Are you always interested in the next miracle supplement or workout that seems to be the key to your health and wellness?
I know I’ve been guilty of that.
The problem is if you don’t have some of the basics in check it can diminish your health and wellness pursuits lower than my bank account. At the top of that list is something that can enhance all areas of your life and you don’t even have to buy it from an infomercial.
Proper sleep is important for:
We seem to live in a society that prides itself on burning the candle at both ends and we wear our ability to function off a lack of sleep like a badge of honor. You might be able to get away with this for awhile but in the long term, you are creating some pretty unfavorable conditions in your body.
It all comes back the stress hormones in your body. We are bombarded with stress on a daily level whether it be real or perceived. When you throw a lack of sleep on to this it’s like throwing gas on a fire as everything goes up in flames. Like my love life.
Simply put, if you’re not getting enough sleep your body assumes something traumatic must be happening if you’re not allowing yourself rest and recuperation. Stress hormones are released with they key one being cortisol. This prevents proper recovery, makes weight loss slow to a crawl and creates A LOT of other problems.
For the short term cortisol is amazing at keeping us going due to your fight or flight response. It increases glucose, enhances your brains use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that help repair tissues.
So in these fight or flight situations, cortisol is released to reduce functions that are nonessential at the time such as altering immune system responses, suppresses the digestive system, the growth process and the reproductive system.
So stress hormones are great in the short term. In the long term, not so much.
When they are constantly elevated and don’t turn off this long term activation can disrupt most of your bodies processes. And when left untreated you’re looking at issues like:
So you can see constantly elevated stress hormones are pretty Bad News Bears. Again, your body doesn’t know if it’s facing a trauma, plague or you’ve just been up all night watching a House Hunters marathon. It just knows you are not getting sleep and stress hormones have to be released to keep you functioning.
If you’re serious about your health you need to be serious about your sleep. I mentioned before how people want to take other preventative measures to enhance their health without addressing how they can improve their sleep.
Let me show you 5 practical things you can do to start getting better sleep right away.
The darker your room is the better your brain is at releasing melatonin which is the hormone responsible for keeping your sleep cycles running properly. If keeping your room dark is tough for you I would look into buying blackout curtains. They work wonders and are what a lot of hotels use that block out pretty much all outside light.
Overly warm rooms may help make you drowsy but are not ideal for sleeping as your body has to waste energy trying to regulate your own body temperature. The same thing goes with rooms too cold so you are looking at cool, somewhere between 60–67 degrees. You might have to play around with fans or keeping your window open but your sheets should feel cool to the touch when you lie down. This coolness also helps with melatonin production, help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep
No surprise here as caffeine obviously can prevent you from getting good sleep. A cup of coffee or two can be ok, and may have some really good health benefits, but if you find your sleep disrupted you may need to cut back or cut it off earlier. The noticeable effects of caffeine tend to wear off after a couple hours but caffeine has what is called a “half-life” which can extend its effects for around 5–6 hours as it’s eliminated from the body. Some research shows that this can even go up to 9.5 hours.
You may have to play around with when you cut off caffeine each day to see how you respond to it. 2–3 pm might work fine or you may need to cut it off around noon as to not affect that night’s sleep.
You might be more aware of blue light now as a lot of information has been made available as to its negative effects on your sleep. If you’re not familiar, blue light is the light given off by electronic screens such as laptops, phones, tablets and T.V’s. This light is different than a light bulb and you probably don’t notice it in your own living room but maybe have noticed that blue glow from T.Vs when driving by houses at night.
Remember how darkness helped stimulate melatonin production? Light, and especially blue light have the opposite effect preventing it from being secreted. If you’re up all night on your phone swiping left or on your tablet playing Candy Crush till late you may notice you’re groggy and not alert in the morning. You can trace this back to disrupted sleep from blue light.
The simple thing is to avoid it for the few hours before bed. Apple has made some improvements by adding the night shift feature to phones to give it a more natural reddish glow. If you have to be working later into the night I would use that feature along with f.lux. This is a similar program but for laptops to help eliminate the blue light and give your screen that easier on the eyes glow.
Some say I have an easy on the eyes glow, but pretty much only my mom…
Your body does well with familiarity and routine. When you follow the same wind-down routine each night your body recognizes sleep is coming and can naturally start to transition into it. Sleep researchers always share that the secret to getting into a healthy sleep pattern is consistency.
You need to figure what the best wind-down routine for you is. It may be taking a shower then reading and listening to some music. The main thing is once you have a routine down you need to stick with it. You want to be going to bed at the same time each night and with that same routine so your body can become familiar and accustomed to it.
If reading this put you to sleep then I guess you can add it to the list…
The main thing is if you’ve been finding yourself not getting adequate sleep following the things on this list can start getting you on the track to better slumber. In return you will get a great boost to your overall health and wellness.
You may be doing really well with your fitness and nutrition but if your sleep is not absolutely paramount it’s the equivalent to spinning your tires. You could be hurting yourself in the long run and it doesn’t make any sense for you to ignore such a critical component of your health that is very much in your control.
Remember, House Hunter marathons were what DVR’s were invented for…
Originally published at medium.com