Sleep is one of the most undervalued components of health. If we don’t get enough sleep it can lead to a wide range of health issues, however many people do not prioritize their sleep. Instead we prioritize waking up early to workout, staying up late to finish work (prioritizing work), watching another episode on Netflix.
The importance of a good nights sleep is something I talk about with all my clients. To me getting a solid 8 hours of sleep each night is the foundation to good health.
Lack of sleep can:
Decreases your productivity and performance
Increase levels of our hunger hormone ghrelin and decrease leptin (the hormone which tells us we are full), thus disrupting your weight
Increase your risk of developing anxiety and depression
Decrease sex drive
Decrease your ability to cope with stress
Lowers your immune system
Causes nervous system dysfunction
Cause hormonal havoc and cause fertility problems
Impairs blood glucose regulation
Increases blood pressure
Increases levels of inflammation
Increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes
Many of us know how important sleep is, but in today's 24/7 go-go-go world, restorative, blissful sleep can sometimes be hard to come by. How many of you actually have good sleep routines? I am talking about a solid 7-8 hours of deep, restful, undisturbed sleep where you wake up in the morning feeling refreshed, revitalized and ready to tackle the day?
Sleep is vital for good health as many restorative processes occur while we are sleeping, such as muscle growth, protein synthesis, cell and tissue repair, hormone production. If you lack quality sleep your body won't be able to repair and heal itself on a cellular level.
If sleep is something you struggle with, try implementing these tips to reap the benefits of a good night's sleep so you can wake up looking and feeling like a million bucks!
Turn off all electronics one hour before bed.
This includes TV, computers, tablets, phones, etc. Put them out of sight! Most electronics have a blacklight. This affects your circadian rhythm, which affects the quality of your sleep. Instead let your brain relax before bed, unwind with a good book or magazine, try meditation, deep breathing, have a warm epsom salt bath, listen to relaxing music or just enjoy the company of your significant other, friend or family member.
Aim for 8 hours of sleep per night, MINIMUM.
This may seem like a lot, but your body will thank you for it.
Reduce caffeine intake and avoid caffeine after midday.
Caffeine is a stimulant and can stay in your body for up to 9+ hours. It does vary person to person, but if you're having trouble sleeping try completely eliminating it from your diet for one month, or limit your coffee intake to 1 cup per day, before midday. Also, be conscious of other substances which contain caffeine such as black tea, green tea and chocolate. Instead opt for a delicious herbal tea such as peppermint, chamomile, lemon and ginger.
Go to bed by 9.30/10pm.
Aim to go to bed around the same time every night, ideally by 10pm latest, even if it means just lying there, your body and mind will be grateful for it. Waking at the same time each morning is equally as important. The most regenerative form of sleep occurs between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. Our bodies also love routine, so try going to bed at 10pm for one month and see if you notice a difference with your health and energy levels.
Get plenty of magnesium.
The sleep regulating hormone (melatonin) is disrupted when magnesium is deficient. Magnesium levels also drop in your body at night, so many people can have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep. Magnesium deficiency is very common so supplementing your diet can be very helpful or you can also increase your consumption of magnesium rich foods such as dark leafy greens, fish, beans and lentils, brown rice, avocado, and nuts and seeds. I personally supplement with magnesium every night, it's a mineral I can't live without.
Regular exercise increases mood, reduces stress and improves sleep. It can also significantly reduce insomnia. If you are struggling with sleep it may be best to exercise in the morning or afternoon, as it’s can be too energizing for some. If the evenings is the only time you can exercise try avoiding intense exercises at night for a month, which may be affecting your sleep. However, relaxing exercises at night such as yoga or stretching, can promote sleep.
Avoid eating 2-3 hours before bedtime.
When we eat anything, our bodies set to work digesting the food. So, if you hop into bed while your food is still being digested, it can make it harder for you to fall asleep. This also makes it harder for your body to do all the amazing work that occurs while you sleep (detoxing and restoring), because your body is still trying to break down all the food you just ate!
Ensure the environment you sleep in is completely sleep appropriate.
Dark room, comfortable bed, the right temperature (most people sleep best in a cooler room with adequate ventilation), no cellphones, computers or TVs nearby that may be radiating any electrical signals or shining lights anywhere in the room.
Incorporate a mindfulness practice into your evening routine.
Try incorporating some simple meditation, yoga and deep-breathing focused exercises into your evening routine for 5-15 minutes.
My personal favourite - put your legs up against the wall!
This is something I do most days before bed for 15 minutes. I put on a 15 minute guided meditation track, then put my legs up against the wall, either lying on the ground or on my bed. This is one of the most grounding, nourishing and calming poses. It helps to re-center your nervous system into the 'rest and digest' response. When lying like this it's important to pay attention to your breath, breathing slowly and deeply, letting your belly rise and fall.
Let me know how you get on in the comments below.