refresh your mind and body during the day. Most power naps are between 10 and 30 minutes.
You don’t want to nap longer than 30 minutes because then you may enter into a sleep cycle. Sleep cycles last 90 minutes and you will feel worse after napping until you reach the end of the 90 minutes.
All you need to do is find a quiet location where you can nap uninterrupted. Turn off the lights and set some form of timer or alarm.
Some people will take a power nap on a conference table or under their desk if it’s the only place available.
Some Last Thoughts
If you smoke, the nicotine is a stimulant. Please try to find a strong inner why to quit. Just because you know that it’s not good for you doesn’t change the behavior. There’s a strong why inside of you that you need to tap into in order to motivate yourself to make a different habit choice.
Being sleep deprived puts you at risk of permanent brain damage. You’re also twice as likely to have an auto accident, develop diabetes and heart disease.
So please get your rest. Create a routine and start following it. You’ll be so pleased with the results.