Sleep deprivation can sap energy and motivation, throw off your workout, reduce memory and attention span, seriously mess with moods and increase the likelihood of getting sick. It can even make you fat by altering the hormones that control hunger, causing us to crave more carbs and fats.
So how do we reverse sleep deprivation? First, is to ensure we get between seven and nine hours per night. Second, is to aim for that sleep to be the best quality we can get. Quality sleep means that you are able to fall asleep within 30 minutes of hitting the hay, sleep for at least 85% of the time and wake feeling refreshed.
All it takes is some commitment to good sleep hygiene and a few tweaks to your day.
- Exercise regularly … but not before bed. Vigorous exercise can help you sleep deeper and longer. Just be sure it’s a couple hours prior to bedtime since endorphins can make it tough to fall
- Go easy on the nightcap. Initially, alcohol may make it easier to fall asleep, but a blood sugar crashes from that glass of wine can cause you to wake mid-sleep. Try keeping alcohol to dinnertime or earlier.
- Choose sleep-inducing foods. Snacks before bed are a great to stave off hunger during sleep. Tart cherries are shown to have melatonin, which our bodies produce for sleep. Carbs – like whole grain toast – raise brain levels of tryptophan, which can make you feel sleepy.
- Log off early. Blue light emitted from our screens and energy-efficient lighting blocks the body’s melatonin production, the hormone that induces sleep. Try powering down electronic devices at least an hour before bed.
- Don’t use the news as bedtime reading. Studies have shown that doing activities that are emotional or very stimulating prior to bed can cause poor sleep.
- Get some daytime sunshine. Getting at least 30 to 60 minutes of outdoor light, preferably in the morning, can help reset circadian rhythms and counteract the effect of artificial and blue light from technology.
- Harness the power of breathwork/meditation. Both of these can help regulate heart rate and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, the body’s “rest and digest” function.
- Consider adding magnesium. It can help decrease cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, which interferes with sleep; plus it helps your muscles relax. Try an Epsom salt bath for 20 minutes prior to bed. Or apply magnesium oil directly to your skin.
- Sip something hot. Raising your body temperature can help with relaxation. Choose an herbal tea like chamomile for a double dose of sleepiness.
- Save Netflix binges for daytime only. Not only do our TV screens emit blue light (the kind that keep you awake at night), but often the types of shows we’re watching are emotionally charged – yet another stress-inducing situation for nighttime.