The Ultimate Guide to Sleep
Updated: Aug 11, 2021
We all struggle to sleep occasionally but are you tossing, turning or waking up tired in the morning? That might be a problem for your recovery, overall health and wellbeing. Sleep is absolutely essential to our body to function. Lets dive into what the world of research and sleep can tell us.
Ask yourself these 5 Questions in the morning?
Did you wake up earlier than expected?
Did you hit the snooze button? How many 1,2,3,4,5 etc times?
Did you stay asleep throughout the night?
Did you wake up feeling rested and energized?
Do you feel like you got enough sleep last night?
If you answered no to any of the above questions lets talk. There are many different reasons why we cannot sleep and the solution should be perfectly tailored to your own needs. Keep reading below as we explore some of the reasons people have troubles sleeping and some of my favourite tricks to help!
Ask yourself these Questions about your night?
Did you consume alcohol 3 hours before bedtime?
Did you consume coffee or caffeine before bed?
Did you work out 2 hours before bedtime?
Did it take you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep?
Did you watch tv or have screen time before bed?
If you Answered YES to any of these questions, they could indicate some habit changes that could have a huge impact on your ability to sleep! Read below for how your nightly routine can be harming your sleep and sanity.
How much sleep do I need?
The average person should get a minimum of 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Athletes on the other hand actually need about 10 hours of sleep to perform at their best and avoid risk of injury or impaired judgement. I would include anyone who is highly active in this category too. This means that adults need 8-10 hours of sleep. I know as a society we are lacking sleep with about 6-7 hours a night for most people. This has some serious consequences for mood, motivation, good judgement and overall health. So what can you do about it? The first step is to prioritize your sleep and read this blog.
How sleep works
Sleep is an important time for our body to heal and regenerate. Its good for our nervous system and is absolutely essential. By getting the best quality of sleep and in the right quantities, we can flourish! We can be our most productive, relaxed, creative, and assertive selves.
There are two major players in the sleep game. The first hormone is melatonin. When we first wake up in the morning our melatonin levels are at their lowest. As the day continues melatonin levels rise peaking just we feel sleepy enough to well, sleep! Melatonin its responsible for the sleepy heavy feeling but not actually the sleep itself. You might recognize the name, because you can buy pills and chewable as a sleep aid. Again this can be helpful to transition for say jet lag but since it doesn't actually induce quality sleep this isn't a good solution long term.
Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, is the second. Cortisol levels rise as we sleep throughout the night until they peak in the morning. This is what actually wakes us up! Thank you cortisol for being our morning friend! If you answered yes to frequently wake up before your alarm, cortisol may be to blame. If you are more stressed than usual, it could peak early leaving you feeling too alert, too early.
These two hormones work together or rather in opposites. As the day continues cortisol falls while melatonin rises. AS the night goes on melatonin falls and cortisol rises. Pretty cool, eh?
Creating the Perfect Sleep Environment
1. Dark Room
Before technology and the lightbulb, it would be naturally too dark in the evening to do anything productive. So we did the only thing we could do, SLEEP! Creating a dark environment will help us feel sleepy.
There are a few ways to achieve this:
1. You can use a blackout curtain. This is a great way to block out all the light. Unfortunately the down side is that it will block out morning sun to help stimulate us to wake up. If you do choose a blackout curtain to block all street lights, car lights and sunlight you may choose to use a light alarm clock to help support you in the morning.
2. Eye masks are a great way to shield your eyes. This is great if you have a partner who likes to stay up watching tv or scroll on tiktok . They are extremely easy to use, you can take them anywhere such as planes or hotels and they are affordable.
2. Block Blue Light and Screens before bed
Blue light from our phones and TVs or even our light bulbs can actually hinder our melatonin production. This will cause us to feel less sleepy and prolong our bedtime routine. If you struggle to feel tired enough to get to sleep this might be a strong factor to consider.
The good news is that you can do many things to help!
Just stop using your phone 1-3 hours before bed.
Buy blue light blocking glasses. These glasses filter out the blue hues and come in multiple strengths. Blue light is perfectly fine for you in the morning. Some individuals like to wear those clear blue blockers if they work on a computer all day long. Otherwise you can buy yellow, orange or the strongest shade of red to meet your needs. @vivarays is ecofriendly glasses company based out of BC!
Change your phones setting to bedtime or nighttime. This feature is fantastic as it allows you to use your phone for longer while exposing yourself to less blue light.
Buy red light bulbs in the bedroom. Red doesn't affect our sleep like blue light does. You can put special red bulbs in your room to help you see in the evenings while not affecting your sleep wake cycle.
3. Cool Off
Naturally with the sun down it gets a little cooler in the evenings. This cooler temperature signals our body it is time to sleep. Our temperatures naturally drop in the evening while we sleep so doing everything we can to stay cool will support our sleep! Think about it. Have you ever had troubles sleeping because it was just too humid or hot and you couldn't get comfy?
3 Things help you stay cool
1. Finding a mattress that allows air to circulate will promote sleep.
2. Fabric does matter. Whether its your night outfit or the sheet makes sure they are breathable. This is why most sheets and nighties are made from breathable cotton or silk. Silk has a double bonus as its great for your skin and may help to make your hair shiny!
3. Keep a window open or a circulating ceiling fan in your room. To help make it feel extra cool put a bottle of frozen water in front or a damp wet cloth.
Cant get a hold of any of these? Try Freezing your socks!
Relax before bed
Unwinding before bed can help you drop into your parasympathetic nervous system. Activities such as yoga, journaling or listening to sleep stories can help you prep your body for a solid night's sleep! Try to avoid heavy exercise 2-3 hours before you want to get to sleep. Exercise not only stimulates your body but it heats it up too. Thats a double whammy.
To enhance relaxation try using a weighted blanket or eye pillow or adding some soothing smells to prime your body for sleep. Recommended sleep sprays usually contain Lavender or Vitiver.
Avoid Exciting or Stimulating Activities
Maybe avoid watching that horror movie before bed which will get your heart racing. The game goes for high intensity activities and workouts. They make push back your sleep schedule. Try to avoid heavy exercise 2-3 hours before you want to get to sleep. Exercise not only stimulates your body but it heats it up too. Thats a double whammy.
Sad to tell you this one but coffee and other caffeine foods like chocolate can also keep you up at night. Its best not to have them before bed.
Avoid Eating a big meal before bed
Food still has to digest and it can take 3-4 hours for your stomach to empty. As you digest food, your stomach muscles are active and you core body temperature can heat up from all the work it is doing. Since we know that a cooler body temperature is more conducive to sleep, its best to save the bigger meals for earlier in the day.
Not all the time but if you enjoy the daily night cap you might doing yourself a disservice. Alcohol may make you feel calm but it doesnt actually enhance our sleep. In fact your liver has to work in order to process and flush the alcohol out of your body. If you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night this might be why. Ditch the night cap and try an herbal tea instead. Simply swapping for water will also be beneficial.
Night Journal or Mind Dump
I find this to be one of the most helpful tips! If you're someone who cannot turn their brain off at night and you find yourself writing a task list of all the things you have to do in the morning, try mind dumping. Keep some paper and a pen or pencil next your bed at all times. If you catch yourself writing mental lists just jot it down! Putting your thoughts to paper will help you remember while freeing up your mind for more important things like sleep and dreams! It cuts down on the stress of potentially forgetting an important date or brilliant idea!
Celebrate the morning
1. Try to wake up at the same time every morning. Yes, even on weekends.
2. Getting outside and seeing the sun will help tell your body it is morning and to wake up
3. Getting active earlier in the day will help stimulate your body, get your blood flowing and keep you alert.
Have a terrific sleep!
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