Proper sleep is VERY important. Sleep helps your body recover from a hard days work and lets your brain reboot for tomorrow. It helps improve healing and mood and energy. About 1/3 of your life is spent sleeping, so you best make the most of it so the other 2/3 can be great!
So many people (adults and children) struggle with sleep. Poor sleep will negatively affect your health and can even impede your ability to lose weight. Even though it is a natural phenomenon, it is still considered a habit that can be trained and there are so many factors that can affect sleep quality. Here are my top tips to help you get started on improving your slumber.
1. Create a Cave
Create a dark, chilly, quiet environment. Your body temperature naturally drops at night, so make sure that the room is a little chilly rather than too warm. Get rid of any flashing lights or bright alarm clocks. Use blackout curtains if there are bright streetlights outside. Toss any unnecessary noises, like ticking clocks.
2. Establish a Routine
Our body systems love routines. We have natural changes in our hormone levels throughout the day. Priming your hormonal and neurological systems for sleep will help train your sleep habits. For example, if you want to be asleep by 10pm, then at 9pm, have a cup of herbal tea, go put your PJs on, take your contacts out, brush your teeth, and then cuddle up in bed with a book for half an hour. At 10pm, lights out. This will help you wind down from the day. Make sure your routine is realistic for you and that you follow it consistently for the first few weeks.
3. No Afternoon Caffeine Kicks
Don’t drink any stimulating beverages after lunch. That afternoon espresso can throw off your rhythms. If you are going to have caffeine, confine it to early in the day. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE coffee. I would gladly have a cup of black coffee in between and after every meal, but too many stimulants running through your system can make it very difficult to wind down when it comes time for bed. It can also fry out your stress response systems and keep you in sympathetic (“fight or flight”) overdrive.
4. No Screen Time Before Bed
That’s right. No screen time. No computer. No TV. No iPad. Keep your eyes off those screens for at least 1 hour prior to shut-eye. One of the most effective ways for you to do this is to get the TV out of the bedroom. I realize that probably caused a flare of anger in some of you, but I promise it will improve your sleep quality (and probably your sex life).
5. Track It.
There are lots of great apps out there to help you track your sleep and learn your patterns. My favorite is one called “Sleep Cycle”. With Sleep Cycle, you can track your sleep quality and how different factors are affecting it. You can even use it as an alarm and it will wake you up during the right part of your sleep cycle to ease the transition into consciousness. I’m sure there are others out there, but this is the one I am most familiar with and it is only 99 cents on the App Store.
As your sleep quality improves, you will notice better recovery from the gym, more resiliency to stress, and overall improvements in your energy levels. There are lots of different training techniques out there and there is a ton that you can do to support healthy sleep through nutrition, but let’s start simple. Establish your habits and grow from there.