This week's topic is one that can get overlooked, one that can often fall to the back burner, and one that I am certainly extra guilty on not putting first on my list. Or on top of the list. Or on my list at all some days. Tsk tsk tsk.
We all know that sleep is good for us. Consistent and regular sleep allows our bodies to do that repairing and restoring work, so imperative to maintaining our organs and bodily systems in good working order. You don't have to look hard to find evidence linking not enough sleep to some pretty serious health issues like diabetes, heart disease and excess weight gain. Sleep is a daily necessity, a time where our bodies do the repair work needed in our endocrine systems, immune system, digestive and nervous systems, musculoskeletal and just about every system there is. A good night's sleep will help us balance moods better, will enhance our memory function and helps your body better manage the stress response. Rest and digest is one of the most important functions our bodies do in order to recoup from stressful situations, inflammatory things going on and any repair work that needs to happen in order for our engines to run clean.
When you don't sleep enough at night, your body doesn't get that proper resting time to do the reparative work from inflammatory things that may have happened during the day. Count in these inflammatory things our body's response to stress in our environment, whether it's real or perceived. When we don't sleep long enough to get that reparative work done, we are further impacting our body's total load, and contributing further to that chronic low grade inflammation going on. With this low grade inflammation, think chronic slow-moving diseases like obesity and weight gain, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mental health issues like depression and the list goes on. We need our sleep for our adrenals to replenish, having spent the day handling a few saber tooth tigers. We need our sleep in order to allow our bodies to do that repair work from inflammatory processes in the body. We need sleep, good sleep in order to best support our bodies to repair things from the day that just happened, and also so we can get through the next day as well.
A few simple ideas you can easily implement in order to ensure a more restful and rejuvenating sleep
First things first. If you're able to, refrain from bringing your cell phone into your bedroom at night. Search for an old school alarm clock if you're able to. The EMF waves that are coming and going from your phone have been shown to have a disruptive effect on our sleep patterns. This means it's harder for our bodies to sleep deeply. How to prevent that? Nix the cell phone, keep it in the kitchen for the night!
If you absolutely can't do without your cell phone, put it on airplane mode. That cancels the phone's ability to receive and send signals, thus reducing the EMF waves and ensuring a better and deeper sleep, so that reparative work can happen.
Further to this, you may also want to put a timer on your wireless internet router. Same thing! EMF waves can disrupt your sleep patterns; slapping a timer on that box in the basement means these waves will no longer be keeping you from getting your beauty sleep. A bonus here too: if it's set for a reasonable hour every night, and if you're like me, you'll be too lazy to go to the basement to turn it back on, and so you should be getting to bed at a reasonable hour then. Right?
On the subject of screens, turn off your electronics one to two hours before going to bed. The blue light emitted from our screens prevents the proper cascade of hormones necessary to start shutting down our bodies for sleepy time bye bye. This essential hormone to good sleep habits is called melatonin, and computer and phone screens' blue light prevents it from working properly in individuals. Ditch the screens and reach for a good book, or a dimly lit room in good conversation with a loved one. Indulge in good radio! This could be a good time to start a meditative practice too.
To keep that good melatonin production, invest in some good blackout curtains, in order to keep your room darker longer in the evenings, or keep the early morning rays come June from waking you up at 4.30am. You can also treat yourself to one of those fancy eye masks too, if you're looking to really block out all light. And look fancy doing it.
Another helpful tip is to look to include more magnesium in your diet. Magnesium is the calming mineral. As calcium helps our muscles and nerves tense, so magnesium helps them to relax. If you're aiming to get more through food, reach for those leafy greens, add nuts and seeds to your daily regimen, indulge in the dark chocolate (although earlier in the day). You can also opt to take a magnesium supplement; there are a few to try out there, and different formulations work differently for people. Talk to someone at your favourite local health food store to help determine which one would be best suited for you.
Get into a routine. Your body will come 'round. If you're running on 6 hours a night, aim for 7. If you think you're ok with 7, give yourself an extra half hour for a few days to see how that makes you feel. On average, adults require 7-9 hours of good uninterrupted sleep a night in order to get that reparative work underway. Make some time for good sleep! If it means you get yourself some fancy red onesies, I promise it will be worth it. Your immune system, your adrenals and your brain called: they said they're up for trying this if you are.
If you're looking for further reading on the importance of sleep, and further tips to make your sleep count, make your way to Mark's Daily Apple blog for some good tips.