By Jennifer Kelleher
In today’s article, I spotlight one of the fundamental foundations for peak physical, mental, and emotional health: Sleep. Studies continue to prove that the right amount of quality sleep is just as important for overall health, longevity, and disease prevention as nutrition and exercise.
Think about a time when you were sleep deprived and see if you can recall how you felt trying to get through the next day. How was your performance? Productivity? Focus? Creativity? Emotional state? Stress level?
A sleep study conducted with snipers revealed that the snipers who got eight hours of sleep shot with 100% accuracy, while those who got seven hours decreased to 95% accuracy, six hours were 70% accurate, and less than six hours shot with 50% accuracy. This shows that even if you are a total expert at something, it is impossible to function optimally when you are tired.
So, whether you suffer from insomnia, have sporadic sleepless nights, or simply want to up your sleep game, the information in this article is meant to introduce you to small steps and bits of information that, when taken into consideration, can lead to significant changes over time.
Our bodies are biological organisms that run in circadian rhythms, and in order to be balanced, we must live in cadence with nature. Just as nature has its routine, humans tend to do a lot better from a health perspective when we go to sleep, wake, and eat at the same times each day. The rising sun signals to our bodies that it is time for us, too, to rise. Going outside in the morning and getting 20 minutes of natural sunlight in your eyes is proven to help regulate your sleep-wake cycle, providing you with the energy and focus you need to get your day started. In terms of bedtime, it is ideal to turn in before or by 10:00 p.m. each night.
As for nutrition, eat your meals at regular times, and avoid eating too much right before bed. You may consider adding complex carbohydrates (for example, sweet potatoes, whole grains, barley, oats, lentils) to your dinner as they encourage a good night’s sleep. Eating enough throughout the day is important for keeping your cortisol (a stress hormone) regulated so that it doesn’t spike and wake you in the middle of the night. Finally, notice your caffeine, sugar, and alcohol intake. Too much caffeine or sugar late in the day can make it difficult to fall asleep or cause you to crash and wake up only hours later. Even if you sleep through the night, alcohol greatly diminishes quality of sleep.
To combat psychological stress, empty your head before bed by scheduling your upcoming day and writing down your worries and “to do’s” before lying down. Keep a pen and pad on your bedside table in case worries creep in after you are tucked in.
Ensure that you are getting enough exercise, as lack of physical exercise creates stress in the body. Also, monitor your screen time, especially before bed. If you are going to look at a screen close to bedtime, try using blue light blocking glasses. Make your bedroom sleep supportive with things like shades on your windows, using an eye mask, and using earplugs or a white noise machine.
Whichever tools you decide to try, I encourage you to make it a ritual! The right essential oils can also be incredibly supportive to your sleep (diffusing them, using them on your body, or even consuming them in a bedtime tea). For more information on essential oils and how they can benefit you, contact me at 917-318-1168.