How are you sleeping lately?
If you’re like 30% of the population (and I’d argue 90% of parents) then not so good.
And that’s no Bueno.
We recently covered STRESS and how you can begin to overcome its negative effects on your body. The tips are great but one stands out like a sore thumb: Sleep Better and Longer.
It’s a true statement.
Deeper sleep at longer durations will definitely help your body recover from the stress plaguing your mind, body, and soul.
But I can already hear the overwhelming and almost desperate question welling like a chorus in your mind as I type.
“HOW can I sleep better?”
It’s not your fault. Ironically, though we will spend somewhere between 25 and 30% of our entire lives catching Z’s, nobody’s ever taught us how to do it right.
So here you go! The quick and dirty guide to getting better, deeper, and higher quality sleep — Complete with memorable alliteration and all!
(Except for you parents with babies in the house. I’m sorry, I really can’t help you much at the moment. Though these tips will still be moderately helpful, you will remain sleep-deprived until your little bundle of joy stops needing you in the middle of the night. Having been there recently I will simply say – hang in there!)
The 5 C’s of Sleeping Like a Champ
“I don’t need a curfew, I’m an adult!”
Well I’ve got news for you, you never out-grow biology.
One of the most powerful things you can do for your circadian rhythm is to go to bed at a consistent time and wake up at a consistent time.
Like a locomotive that takes a lot of time and energy to change, the mechanism that makes you sleepy (cortisol dropping, melatonin rising, body temperature decreasing, etc…) is a machine that is not very resilient to changes in schedule.
If you miss your bed time even 3 nights per week, you can ruin the rhythm. This can cause you to be WAY more hungry than usual while disrupting your REM and delta-wave sleep cycles (read: deep, important sleep) that restore your brain and body!
Get in bed by 10 and wake up around 6.
Don’t sleep like a chump.
Mind your curfew.
Speaking of the circadian rhythm, can you guess how your body knows it’s time for bed?
Dimming light leading to darkness.
As a diurnal mammal, you were meant to rise and fall with the sun.
However with today’s constant barrage of artificial lights even after dusk, cell phones, television, and street lamps all combat our natural inclination to “wind down” after dark.
What’s worse is such brightness can even impede your ability to fall into deeper, more restorative sleep patterns.
So, as your bed-time approaches, help the process along by turning off the T.V., dimming the lights, covering the window, and curling up with a good book.
Don’t like reading much? That’s fine, journaling about 3 specific things you’re thankful for from the day has been shown to reduce cortisol and slow heart rate!
Don’t sleep like a chump.
Close your curtains.
Did you know your body temperature needs to drop around 2 degrees in order to enter deep sleep?
Well it does.
AND if it gets too cold, it will interrupt your sleep to make you seek warmth.
Picky little bugger, isn’t it?
This means that everyone’s bed room has a “sweet spot” temperature-wise. Not too hot. Not too cold.
And if you’re married, you already know this gets even more complicated than just one picky body – you have your spouse to consider as well.
There’s no perfect temperature I can proscribe here to bring you into dreamy (and marital) bliss.
But if you are currently sleeping like a chump.
Keep it cool.
If you want to sleep like a champ, you are going to have to be pay attention to your carbs before bed.
Carbohydrates (cereal, fruit, cookies, white wine and yes– ice cream) cause your blood sugars to rise rapidly and then fall dramatically.
Why can that hinder your sleep?
But a nasty side effect is that cortisol also wakes you up!
So if you have a serving of ice cream (no, you’re being good…just a bowl of cereal, right?) before bed, then your blood sugar crashes, increases your cortisol, and wakes you up right in the middle of the night!
And here you always thought it was because you had to go to the bathroom, huh?
So if you’re hungry for something after dinner, reach for some protein, fat, and/or fiber instead of the carbs and save yourself the rude awakening in the night.
Don’t sleep like a chump.
Be smart about your carbs.
People always ask, “what can I take to help me sleep better?”
Before I answer that, I always want to ensure the other four items on this list are addressed as supplements should be used to support a healthy lifestyle – not make up for a poor one. (Read more about what to look for in a supplement HERE).
There are 4 I can recommend with confidence.
- L- Theanine. An antioxidant that is naturally occurring in green tea that can help with mental focus and calm the mind. Take this one before bed if you’re someone who’s definitely tired, but when your head hits the pillow, your mind begins racing. L-theanine will quiet a “racey mind” so you can catch some ZZZ’s.
- Pharma GABA. A supplement form of an important neurotransmitter that, among other things, is responsible for helping you reach deeper stages of sleep. Take this one before bed if you have a problem staying asleep. Note that this should only be used short term (2-4 weeks) as too much can build up in the system with anxiety as a side effect.
- Relora. An adaptogen that can buffer the cortisol response to stress. Take this one before bed if you regularly experience stressors near your curfew (kiddos’ night time rituals, evening workouts, etc…) that leave you “wired”. Relora will lower the spike in cortisol over time (4-6 weeks) so that you can get back to a relaxed night time state.
- Caffeine. The “go get em” drug that we overconsume as a population. It’s on this list to warn you not to consume it after 2pm. In many bodies, the cortisol-spiking effects of caffeine can take up to 8 hours to dissipate which means that caffeine consumed later in the day for your pick-me-up could be ruining your night time shut-eye.
Don’t be a chump
Know your capsules.
Sleep Like A Champ
Sleep is the most important factor in whether your body wins the quest to “Tame the Stress Monster”.
But up until now, I bet no one has taught you how!
Remember the five C’s.
Curfew, Curtains, Cool, Carbs, and Capsules. Put these simple things to work for you and watch as your dreams start to come true (pun intended.)
Don’t be a chump.
Sleep like a Champ!
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This information is meant to be actionable information to promote health and well-being and not to be used to diagnose or treat medical symptoms or conditions.