Pillow talk, overnight success, slumber party, rooster rants, or finding endarkenment — I couldn’t decide which title to use for this post. A couple of spicy ones also came to mind, but to spare myself a flood of weirdo spam comments, I decided to play it safe and go with dream on.
As in sleep.
Uninterrupted, consistent, rejuvenating, high-quality sleep — that’s my number one bedtime fantasy and it should be yours, too. Okay, so that’s not a very exciting fantasy, but it should at least be second on your list. Or in the top five.
In some ways, I wish I didn’t have to sleep at all as I find awake time much more fun. I don’t want to miss anything, but I know how important nighttime rejuvenation is to overall health, so I’m consistently working on ways to improve my sleep habits. I’m not the only one. According to the Centers for Disease Control, millions of Americans suffer from insomnia and various sleep disorders. A National Sleep Foundation survey reports that well over 50% of us complain of insomnia at least a few nights a week. More than 53 million prescriptions for sleep aids are filled annually. That’s a lot of sleeping pills! And a lot of people tossing and turning.
Here’s a run-down of why quality sleep is important and what you can do naturally to improve your odds of getting a good night’s worth.
Chronic lack of sleep causes the following
• elevated blood sugar levels
• boosts levels of the stress hormone cortisol
• blood pressure can become elevated
• increased cardiac risk
• weight gain (long story on that, worthy of its own post)
• thyroid function is interrupted
• immune system degeneration occurs
• increased toxic burden
• strength, vitality, balance, coordination and endurance are diminished
• memory, judgement and mood are affected; depression is more common
• lack of purpose
Good things that occur during sleep
• human growth hormone (good, good stuff) is released
• important brain chemicals are released
• regeneration of tissues occurs
• the brain has a chance to organize and archive memories (funky dreams?)
• replacement of aging cells
• energy needs fall, giving the body a chance to repair and restore function
Why we don’t sleep well
• bad nutrition habits (caffeine, alcohol, sugar, processed foods, tobacco)
• energy drinks can impact sleep 12 hours after you drink them
• stress (financial worries, toxic relationships, poor health or lifestyle habits)
• lack of exercise
• medication side effects
• not putting the time and effort into sleeping well
What we can do to sleep well and awaken refreshed
• find your own natural circadian rhythm and stick with the schedule
• try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day (allowing 8 hours for sleep)
• caffeine interrupts our natural sleep signals, avoid all caffeine 6-8 hours before bed
• exercise daily, giving yourself 4 to 5 hours between your workout and sleep
• yoga and meditation are wonderful sleep promoters
• alcohol can help you fall asleep, but it stimulates a wake-up call soon after
• clear your mind, don’t watch the news before bed
• create a sleep sanctuary in your bedroom; clean, comfortable, dark and cool *
• take a hot bath before bed
• avoid having your LED light face you, turn it away so you don’t see it
• eat a light, healthy meal at night; let your body focus on regeneration, not digestion
• drink plenty of water throughout the day, but slow down in late afternoon and evening
• tryptophan-containing foods can help induce sleep (turkey, cheese, milk, nuts, eggs)
• pillows *
* I’ll clean my messy room as soon as I publish this post. I promise. Since I’m advocating a clean and organized sleep sanctuary, I better pick up all the books, magazines and fuzzy socks off the floor. It’s a mess, I admit it.
* Oh my gosh, get yourself a couple of high-quality pillows and cuddly, soft pillow cases. There’s a reason little kids have their blankies and teddy bears. My version of that is my pillow. I’m a total nutbar when it comes to my pillow, I even travel with it. Seriously, I have issues.
Go forth and get some ZZzzzs!