This is the time of year when everyone focuses on diet and exercise, but it’s sleep that needs our attention – the importance of sleep is vastly under-rated. When you get enough sleep, you rebuild your body and your mind: sleep releases human growth hormone, essential for staying young; it balances your appetite hormones (ghrelin and leptin), keeping you slender; repairs your DNA; speeds up muscle recovery; preserves your memory; and improves your ability to learn. What’s not to like about sleep! (Meditation does all these things too, so be sure to meditate once you do wake up.)
Even one night of poor sleep can throw you out of whack, making you over-do carbs and sugar the next day. Plus, staying up late causes your immune system to plummet, your blood pressure to rise, and inflammation to increase. Not a pretty picture.
To this day, every animal on the planet sleeps, so clearly sleep is not optional. Here are five steps to good sleep:
Step One: Spend a little time early in the morning, outside, letting your eyes be exposed to the morning light, so your all-important circadian rhythm gets set for the day.
Step Two: Spend a minimum of 15 minutes outside during the day, getting more natural light on your eyeballs, which will reinforce your body’s regular wake/sleep rhythm.
Step Three: Minimize the amount of blue light you are exposed to both during the day and the evening from devices like computer screens, TVs, iPads, and smart phones; blue light blocks the critical melatonin production that you need to sleep properly. Melatonin is generated in your pineal gland when it’s really dark. To prepare for that production, turn off the TV an hour before bedtime and make sure your devices are on “night shift” settings that warm the color of the screens. Check out an app like iristech.co for ways to minimize the amount of blue light you are exposed to from your screens. Or grab a pair of blue light blocking glasses from raoptics.com and be healthy and hip looking all at the same time.
Step Four: Go to bed at about the same time every evening, ideally within 15 minutes of your routine time. I spent many years on the farm, watching all the animals, and saw how well animals do this – always bedding down at the same time every night. Or sleeping standing up, as horses often do.
Step Five: Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible. If you need your phone (on airplane mode, of course) to see the time, choose a red screen for that purpose. Wear an eye mask just in case light is leaking in under the door or around the drapes. Even your skin takes in light, so the darker the room, the better.
Step Six: Enjoy all the benefits of your prep during the day with a blissful night of sleep in a room that is between 60- 65 degrees Fahrenheit/15 – 19 degrees Celsius – your body needs to be in that temperature range in order to continue to produce melatonin and to stay asleep. And, if you wake up too early, simply meditate and chances are, you’ll drop back off to sleep before long. Happy ZZZs!