Do you have issues sleeping through the night?
Are you feeling exhausted or “running on stress hormones” all day?
You’re not alone.
Adults require 7 – 9 hours daily. According to Stats Canada, 43% of men and 55% of women ages 18-64 have problems either going to sleep or staying asleep on a regular basis. This is substantial. Lack of sleep is associated with a long list of health concerns - if you are constantly draining the battery and not recharging, you’re eventually going to peeter out.
So, what do you do about it?
The science of sleep is fascinating, complicated and growing
Lack of sleep affects just about everything in your body and mind. People who get less sleep tend to be at higher risk for many health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. They can also struggle with metabolism, weight, hormone imbalance and inflammation. And let’s not forget the impact lack of sleep can have on moods, memory and decision-making skills.
Do you know that lack of sleep may even negate the health benefits of your exercise program? OMG – what aspect of health does sleep not affect???
With this in mind, let’s look at the three main purposes of sleep.
1. Sleep restores your body.
This is probably the numer one reason. Your body grows and repairs while you sleep. When you sleep, inflammatory hormones like cortisol turn off and restorative hormones like growth hormone (the fountain of youth) turn on.
You already instinctively know this – children grow while they sleep. But growth is more than just growing taller or longer – you “grow” new cells everyday. For instance, red blood cells only have a life span of 120 days. Red blood cells carry oxygen to all the cells in your body and guess what? Cells turn over every day. Your body is constantly breaking down and repairing and growing on a cellular level. Sleep nourishes repair.
2. Sleep restores our mind.
We need sleep to improve our brain's ability to learn and remember things, technically known as “synaptic plasticity”. Dr. Amen (renowned neuroscientist and brain health expert) recommends at least 7 hours for adults so that the brain can “wash” itself – detoxify and improve blood flow. This is an enormous topic, but if you’re intesrested, visit Dr. Amen’s site to learn more. http://danielamenmd.com
3. Sleep conserves energy
Our body has finite energy stores – that’s why we have to eat on a daily basis. We need to replenish what we use. If you are “out and about” 24-7 or not getting enough sleep. You’re going to drain the bank and your energy will decrease.
Causes of poor sleep
Anxiety (the mind is racing)
Nutritional deficiencies (magnesium, amino acids)
Nutritional excesses (sugar, inflammatory foods)
Hormonal imbalances (thyroid, cortisol, insulin)
A blocked or inflammed airway (majority of overweight people have sleep apnea – poor air flow which causes snoring and disrupts sleep)
If your sleep is suffering, find someone who can help you figure out WHY. If you understand the root issue, you can resolve and move on – rest assured.
7 tips for better sleep
The biggest tip is definitely to try to get yourself into a consistent sleep schedule. Make it a priority and you're more likely to achieve it. Simply turn off your lights 8 hours before your alarm goes off. Seven. Days. A. Week. I know weekends can easily throw this off, but make sleep a priority for a few weeks and your body and mind will thank you for it.
Study after study after study PROVES 15 minutes of meditation daily will not only improve sleep, but also focus when you are awake. There are countless “deep sleep” meditations and podcasts available. Find one that suits your style and go for it. What do you have to lose if you’re already losing sleep?
Balance your blood sugar throughout the day. You know, eat less refined and processed foods and more whole foods (full of blood-sugar-balancing fiber). Choose the whole orange instead of the juice (or orange-flavoured snack). Make sure you're getting some protein every time you eat. The simple act of cutting out grains at breakfast and replacing some healthy fat and protein lays the foundation for balanced blood sugar all day. Have a little non-refined grains later in the day to nourish adrenals (keeping you cool and calm).
Get some sunshine and exercise during the day. These things tell your body it's daytime; time for being productive, active and alert. I know, it's hard with busy days and when the weather isn't the best. However, a simple brisk walk during the day will help you wind down more easily in the evening.
Cut off your caffeine and added sugar intake after 12pm. Yes, this includes your beloved chai latte or frappuccino. Both caffeine and added sugar will keep your mind more active than you want in the evening. (HINT: I have two great caffeine-free chai latte recipes for you this week). Whole foods like fruits and veggies are fine - you are avoiding added sugars.
Have a relaxing bedtime routine that starts 1 hour before your “lights out” time (that is 7 - 10 hours before your alarm is set to go off). This would include dimming your artificial lights, nixing screen time and perhaps reading a book - an actual book, not an ebook. You can also take a bath with magnesium or essential oils.
If you wake up in the middle of the night, experts recommend looking at your magnesium levels first and foremost. This may help calm whatever “excitement” is waking you mid-snooze. I also encourage you to avoid further stimulation – don’t grab the phone or TV remote. If you need, get up and stretch (foreward bend) and deep breathing. And if you’re not successful in getting more shut-eye, simply surrender and agree to rest with your eyes closed.