Proper sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health, it's just as important as regular exercise and healthy eating! It's not just about getting the right amount of sleep, but also the quality of your sleep is important. It's a great place to start if you are looking to live a healthier lifestyle, this is why I've chosen it for my very first blog!
I've struggled in this area basically my entire life, so I understand the struggle it can be. There are so many daily life factors that can interfere with our ability to fall asleep, get the proper hours, and get the quality of sleep we need to wake up feeling refreshed with energy that lasts all day. Does that sound like a dream to you? Then this blog is definitely for you!
Where are my fellow parents? Have trouble deciding between getting things done when the kids are in bed, finally enjoying a little piece and quiet, or actually getting a decent night sleep?! As a single, working, parent for many years, I've been there. I never chose sleep, and I would always regret it the next day. Yet, I'd repeat the same behaviours the next night.
Where are my fellow anxiety ridden overthinkers? Brain constantly going a mile a minute, overthinking everything from your current day to 10 years ago when you said that one silly thing. Or, overwhelmed with all the things you should be getting done, but instead of getting it done, or going to bed so you have the energy to take on tomorrow, you binge watch Netflix? Yeah, I get that too. And the later I would stay up, the worse the anxiety would get, making it harder to make good choices, and fall asleep. I was irritable, I thought I needed all the coffee, I would crash midday, I would make poor nutritional choices, I would procrastinate more, I couldn't focus well, I was sick all the time, I was unable to cope with my anxiety and stress, or emotions in general. And let's face it, I had a stroke! Which lack of sleep and stress may have been a contributing factor.
If you have the choice... choose a good night's sleep! If you're struggling with that choice, or if it's anxiety, and problems falling asleep that are keeping you up, I would like to share some wonderful tips for you to try, even throughout the day, that will help you fall asleep faster AND improve the quality of sleep you are getting. It's done wonders for me!
Benefits of Getting Proper Sleep
First you need to understand why, why is sleep so important? You may be thinking "I make it through the day just fine off 5 hours of sleep and lots of coffee", but, your lack of, or poor quality of, sleep may actually be doing more damage then you realise.
Sharper brain. Mom brain, pregnancy brain, stroke brain? I've had them all, and they are all real. However, proper sleep can definitely help! Poor sleep can make it twice as hard to concentrate throughout your day.
Mood booster. Sleep and mood are closely connected. Poor sleep can cause irritability and more stress. Proper sleep can help us to cope better in stressful situations, and improve our mood overall.
Steadier blood sugar. The effects of keeping steady blood sugar is another crucial component to our health, and if you follow my blog, I will be talking a lot more about it and how to manage your blood sugar. One thing being, sleep! There are many benefits to having steadier blood sugar, it will increase your energy, reduce risks of health diseases, and much more.
Weight control. Long story short, proper sleep actually helps you burn more fat! Where poor sleep causes you to store more fat.
Immune booster. Proper sleep can improve your immune system, and poor sleep can be causing you to get sick easier.
Increased productivity. Allowing you to show up better for yourself, your work, and your family.
Clearly, getting a proper sleep can benefit our health in many ways. But, what can we do to help ensure we get a proper night's sleep?
How to Get a Proper Night's Sleep?
1. No Caffeine After 2pm.
You may feel like you need it to get through that midday crash, but, it's actually only making things harder for you in the long run. It may make it harder for you to fall asleep at a decent hour, or be impairing your quality of sleep. Thus, repeating the same midday crash the next day and feeling the need for late coffee. There are many other effective ways to help with midday crashes that get more to the root cause, rather than fixing it with coffee and continuing the vicious cycle. Exercise and nutritional habits being two great examples.
2. Avoid Screen Time 1 Hour Before Bed.
These days we are all tempted with our phones to lay bed scrolling, or watching Netflix, until our eyes are burning out of their sockets that we think it helped us feel tired. That is not the tired we want to feel, and it will actually impair our quality of sleep. Not to mention, you probably just wasted a good chunk of time, taking longer than you realise to fall asleep. Screen time used in the late hours before bed will affect how quickly we fall asleep by suppressing the production of melatonin, a natural hormone released in the evening to help you feel tired and ready for sleep. It also can reduce the amount of time you spend in the cycles of sleep that are important for cognitive functioning. Try keeping your bedroom a screen-free zone. If you use your cell phone for an alarm, this also increases the temptation to scroll, try leaving your phone charging in another room at night and invest in an alarm clock.
3. Develop a Consistent Sleep Schedule.
Going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday - yes, even weekends! - will help you regulate your natural sleep cycle. This will not only help you fall asleep faster, but also wake up feeling more refreshed and reduce your daytime sleepiness.
4. Avoid Late Night Eating.
Our muscles are meant to rest while we sleep, but if our body needs to digest the food from our late night snacking, those muscles are not resting. This can make it harder to fall asleep, and affect the quality of sleep you are getting during the night. There are many ways to decrease those late night cravings, especially learning to eat properly balanced meals throughout the day.
5. Avoid Alcohol Before Bed.
Don't shoot the messenger! This was a difficult one for me, I used alcohol to cope with anxiety, and my anxiety was usually highest at night. I was your typical single wine loving Momma, who really looked forward to that glass of wine when the kids went to bed! However, once I was able to kick this habit, I notice significant improvement in my sleep quality. This is because alcohol disrupts our brainwaves and natural sleep patterns. Even if you do sleep through the night, you won't wake up feeling as rested.
6. Set Your Bedroom up for Success.
We talked about keeping your bedroom screen free, but there are many other things you can do in your bedroom to help you improve your sleep. Keeping your room at a cooler temperature, free of clutter and anything that may remind you of work. Investing in a comfy mattress, proper pillows, and good sheets. Use blackout curtains, if needed. Dimmable lamps (I enjoy my dimmable Himalayan salt lamp), sound machines with calming music, or diffusers with calming essential oils like lavender. And yes, intimacy can help! Cuddling releases your happy hormones (oxytocin), and suppresses your stress hormones (cortisol), helping you get better sleep. Win-win!
7. Establish a Relaxing Night Routine.
It may not seem fun, or exciting, at first. You may think "I could have watched one more Netflix show then just jumped into bed". I get it. I wanted to establish a proper nighttime routine for years, without any success. The struggle was real. It wasn't until I started implementing a few of the other tips that I started to see success with the routine. It felt like a chore at first, I had to continue to push myself. But now, I thoroughly enjoy my nightly routine! Find a routine that best suits YOU. It doesn't have to be an hour long. I found starting with even a 15 min routine, helps you get into it. Your routine can include things like a warm bath, skin care routine, light stretching, reading, 5 min breathing exercises, meditation and more. Do what's calming for you. I highly suggest guided sleep meditation. At the very least, give it a solid try. A lot of people think of meditation as more than it really needs to be. Meditation doesn't have to be long, you don't have to be good at it, and you are not failing if you cannot clear your mind of thoughts. As an anxiety ridden overthinker, I thought meditation was not something I could ever do. Turns out, I was very wrong. In fact, the worse you are, the better. Each time you have a thought, label it as such, and go back to focusing on your breath, is like doing a bicep curl for your brain! Guided meditation is great for beginners, giving you a voice to focus on. You can download apps with guided sleep meditation, and you'll see they have ones even as short as 2 mins. Headspace is a great meditation app. My favorite that I started with was learning to shut down each muscle in your body for sleep. I was honestly shocked at how well it helped me fall asleep!
If you are struggling with sleep, try these tips! Pick one, start small, make your goals achievable and continue from there. Making small attainable goals and celebrating them, helps build confidence, releases your happy hormones and will lead to greater success!
If you're struggling in you healthy lifestyle journey, check your sleep! You could be doing all the right things with fitness and nutrition, but your sleep habits could be hindering you from reaping all the benefits.
If you know you need help with your sleep, you know the tips to help, but are still struggling taking the steps to get there, you may want to look into a Holistic Health Coach. As a Holistic Health Coach, I not only help with physical fitness and nutrition, but all things hindering you from living a healthy lifestyle. This includes sleep management! As well as time management, which tends to come hand in hand with sleep issues.
Otherwise, you know the benefits, you now have the tips and tricks, go get started on a better you and get yourself some good quality sleep!