In part 1 of this series, Intentional Sleep Health and Wellness, we reviewed the science of sleep, what happens when you sleep and how your body restructures and recovers, ridding itself of harmful toxins in your brain and throughout your body.
During the second part of this series, we’ll explore how you can be more pro-active about your sleep hygiene.
As a society, we are the most productive as a work force in all of US history. We are more knowledgeable about our health and have the most access to information about care and quality of life than most countries.
We pride ourselves in recognizing symptoms of disease and often self-medicate long before we see a physician. However, when it comes to sleep – we (incorrectly) assure ourselves that we will eventually catch up during that long weekend break, or when we have less to do during the day, at work or at home.
This behavior of sacrificing sleep for most anything else that seems priority (including watching that final episode on Netflix), is slowly eroding away our health and ironically, the productivity we think we gain without it.
“Working all hours to get ahead” is so entrenched in the American psyche, that we now silently judge anyone who insists on getting more than 6 hours of sleep at night, and view getting more than that as a luxury.
“A good night’s sleep is much more than a luxury. Its benefits include improvements in concentration, short-term memory, productivity, mood, sensitivity to pain and immune function. – A Good Night’s Sleep Isn’t a Luxury; It’s a Necessity, New York Times, 2011
So what can we do to stop this mentality, beginning with ourselves? How can we be more proactive about getting the right amount of sleep, and ensure we sleep sound each night?
Being pro-active about getting the right amount of quality sleep begins during the day.
So what would your day look like if you wanted to make sure you slept well tonight?
Let’s Begin the Day with a Stretch!
Hoping you at least had an adequate night’s sleep, you would begin your day with exercise.
In a study conducted by Edward Stepanski, director of the Sleep Disorders Service and Research Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, they found people, specifically women, who exercised averaged 70 percent better sleep and women who stretched averaged 30 percent better sleep, the study found.
The researchers suspected that exercise in the morning might set the women’s body clocks for a day of activity and a night of sleep, while exercise at night might push back the sleep part of the sleep-wake cycle. They thought stretching might have improved sleeping by making women more flexible and relaxed.
It has also been said (via WebMD), “If insomnia is giving you fits, exercise will help — especially morning exercise. In fact, an hour of stretching and walking daily can help relive many sleep.”
Then We Eat and Drink!
Not that kind of drinking :). What you eat and drink throughout the day impacts how you sleep at night. It is important to stay hydrated with water, firstly and most often. Stay away from caffeinated beverages within 6 hours of bedtime (Natural News.com) and if you are yearning for something warm, replace hot caffeine with relaxation teas (such as chamomile, passionflower, and valerian root tea closer to bedtime).
Similar to the right amount of quality sleep, hydration is also something we tend to forego but our bodies need to function properly. Drinking water throughout the day clears away toxins and contributes to healthy digestion.
So drink (water) to your heart’s content: at least 8, 8 oz. glasses of water during the day. At night, be sure that you drink water 90 minutes before bed so that you have adequate time to use the bathroom before you go to sleep. Keep a glass of water next to your bed if you get thirsty at night.
Good nutrition also includes the solid food that you consume throughout the day. It should consist of healthy fats (such as avocados, coconuts, tree nuts, etc…) less meat and sugar, more vitamin and nutrient-rich vegetables. – This includes snacks as well.
Eating heavy sauces, gravies and/or greasy foods – especially near bed time, makes your digestive system work twice as hard, and can keep you awake. Also, foods with a lot of sugar or carbohydrates are typically foods you consume to give you energy. Eating these will cause your blood sugar to spike and keep you awake.
Mind on Good Vibes
Inviting relaxation and ridding yourself of stress is also a mental process that happens throughout the day. This most often can be practiced first by replacing negative thoughts with gratitude. By the time you are ready to sleep, regardless of how the day went, focus on the good. Clear your mind of negative thoughts and if you have to, write down what you’re thankful for before you go to sleep.
Close to Bedtime
So, finally after a day of active behavior that indirectly impacts sleep, it is now time to hit the hay…
Here’s your checklist:
- Take a relaxing bath (maybe with a few drops of lavender or chamomile essential oils)
- Keep the room dark and cool
- Shut off the electronic devices
- Turn on your Sound+Sleep sound machine or ‘LectroFan
Pleasant dreams – and don’t forget to do it all over again tomorrow. There’s a great day ahead!
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New York Times