Getting good quality sleep is the number one most beneficial step in your journey to health and wellness. Studies show that you are more susceptible to chronic health problems without proper sleep, including heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure, depression, obesity, stroke, and diabetes. It is not only the quantity of sleep but the quality of sleep that will determine your sustained wellness. Contrary to popular belief, our sleep is not a passive time at all. Our body is actively repairing any damage from our day. We balance our hormone supply during the night, detoxify our body, repair damaged tissue, generate vital white blood cells for immunity, eliminate the effects of stress, and process heavy emotions. Unfortunately, in today's world of chronic stress, we have an epidemic of sleep disorders. We struggle with not being able to fall asleep or not being able to stay asleep. The middle of the night seems to be the perfect time for our minds to solve the world's problems. So what functions regulate our sleep patterns? Melatonin is a hormone secreted from our pineal gland, a small lobe deep inside our brain. Melatonin follows the circadian rhythm of our bodies. It is stimulated by light and darkness: the darker room, the more melatonin produced. Melatonin also promotes sleep by regulating our stress hormones like cortisol. This allows the relaxing of the mind and more restful sleep. Here are some daily habits that may interfere with our natural melatonin rhythm, causing multiple sleep difficulties.
Watching TV before bed
The full spectrum light on TV, computers, or cellphones can confuse the brain. The brain can not decide if it is morning or night, disrupting our body's melatonin levels. Not to mention the elevated cortisol levels if you are watching something that stresses your system, like the news, Facebook, or thriller on TV. You can shift this process in your body by turning off your devices at least 2 hours before bed.
When eating a meal at night, our blood sugar rises to digest our meal correctly. When your blood sugar crashes in the middle of the night, cortisol levels rise, and melatonin production diminishes or stops causing interrupted sleep. This chronic cycle of blood sugar rising and crashing in the night can put stress on the body, weaken the immune system, digestive system, and lead to adrenal fatigue.
Evening alcohol use
Studies have shown that alcohol use before bed can help you fall asleep faster; however, it decreases your REM sleep, causing you to be more drowsy throughout the day. Your REM sleep is your deep dream sleep. While you may fall asleep fast, your sleeping light means more waking up in the middle of the night. Long term, alcohol can cause breathing issues due to its sedative effects, potentially causing sleep apnea.
Drinking Caffeine in the afternoon or evening.
We have all been there, that afternoon cup of coffee to get you through the workday. While it may help spike your energy to get you through your afternoon-evening, it can wreak havoc on your sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant. Depending on your sensitivity, it can stimulate you for up to 7 hours, making it impossible to fall asleep. Caffeine use can directly inhibit your melatonin, making falling asleep near impossible.
Let's talk about some simple daily habits you can adopt to improve your daily sleep patterns. We continually see the power of these "sleep hygiene" principles to improve poor sleep patterns. Simple changes can be quite powerful, giving you the rest you need to be more productive during the day.
Choose a calm activity in the evening. Make it a routine. This can include a light walk, yoga, read a book, soak in a tub. Try to avoid full spectrum light at least an hour or two before bed. This means no emails, TV, tablet, or phone.
Avoid stressful conversations, checkbook balancing, next-day scheduling, or news watching at least an hour before bed. This will reduce your cortisol levels and promote more restful sleep.
Watch your food and drink consumption before bed. Avoid evening caffeine, and possibly afternoon caffeine if you are sensitive. Watch eating big meals, especially carbohydrates, before bed. Carbs give you fuel to get through your day. You do not need to feel at night.
Set the appropriate ambiance before bed. Make sure it is dark, as dark as you can get your room. Using a sound machine can be very soothing and help promote improved sleep. Keep an eye on the temperature in your room. Too hot or too cold can keep you up all night. Keep your room cool for a restful sleep.
Make your sleep and wake cycle a consistent routine. Your body will appreciate the same bedtime and wake time every day, Yes, even on the weekends. Our bodies thrive on a schedule. There are many health risks involved with even one night of late-night tv binge-watching.