While most of us have pulled at least one all-nighter in our life, and therefore know how awful it feels to function on no sleep, many of us, despite getting at least some rest at night, are living our day-to-day lives in a state of chronic sleep deprivation. In fact, it appears to be somewhat of an epidemic in our society. Even those of us who really value our health, who work out regularly, eat superfoods every day, and treat our bodies right, might not be putting the proper value on the amount, and quality, of the sleep we're getting. As a society have we just become too busy (or distracted) to sleep enough? Or maybe it's the technology that keeps us connected and plugged in 24/7, even after we crawl into bed. Or maybe its the addictive nature of entertainment and social media that seems to melt time right before our eyes (the time we should be sleeping!). Or maybe you're a parent and therefore have to base your sleep cycle (or lack thereof...) around someone else's habits (who may be waking up throughout the night, or waking up at 5 am ready to start the day!). Whatever it is, we think it's safe to say that most of us would be better off if we got slightly more restful sleep!
In a society that seems to emphasize the importance of action, of doing, of being constantly in a state of production, sleep, which is in and of itself a lack of doing (at least in the way we think about action..), seems like somewhat of a waste of valuable time. But there lies the issue: sleep is actually a very busy time for our bodies and minds, a space where a myriad of absolutely critical processes are happening, invisible to the eye while they're going on, but with tangible (and visible! Hello premature aging...) negative impacts on our overall health if they get put on the back burner due to lack of sleep.
When we don't get adequate sleep, the body isn't able to go into deep healing and repair mode, which can eventually lead to an immune system crash or the onset of chronic disease.
Getting adequate sleep is vital for proper brain function and mental health, for hormone production, for proper detoxification, for cellular repair and healing, for immune function, for emotional well being, for an optimized metabolism, for balanced blood sugar and appetite levels, and the list goes on and on...
So now that we're all on the same page about the importance of sleep in our lives, here are 6 tips to help you get the best sleep of your life!
1. Make It A Priority
While sometimes its just not possible to go to bed at a reasonable hour (hey, life happens!), far too many of us end up staying awake for no real valid reason, except maybe to scroll through Instagram, finish just one more episode of our favorite show, or catch up on some emails. If we're not holding sleep as a major priority, something else is likely taking its place. And we can pretty much guarantee that the "something else" will not benefit you in the same way that getting a good night's sleep will.
2. Turn Your Bedroom Into A Peaceful Sanctuary
Have you ever walked into a spa setting and felt instantly more relaxed? While most of us aren't in a position to replicate a luxury spa in our own bedroom, we can definitely incorporate aspects of what makes a spa environment so serene. Clearing out the clutter, sticking with clean, neutral color schemes, bringing in some greenery through living houseplants (low maintenance succulents and cacti count too!), diffusing essential oils, playing soft, atmospheric music, dimming the lights, using an air purifier and/or negative ion generator, burning some sage or your favorite candle or incense, etc. All of these can help create totally different energy in a space, one that is much more conducive to winding down, and getting restful sleep.
3. Keep The Devices Out Of Your Bedroom
Not only can our beloved smartphones and tablets be a serious source of distraction (okay...maybe more like addiction...) when you should be sleeping, they also emit blue spectrum light which can disrupt sleep cycles by signaling the brain to halt melatonin production (our sleep-regulating hormone), and seriously muck with the body's circadian rhythm (your internal clock). So turn off the screens, and if you need something to help relax your mind, turn to a good book or magazine instead.
4. Create a Ritual You Can Look Forward To
Any parent will tell you that creating an element of fun or excitement about something is one of the best ways to get a child to do something they otherwise might resist (like bedtime!). Well, we're all sort of kids at heart, aren't we? By creating bedtime rituals we can really enjoy, it entices us to actually move in that direction. Fill up a tub with bath salts and essential oils and have a soak. Read a few chapters of whatever book you're presently enjoying. Do some journaling or vision boarding. Give your skin some extra TLC with a nice organic facial mask. Do some stretching or light yoga. Steep a pot of herbal tea and get cozy. Meditate for 5-10 minutes to help quiet mental chatter. These self-care rituals may actually become something you really look forward to after a long day.
5. Eat Dinner Earlier
By giving your digestive system at least several hours between your last big meal and bedtime, it will greatly reduce any chances of having your sleep disturbed by indigestion. It also makes sense to eat your heaviest meal earlier in the day - at lunch for instance - so that your body isn't burdened by trying to digest while you sleep. The energy that would be used for digestion can then be diverted to other important functions, like healing and detoxification processes. However, going to bed with hunger pangs can also keep you awake. If you do need to snack opt for something light that isn't full of sugar and/or caffeine: a handful or two of raw nuts, a piece of fruit and some raw nut butter, a low-sugar green smoothie, etc. Certain foods also have been shown to help boost melatonin production - for instance, tart cherries and bananas.
6. Find Your Own Sleep Sweet Spot
While everyone needs to be getting adequate sleep, this might mean something different for you than it does for a friend. While you may need a solid 9 hours in order to feel rested, your friend might get by on 7 and claim they really feel best this way. The most important thing is that your body is going through all of the vital sleep cycles on a nightly basis: deep sleep cycles for repairing and healing, and REM sleep cycles which are so vital for mood and brain function. REM cycles last around 90-120 minutes or so, and happen several times throughout the night. If you find yourself feeling unrested even after sleeping for 9 hours, it may be that you're waking up in the middle of a REM cycle. Do you hardly ever dream? This may also be a sign that your body isn't entering into a deep sleep cycle. We all need to find that sweet spot that works best for our individual biology. Listen to your body and make adjustments.