Are you always interested in the next miracle supplement or workout that seems to be the key to health and wellness? I know I’ve been guilty of that.
There’s a free solution to this, and it’s sleep. Poor sleep can diminish your health and wellness pursuits, creativity, productivity, and work ethic.
Sleep is called the ‘force multiplier,’ meaning that it accentuates any positive or negative aspects of your life. If you’re eating well and exercising — it gives a boost to that.
If you’re stressed and run down, a lack of sleep compounds those issues.
It’s time to take back control of sleep if you want control of your life.
Why is Sleep so Important?
We live in a society that prides itself on burning the candle at both ends. We wear our ability to function off a lack of sleep like a badge of honor.
You might get away with this for a while, but in the long term, you are creating some genuine issues in your body. Sleep is critical, for:
- Less pain
- Improved health
- Better mood
- Better memory
- Stronger immunity
It all comes down to 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 into this, it’s like throwing gas on a fire.
If you’re not getting enough sleep, your body assumes something traumatic must be happening, otherwise, why wouldn’t you be getting rest and recuperation?
Lack of sleep triggers a release of stress hormones: primarily cortisol. This prevents proper recovery, makes weight loss slow to a crawl, and creates A LOT of other problems.
What are Your Stress Hormones Important for?
For the short term, cortisol is amazing at keeping us going because of the fight-or-flight response.
It increases glucose, enhances your brain's use of glucose, and increases the availability of substances that help repair tissues.
In these fight-or-flight situations, we release cortisol to reduce functions nonessential at the time such as altering immune system responses, suppressing the digestive system, the growth process, and the reproductive system.
Stress hormones are great in the short term. In the long term, not so much.
When stress hormones are constantly elevated, the long-term activation can disrupt most of your body's processes. And when left untreated, you’re looking at issues like:
- Headaches and dizziness
- Irritability and anger
- Panic disorders
- Increased heart rate
- Heart disease
- Digestive disorders
- Weight gain & obesity
That’s just a tiny sample of the potential issues — so you see how constantly elevated stress hormones are a nightmare.
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 it releases stress hormones to keep you functioning.
How Can you Get Better Sleep?
If you’re serious about your health, you need to be serious about your sleep. People always want to take other preventative measures to enhance their health without addressing how they can improve their sleep.
Here are 5 practical things you can do to get better sleep right away.
1. Keep Your Room as Dark as Possible
The darker your room is, the better your brain is at releasing melatonin. This is the hormone responsible for keeping your sleep cycles running properly.
If keeping your room dark is tough, I would look into buying blackout curtains.
Hotels use them and they work wonders to block the outside light.
2. Keep Your Room a Touch on the Cool Side
Overly warm rooms may help make you drowsy but are not ideal for sleeping. This is because your body has to waste energy trying to regulate its own temperature.
The same thing goes with rooms too cold. You want it cool; somewhere between 6 and 7 degrees.
You might have to experiment 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, helps you fall asleep faster, and stay asleep.
3. Avoid Caffeine After 2–3 pm
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 significant 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 wear off after a few hours, but caffeine has a “half-life.” This 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 experiment 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.
4. Eliminate Blue Light at Least 1–2 Hours Before Bed
You might be more aware of blue light now, as a lot of information is available as to its negative effects on sleep.
If you’re not familiar, blue light is the light given off by electronic screens such as laptops, phones, tablets, and TVs.
This light differs from a light bulb. You probably don’t notice it in your own living room, but may have noticed that blue glow from TVs when driving by houses at night.
Remember how darkness helped stimulate melatonin production? Light — and especially blue light — has the opposite effect, preventing it from being secreted.
If you’re up all night on your phone, you may notice you’re groggy and not alert in the morning. You can trace this back to disrupted sleep from blue light exposure.
The simple thing is to avoid it for a few hours before bed. Apple has made some improvements by adding the night shift feature to iPhones 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.
5. Keep the Same Wind-Down Routine Each Night
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 transition into it.
Sleep researchers always say this is the secret to getting into a healthy sleep pattern: 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.
Once you have a routine down — you need to stick with it, and this is crucial.
Wrapping It Up
If reading this puts you to sleep, then I guess you can add it to the list…
If you’ve been finding yourself not getting adequate sleep, following the things on this list can get you on track.
In return, you’ll get a great boost to your overall health and wellness, productivity, and motivation to get things done.
Your fitness and nutrition may be on point, but if your sleep is not absolutely paramount — you’re spinning your tires.
You could also hurt yourself in the long run, and it makes little sense to ignore such a critical component of health that is very much in your control.