You might be wondering why we are starting with tweaking in healthy habits for sleep first, over food or even movement. Why is sleep so important? Studies show that about 1/3 of us don’t get sufficient sleep. The CDC and Sleep Foundation call insufficient sleep an epidemic in America. Yet, sleep impacts our health in so many ways including immunity, obesity and stress. Lack of sleep can make it difficult to keep healthy habits in other areas of our lives including exercise and eating healthily. So, how much is enough sleep? Most people require 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.
This is how insufficient sleep can hurt us:
- Lack of sleep hurts your immunity by lowering the production and release of cytokines. Cytokines are important immunity proteins that your body creates to fight disease. We hurt our immunity when we don’t get sufficient sleep.
- Lack of sleep sabotages our weight loss efforts by raising the hormone ghrelin (tells you your hungry) and lowering the hormone leptin (tells you when your full). This is why we often binge eat and graze on days where we haven’t slept well the night before.
- Lack of sleep also impacts our ability to deal with stress by raising cortisol levels in our bodies. This negatively impacts our mood, increasing our irritability, impulsivity and ability to cope.
Here are some healthy habits to try out that promote good sleep habits:
- Start an Electronic Bedtime! Put all electronics to sleep, so avoid using them, especially those with blue emitting light 1 hour before your bedtime. This includes computers, lap tops, iPads, and smart phones. The type of light emitted by these devices blocks our melatonin production making it harder to fall asleep. To keep temptation at bay, try charging your electronics in another area besides your room like the kitchen.
- Plan to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Of course the occasional night out late can be recovered from, but if you make it a habit to stay up late several nights out of the week, then try and recover on the other nights, you’ll find that it doesn’t really work. Creating a consistent bedtime has been found to be very important for establishing a healthy biorhythm, and that will help you get consistent, deep, and restful sleep.
- Create a relaxing routine that starts at least 30 minutes before bed. This sleep habit can include a warm shower or bath, reading time, or stretching and meditation. Explore using essential oils like lavender on your pillow or in a room atomizer.
- Keep your room dark, quiet and cool. Studies show that keeping your room cool is more conducive to sleep. Explore using a fan, which will also provide white noise that can help calm your nervous system. To help darken the room, you can use eye masks. Also, keep any light emitting devices turned away from you.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks after mid-day, and limit your alcohol consumption at night. Both of these have been found to impact quality of sleep.
We want to be helpful during this trying time and we would love to hear from you! Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments you might have.
Sending love and wishing you health,