You have undoubtedly heard that you need eight hours of sleep per night, but the negative impacts of insufficient sleep are rarely explained.
Inadequate sleep damages your health, weakens the immune system, negatively impacts mood, cognitive function and can wreak havoc on your metabolism and hormones.
The health risks of inadequate sleep are undeniable, and the effects can be experienced from head to toe, especially from the perspective of fat loss.
Sleep deprivation is a significant stressor and can be a barrier to managing your appetite, making healthier food choices and having the energy for a good workout.
If that wasn’t convincing enough there’s even studies that have shown those who are chronically sleep deprived will eat a greater volume of food, and make less healthy choices.
So now that you have all this information on the importance of sleep, how do you go about improving you sleep habits and quality ?
That’s exactly what we’re covering next
Tips and Routines For Better Sleep:
1.) Create Your Sleep Cave:
Remove as many electronics as you can from the bedroom. Even small amounts of light from a text message or alarm clock can impact sleep quality.
Get the room as dark as you can and cover any sources of external lights. Blacking out the windows can be very helpful in getting the room as dark as possible.
Hang a blanket over the window or head to the store and get blackout shades that block light entirely from coming into your room.
For many people sleeping in a slightly colder room actually helps them fall and stay asleep, but adjust the room temperature for your specific needs.
2.) Set a bedtime alarm:
If you use an alarm to help you wake up why wouldn’t you use one to remind yourself it’s time to avoid screens, and start getting ready for a good night of sleep.
With how busy modern lives are time flies by, especially when you get to finally relax at night time. Setting a bedtime alarm will keep you accountable to your new sleep routine.
3.) Avoid screen time:
One of the biggest offenders when it comes to sleep disruption in daily life is the constant bombardment of blue lights.
From the moment you wake up until falling asleep you are literally bathing in blue lights from cell phones, computers, tablets and TVs.
The light emitted from these devices is damaging to your sleep and health because of the melatonin suppressing effect it has.
Melatonin is a hormone that controls your wake and sleep cycles, and suppressed production of melatonin at night will lead to disrupted sleep patterns.
Blue lights have the greatest melatonin suppressing effects of any light frequency you encounter on a daily basis.
Unfortunately the very devices you take everywhere; computers, tablets, and phones are the richest sources of this sleep disrupting blue light.
Avoid screens for sixty minutes before bed, if that seems like too much start with fifteen minutes and work up to sixty.
4.) Supplement With Magnesium:
A game changed for a number of my nutrition clients in helping them wind down for the night and get better sleep is using a magnesium supplement.
Magnesium is a very difficult mineral to get enough of in the diet, and is especially important for muscle relaxation which is why it helps with sleep.
When taken at night magnesium has a calming effect that helps to enhance getting and staying asleep, you could even take a bath and use a magnesium bath salt.
Our bodies are brilliantly designed, and can handle short term acute stresses very well. During stressful situations the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) takes over to helps mobilize energy and deal with fight or flight situations.
On the opposite side of the coin our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is designed to help us rest, digest and recover.
By stretching or doing mobility for 5-15 minutes before bed you will be able to shift your body into the parasympathetic state to help with relaxation, and a good night of sleep.
Physical exertion from exercise and moving more throughout the day whether that be from going on a day hike, strength training or even making sure to hit 10,000 steps per day helps people to fall asleep quick and induces higher quality sleep.
7.) Read a book:
This is the one case in life when falling asleep while reading a book is a good thing! Avoid overly stimulating books such as suspense or mysteries.
Use this as a review or debrief of your day. Write down one thing that went well and one thing that didn’t go well, and how you played a part in each one.
You can also use this as a platform to write down anything you need to get off your mind and onto paper before sleeping.
Try not to do this too close to bedtime because if there is something stressful or agitating it has the potential to occupy your thoughts and keep you awake as you try to sleep.
9.) Use Technology To Your Advantage:
With the importance of sleep being widely recognized and the damaging effects of blue light, the market has responded with some great products to block blue light even if you’re using a screen before bed.
The first is a free program named f.lux that you can download on your computer. It changes the amount of blue light your screen emits based on the time of day for your region.
F.lux shifts the color from sleep disrupting blue light to an amber, which can be helpful if you have to get some late night work done or are watching a show on your computer.
The next would be blue blocker glasses, while they aren’t going to win you any fashion awards these are highly effective for blocking blue lights.
By putting these glasses on an hour or two before bed you allow the body to begin making melatonin which improves both sleep quality and duration.
Blue blocker glasses are very inexpensive and can be found at most hardware stores, or on amazon.
Lastly we will be covering what to do about the blue light from smartphones or tablets. If you have any Iphone or Ipad there is a “Night Shift Mode” that reduces the blue light and shifts the spectrum to more of an amber color.
If you have another brand of smartphone or tablet there are blue light shields that can be purchased and placed on the screen of your device like a screen protector. These shields block the blue light from your smartphone or tablet.
How To Organize These Habits To Improve Sleep:
There are a number of ways to improve your sleep quality that take place in the hours before your head hits the pillow.
Developing these habits will take a little extra work on your part, but the juice is worth the squeeze.
Start by getting your sleep cave in order. Even if all the above pre bed habits are in place without a good environment for sleep, you will still fall short.
Get the electronics out of the room, block the light and get the room the right temperature for your optimal sleep.
After your sleep cave is organized adopt a single bedtime habit to work on. By trying to change too much too soon with your routine it will only be a recipe for stress and overwhelm.
After you have that bedtime habit in place for two to three weeks, adopt another habit to stack on top of it and start developing your bedtime routine for rock solid sleep!
Alex “ Rocks Sleep Like Me” McMahon