We CAN Do Better!
Better sleep… OKAY. We have heard it all before! From grandma in grade school to your doctor now. ¨You need to get more sleep!¨ ¨More rest!¨ ¨Slow Down!¨ Something like that.
As I write this at 1AM, I think to myself… How many of us ACTUALLY do it. We might decide to take a break or a vacation, but how many of us ACTUALLY adopt a REGULAR pattern of getting GOOD SLEEP.
¨Sleep is for those who are BROKE.¨ – 50 Cent
I think it’s difficult to do because…lets face it. How much is sleep really going to help check things off of our To-Do-List? Now, I am not saying that we should always choose sleep over our To-Do-List. Especially, when you have some important goals and time is of the essence.
But what I AM saying is that the health benefits (not to mention aging benefits!) of sleep beg us to re-evaluate the value of every task on our To-Do-List. Is everything you are doing on a daily basis necessary? Every single thing? Is every activity you’re involved in adding more to our life than a healthy body can? If the answer is no, then you know the first steps to take. But if the answer is yes, there ARE still things you can do to get BETTER sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep. Good sleep is defined as reaching all five stages of sleep, the final being REM (Rapid Eye Movement). And the only way to reach all of these stages is through uninterrupted sleep. The more cycles you complete, the better. The average time it takes a person to reach the final REM stage is 90 minutes. So it is not just about how much sleep you get, but it is the amount of uninterrupted sleep.
In fact, there are three different factors involved in getting the most out of the sleeping hours that you do have: physical, mental, and environmental.
- The body craves regularity. So, schedule your sleep and rest times. They call it a ¨body clock¨ for a reason.
- We always think about going to bed at the same time. But experts say waking up at the same time is just as important to maintaining the body’s circadian rhythms. Try setting your alarm clock to wake you up in between sleep cycles. Have no clue how to do that? They have an app for that, of course! Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock App
- Stress, anxiety, and depression are the most common reasons for insomnia. Exercise is proven to lift moods and reduce stress for better sleep.
- Support melatonin production by eating good food. Again, a healthy lifestyle means healthy performance of the body. The highest levels of melatonin are found in fruits vegetables, grains, nuts and seed. Tryptophan-rich foods also trigger the production of melatonin. Eating melatonin-rich foods are great, but a healthy diet in general will give ALL of your systems the support they need to support your overall health.
- Avoid caffeine close to bedtime, but note that caffeine can stay in the system for up to 12 hours!!!
- Care for your other health problems that may affect your sleep such as breathing problems, back problems, digestive issues, etc. Medications can also be the cause of insomnia.
- Stress, anxiety, and depression are the most common reasons for insomnia, leaving you with racing thoughts that can keep you up at night. Find outlets to deal with these emotions first. Exercise, laughter, etc.
- Slow things down before you go to sleep. Your brain is a machine. Think about it. The most impressive machine on the planet. All machines take a second to cool down. You don’t just go from 100 mph to 0 mph. The more you are on your phone and engage in social media, for example, the more your brain is sorting and filtering through information. I know it is easier said than done, but actually TRY putting your phone down. You give your brain time to get going in the morning, but you don’t expect it to need time to wind down? We definitely don’t expect that from our kids. And don’t forget, your brain and body never truly get a break, they are always working. Even more reason to make sure you get proper rest!
- Swap before-bedtime-activities with activities that are relaxing. Activities that will have your mind focus on simple things. Examples: Reading a story book to the kids, the warmth of a bath, spiritual time, listening to soft music, intimacy, etc. Doing your taxes, or balancing your checkbook… may be a little too stimulating for the moments before bed.
- Sunlight exposes the body to 10 times more LUX (measurement of light intensity) than artificial light. Only sunlight can trigger the body to produce melatonin the way nature intended it.
- Support your melatonin production through limiting your exposure to artificial light in the hours leading to bedtime.
- Studies show cool environments are optimal for sleep! In fact, research and experts say somewhere around 65 degrees is the optimal temperature… Brrr
Better sleep means more efficient and productive minds. While it is hard to get the adults in our lives to change habits, we owe it to our little ones to give them the best chance of success for learning and growing. Know what the research suggests for your children. I think we all deserve to enjoy the emotional and behavioral benefits of having a well-rested family… don’t you think? Happy families get good rest!
As for those of you with newborns and young children… the experts don’t have much for us! The best advice out there is to focus on improving your feeding times at night. Share the duties at night, if you can. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many times, problems with sleep develop during this time and linger. So, be sure to address any sleep disorders that may develop as soon as possible.
So in honor of Better Sleep Month, I urge you to prioritize sleep for your family. Still, life brings on different circumstances. So, even if you can’t get a good night’s sleep for one reason or another, you can at least start getting BETTER sleep right now.
Guest Contributor Winter is a new stay-at-home Mom and USF Alumni! While Tampa is considered home, but her little family lives abroad several months out of the year thanks to her husband’s career. This on-the-go lifestyle has made living mindfully her number #1 priority. While taking advantage of this opportunity to travel as a family, Winter’s goal is to be financially independent. She loves writing and she loves all things active, all things outdoors, and all things health & fitness. Winter holds a BA in Exercise Science from the University of South Florida. Follow her and watch for her new ventures @AbroadIsLife on Instagram and Twitter.