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Respect Your Sleep!

Information and tips to help you get the rest you need.


I don’t know about you, but if a good night’s sleep could be weighed, it would be worth its weight in gold! So, respect your sleep!


Do you struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep, sleep deeply, or get interrupted during sleep? If so, you are not alone.


As kids, we fought against sleep. As teenagers, we got too much of it and didn’t appreciate it. As adults, we’d do anything to get some quality sleep! If you’re one of the lucky ones (and you know who you are), and get great sleep, you are my hero.


As we get older, we learn the hard way that maintaining adequate amounts of quality sleep is essential to optimal health and well-being. It’s not something we think about when we are dancing the night away, burning the midnight oil, or traveling the world. However, it hits us like a truck when you work a lot or travel a lot for work, have a few kids, and try to keep all the balls in the air.


If you’ve been doing everything else right, but are feeling run-down, struggling to focus, or feeling irritable for no clear reason, you may want to look into your sleep patterns. In a fast-paced environment, many people forgo sleep and overextend themselves to catch up on work and other responsibilities. Sound familiar?


Why Good Sleep Matters


We all want to wake up every morning feeling refreshed, focused, and excited to move through our day. That’s where the importance of quality sleep comes in.


So many important things are happening while you sleep. Internal organs rest and recover, tissue repair, muscle growth, and protein synthesis primarily occur during sleep. Hormones that help regulate appetite control, stress, growth, metabolism, and other bodily functions are released. Memory consolidation occurs, allowing for the formation and storage of new memories, which is essential for learning new information.


No wonder a good night’s sleep makes you feel like new! There is a direct connection between sleep and health that helps improve your quality of life. These include:

  • Increased energy to make beneficial lifestyle choices (cooking, exercise, self-care, etc.)

  • Strengthened immune system

  • Heightened alertness, focus, and creativity

  • Improved mood by reducing anxiety, irritability, and mental exhaustion

  • Increased libido (sex drive) Hubba, hubba!


Now for the bad news, if you are sleep deprived, you’re experiencing the “not so pleasant” effects of missing a few zzz’s and the negative effects of sleep deprivation are widely documented.


Weight Gain (Ugh!)


Individuals who don’t get adequate sleep are more likely to gain weight over time. Contributing to this weight gain is an increased amount of calories consumed during the day, particularly high-fat foods consumed later in the evening.


Increased Risk of Chronic Disease (Yikes!)


Your body is more susceptible to stress without a good night’s sleep. The immune system does not function optimally, and inflammatory proteins and blood sugar levels increase in response to lower levels of insulin being released throughout the night. Chronic short sleep duration is also associated with hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.


Decline in Cognitive Function (Huh, wait, what?!)


This should be a sleep “wake up call” for us all! There are measurable changes in brain activity that occur after a period of sleep deprivation. When you do not get a sufficient amount of sleep, your mental performance suffers, impairing your ability to process new information and perform more complicated tasks. This may also impact your overall mood, focus, and high-level cognitive function. Sleep loss has been shown to impair decision making, which may lead you to make choices that you wouldn’t make if rested – this effect may be even more pronounced as we get older.


Increased Anxiety (I just can't deal)


Without sufficient rest, you may have trouble keeping your emotions in check. Increased feelings of irritability, anxiety, sadness, and anger are common. You may even find that you are more vulnerable to unprovoked bouts of laughter or tears.


So, How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?


Everyone requires quality sleep for optimal health and well-being, but the number of hours vary, depending on the individual and age group. Try experimenting with your sleep patterns to find out what works best for you and your specific needs.


Some basic estimates for the amount you need are as follows:

  • 18+ Years = 7 to 9 hours

  • 11-17 Years = 8.5 to 9.5 hours

  • 6-10 Years = 10 to 11 hours

  • 3-5 Years = 11 to 13 hours

  • 1-2 Years = 12 to 14 hours

  • 3-11 Months = 14 to 15 hours

  • 0-2 Months = 12 to 18 hours

Oh, to be a toddler again!


Now that you have some basic estimates for how much sleep you need and why it’s essential, how can you prepare your body to get into that deep, restful state?


Solid Steps Toward Better Sleep


While an honored part of many cultural practices throughout history, sleep has somehow lost value in today’s hectic society. We feel compelled to “do” but forget that we need to rest! As energy constantly bombards us in a variety of forms – light, sound, movement, and information – our bodies’ natural rhythms are disrupted. Our ability to achieve both the quantity and quality of sleep we need is compromised and we are left feeling totally exhausted.


We may reach for stimulants during the day to keep us going but then depend on relaxants to help us wind down at night. This creates a vicious cycle – and an unhealthy dependence – that may lead us to gain weight, lose mental clarity, feel emotionally drained, and eventually diminish our general health.


Fortunately, there are steps we can take to improve our quality of sleep and give ourselves the deserved rest we need to function. Several factors contribute to how well we sleep, including what and when we eat and drink (nutrition), where we sleep (environment), and our energy output during the day (daily rhythms).


Nutrition


What and when you eat affects your body’s natural ability to both energize and rest. As a Health Coach, I know that eating a well-balanced diet promotes greater health, and both when and what we eat affects how we feel. By eating a variety of foods, individuals can help ensure that they are getting the nutrients needed to maintain energy levels throughout the day so that they are not relying on stimulants to stay active. Consider consuming your largest meal in the middle of the day and a lighter meal in the evening to help take full advantage of your body’s natural nighttime repair process.


Keep the following in mind when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep:

  • Eat a variety of foods and limit sugar and caffeine intake.

  • Experiment with light evening meals and crowd out late-night snacking with yoga, journaling, reading, or connecting with a loved one. Digestion requires energy – when a large meal is consumed at night, it interferes with the body’s ability to rest.

  • Avoid late-night beverages. Ingesting liquids right before bed often leads to a dreaded middle-of-the-night bathroom run, which disturbs the sleep cycle and therefore hinders sleep quality.

Environment


Getting a good night’s sleep depends on creating a peaceful bedroom. There are many ways to create a sleep-friendly environment. For instance, you can paint your walls a calming color, use an aromatherapy diffuser, or invest in a new mattress. There are also several easy and low-cost ways to ensure that your bedroom is conducive to deep sleep.


Need help transforming your bedroom into a peaceful rest haven? Try these tips.


Clean out the clutter. The old saying “A cluttered space is a cluttered mind” is so true! When you have lots of clutter in your bedroom (exercise equipment, office work, piles of unfolded laundry, etc.), you often feel the energy of the clutter in the form of stress in your mind. Something as simple as making your bed may help you feel mentally clearer – and we all know how much easier it is to sleep when your mind is still.


Remove all electronics from your room. This is a tough one for most of us! This includes TVs, computers, laptops, cell phones, video games, tablets, e-readers, etc. These devices emit artificial “blue light” that can affect your body’s production of melatonin and, in turn, your quality and quantity of sleep. You may even wish to put your alarm clock under your bed or nightstand so that the light of the clock is not distracting. If you use a cell phone as your alarm clock, put it on airplane mode so you’re not distracted by text messages, emails, or games during the night.


Reduce exposure to light and sound. You might consider investing in thick curtains to keep light out of your room or less-expensive options like an eye mask, headband, or even a scarf wrapped around your eyes. To minimize distracting outside sounds, use a fan (for white noise), earplugs, or noise-canceling headphones. You may even want to roll up a towel to put at the base of your door to not only block out excess light but also reduce any sounds outside your bedroom.


Daily Rhythms


Our bodies take cues from our actions. What we eat, when we eat it, what we do, and when we do it are all part of an intricate system of signals that our brain uses to regulate everything it needs to do for us to thrive and survive. Honoring these rhythms is vital to our well-being.


Here are a Few More Things to Consider When it Comes to Feeling Well-rested:


Create a bedtime routine. Going to bed and waking up at a similar time each day can help the body get into a healthy rhythm.


Experiment with restorative evening activities. Things like meditation, yoga, or being intimate with your significant other may all be considered relaxing activities to help prepare you for bedtime. Hubba, hubba again! 😊


Track your sleep habits. Sleep trackers are wearable devices that typically monitor heart rate, breathing patterns, and movement while you sleep. Exploring your sleep habits can help identify any adjustments to your routine or sleeping environment that are needed. This is not for everyone so if you don’t like to sleep with a wearable device, there are now mattresses that track your sleep quality as well.


Reduce “busy brain” at night. You may find it helpful to keep a journal and pen near your bed. If you think of something, jot it down, knowing that it won’t be forgotten and can be considered in the morning. This is a big one for me. I even write down notes in the dark!


Again, if you’ve been doing everything the right way, but just are not feeling 100%, the missing link to your healthy lifestyle may just be a good night’s sleep. Taking steps toward improving your sleep is essential for optimal health.



Sweet dreams!


Leave a comment, share this post, and get some sleep!


Take care and be well,

Courtney

Man sleeping awkwardly on chair.
Are you getting enough sleep? Make good sleep a priority for your health!




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