Sleep is the ultimate foundation of wellness. It is one of the main pillars for optimal health - physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. Sleep affects how we feel, think, move, eat, and behave. While there is great and justifiable significance placed on nutrition and movement in order to be well, there needs to be a priority placed on sleep. Our bodies, brains, and spirits need sleep to restore our natural balances.
Sleep deprivation can affect us in more ways than we would think. It affects our mood, mental health, our motivation to exercise, our metabolism, memory & cognitive performance, energy levels, hormones, stress levels, melatonin production, immune system, and it is connected to chronic illnesses. The expression “sick and tired” is a very legitimate statement. Our cells are growing, rebuilding, and healing while we sleep, so a good night’s rest is essential for optimal health.
Below are some recommendations to help optimize your sleep:
Limit Use of Electronics: Try to create a habit of limiting your use of electronics and your exposure to bright lights at least one hour before bedtime. Blue light is emitted from your phone, TV, and computer screen and has been shown to affect melatonin production. Try dimming your lights, keeping the brightness level on your devices low, and using blue light blocking glasses. Or, better yet, support your body to shift into parasympathetic mode by choosing a relaxing activity instead like reading, journaling, meditating, or gentle yoga.
Cool Room Temperature: Keeping your bedroom at a cool temperature, ideally below 20C, is recommended. As our body temperature naturally drops at night time, keeping the room cool helps to signal your body to sleep. Sleeping in a cooler climate has been shown to help fight insomnia, disease, combat aging, and improve mood. A crisp and cool temperature also helps to stimulate the production of melatonin.
Dark Room: As darkness helps to signal the release of melatonin, black out curtains, blinds, or a silk eye mask can help to promote a restful night's sleep. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and a precursor to serotonin that helps to heal, grow, and rebuild our cells.
Declutter and Simplify your Bedroom: Creating a “sanctuary” in your bedroom can help ease anxiety and trigger your body into a restful state.
Eliminate Late Night Snacking: This can help your body to relax instead of focusing on digesting and metabolizing food. Especially avoid any spicy foods that may cause indigestion.
Avoid Stimulants: These include alcohol, caffeine, and sugar. As caffeine takes hours to metabolize, a late afternoon latte may negatively affect your quality of sleep.
Supplement Accordingly: Consider a magnesium, melatonin, or herbal supplement. Magnesium is a calming mineral and can be ingested or absorbed via a bath with Epsom salts. Herbs such as chamomile, skull cap, passion flower, and valerian all have soft sedative effects. I recommending consulting with a professional prior to taking these.
Consistent Sleep Schedule: Keeping the same sleep and wake schedule (preferably alongside the rising and setting of the sun) helps to strengthen your circadian rhythm. Natural day light exposure, early exercise, and avoiding late night eating can all help to strengthen your circadian rhythm as well.