What if I told you by changing one thing in your life you could reduce stress, improve memory, boost the immune system, maintain weight, improve mood, lower the risk of diabetes, improve heart health, and improve overall athletic performance? Would you believe me? This miracle I speak of isn’t a drug or a supplement. It is your built in recovery system called sleep.
Playing a vital role in both our physical and mental health, sleep may be more important than you realize. Unfortunately our busy society tells us to get more done, and if that means sacrificing sleep then so be it. No big deal right? Wrong. Research continues to show sleep is a key to health, including all those benefits listed above.
Is sleep something you make a priority of? I’ve begun noticing the benefits of making sleep a priority in my own life. Healthy adults need between 7-9 hours a night. Things such as how well you slept the night before, or how much physical and mental stress the body experienced that day alters the amount of sleep needed.
Quality sleep consists of more than just hours in bed; we’re aiming for quality sleep. We cycle through four different stages of sleep through the night; time awake, light sleep, REM sleep and deep sleep. REM is when the brain is repairing itself, and deep sleep is when the body is repairing itself. Deep sleep is also where 95 percent of your body’s daily growth hormone is produced.
As you can see, REM and deep sleep are where the biggest gains are had. Implement these three things into your routine to improve your sleep and overall performance.
- Don’t eat right before bed. Your body will be busy sending all its energy to digestion instead of repairing your muscles. Try to give yourself a couple hours without eating before bed.
- Go easy on the alcohol. Like it or not alcohol, effects our sleep. Depending on your tolerance, try to abstain 3-6 hours before bed.
- Limit (blue) light exposure after dark. Our bodies are meant to naturally sleep when it becomes dark. Watching TV or being on phone right before bed can throw off this natural rhythm. Shut down screen time 2-3 hours prior to bed. Instead, read a fiction book under the soft, warm light of a reading lamp. Look for bulbs rated 2,700 to 3,000 Kelvin
If getting a longer nights sleep just isn’t available to you in this season of life, here is a hack to get quality sleep. Your body can learn to get a better sleep in a shorter amount of time when you get consistent with your sleep. By going to bed and waking at the same time each day, even if it is shorter than the recommended 7-9 hours, this signals the body we are getting ready to go to sleep. The body responds by releasing melatonin, the hormone that helps us fall asleep.
Whichever route you choose, make it a routine and get ready to experience the benefits of a good nights sleep.