The reason for sleeping is still not fully understood by scientists despite decades of reasearch, but it has become widely accepted that sleep is crucial to our body’s actions of recovery, maintenance, and formation of memories. Even a single night of poor sleep can produce declines in health.
Effects of Poor Sleep
- Increased risk of injury
- Increased inflammation in the body
- Increased weight gain
- Increased risk diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, depression, anxiety, and several other diseases
- Decreased judgment, processing and reaction speeds of the brain (has been shown to occur even after an hour decrease in sleep time)
- Decreased memory retention and learning
- Decreased growth hormone production
- Decreased testosterone production
- Decreased immune system strength
- Decreased wound and injury healing
- Increased skin aging
I bet you have some sort of TURN UP morning ritual to get your day going. Maybe its a hot shower, coffee, breakfast or even working out. But do you have a turn DOWN ritual at night? New studies recommend that you prepare yourself to go to sleep at night, especially if you want to optimize your health or even performance in the gym!
Here are some sleeping hacks that will help your body prepare for some Z’s and wake up ready to attack your day!
- Turn the thermostat to a cooler temperature (68 degrees or below preferably). A decrease in body temperature signals your body to go into rest mode, so why not help the process along with a cool room.
- Consider taking a warm bath before bed: Warm baths will artificially raise your body temperature, but when you climb out of the bath, your body temperature will abruptly drop, sending a signal to your body that it is ready for sleep.
- Write down any thoughts you may have that are causing you stress.
- Sleep in complete darkness and try to limit screen exposure within 2 hours of bed time: Melatonin (the hormone largely in control of the sleep-wake cycle) is cued to be secreted by your body in response to darkness. Any light will decrease melatonin secretion by the body. Light picked up by our skin cells can even influence melatonin release. Even individuals who are blind can have light-induced insomnia!
- Deep breathing such as the 4-7-8 breathing exercise may help bring sleep onset on faster: To do this breathing method, breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds, hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds, exhale forcefully through the mouth, pursing the lips and making a "whoosh" sound for an 8 second count. Try repeating this cycle up to 4 times.
- Use a comfortable mattress and pillow and change your mattress about every 7 to 10 years.
- Try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule each day: Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day has been shown to improve sleep quality
- Aim to go to bed before 11 or 12 pm each night: The body produces a cortisol surge after this time that may keep you awake.
- If possible, nap! Preferably, take naps in the early afternoon (1:00 – 3:00 pm) which mimics how our ancestors slept prior to the industrial age. Individuals who regularly nap are 37% less likely to die from cardiac disease.
- Get sunlight exposure as much as possible during daylight hours.
- Exercise regularly, although preferably not within 3 hours of bedtime.
- Treat your bedroom like your sanctuary by keeping it as clean and de-cluttered as possible.
- Avoid caffeine after 3:00 PM.
- Avoid heavy meals and more than two alcoholic beverages within 2 hours of bedtime. Both can inhibit melatonin production.
- Avoid sleep aid medication: Remember, sedation is NOT sleep! Most prescription sleep aids actually interfere with REM sleep.
- If absolutely necessary, certain supplements such as melatonin may help the body transition to sleep. Only use sparingly and occasionally when needed such as when returning from a different time zone or after having lost sleep the night before.