Creating Healthy Sleep Habits

I wanted to share a few tidbits about establishing healthy sleep habits both to fall asleep, and stay asleep each night. We all know how important sleep is to our overall health and well-being. Enjoy!

Why is sleep so important?

Sleep is incredibly important for body restoration. In adults, muscle growth, protein synthesis, tissue and cell repair all occur during sleep. Hormone production and brain development occur during sleep in infants and children.

One under-presented restorative function of sleep has to do with a neurotransmitter called adenosine. While we’re awake, our neurons fire and cells power us through the day, this process produces adenosine. It builds up throughout the day, leading to a decrease in dopamine. Dopamine helps to keep us alert and focused. So as adenosine levels increase, circulating dopamine levels decrease. This results in you getting sleepy at nighttime. While we sleep, we clear adenosine from the body and start fresh in the morning feeling alert. The more sleep you get, the lower the level of adenosine, and the more alert you’ll feel in the morning. Cool, right?

How many hours should I sleep each night?

The number of hours you should sleep depends on your age, gender, lifestyle, current health, and simply how you feel after a night of sleep. It’s different for everyone, but usually between 7 to 9 hours is what adults should shoot for. The best way to judge if you are getting enough sleep is to pay attention to your energy level throughout the day. If you are sleeping enough and still feel tired or lethargic throughout the day, it’s time to look at your diet or adrenal function.

When it comes to the timing of your night-time snooze, the most restorative window is typically between 11pm and 7am because your circadian rhythm is likely at its lowest point. Your circadian rhythm is influenced by your environment ie: light and dark levels throughout the day. Circadian rhythm controls many of the physical, mental, and behavioral changes that you experience in a 24-hour cycle, including your sleep pattern. Paying attention to your circadian rhythm and going to sleep when you feel drowsy will help you to drop into deep, restorative sleep more rapidly.

How Can I Improve My Sleep Cycle?

  • Your bedroom should be completely dark. This will also increase your natural production of melatonin, which helps us stay asleep. You could also try a sleep mask if a completely dark bedroom is not possible.
  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule (even on the weekend). Having a set bedtime as well as a set wake-up time each morning will help you to fall asleep more easily and stay asleep through the night.
  • Make sure that you bedroom is a cozy, relaxing environment. A high-quality mattress, cozy blankets and cool temperature will help to reduce distractions and help you relax as you drift off to sleep.
  • Try some relaxing essential oils! Lavender is one of our favorites. It may even help you hit deep sleep sooner.
    Turn off tech at least 1 hour before going to bed. This includes computers, phones, television etc. Then, dim the lights and read or meditate to let your body naturally produce melatonin, which is a hormone that we naturally produce when it gets dark out and helps to regulate our sleep/wake cycle.
  • Skip caffeine if possible. Caffeine is a stimulant. That being said, I live for my cup of java in the morning! That said, it is healthy to encourage the body to regulate energy levels without the aid of stimulants or depressants. Try to stop after your morning cup. 🙂
  • Cut back on the alcohol. Now, I do enjoy the occasional glass of red wine, but cap it off at 2 glasses. With any more than that, I find that I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep! Added empty calories aside, I would rather sleep well than have that extra glass of wine. Hands down. Anyone else have this effect?
  • Exercise! Try to fit in at least 20-30 min of moderate exercise everyday. Make sure to do it several hours before bed because exercise is energizing! A great option would be to get your cardio and/or strength training done in the morning and and then add a restorative yoga session later in the afternoon.
  • Clear your mind. We’ve all been there…you lay down in bed and your mind starts to spin. Maybe you’re continuing to try and solve all of the day’s problems, or you are nervously thinking about your to-do list. If you’re tossing and turning after switching the lights off, you may need to hit the reset button on your mind. Here are a few things to try. Before going to bed, journal. Writing down your worries or stressors can help you to get them out of your mind and stop the brain-spin. You could also try a meditation. If you can’t fall asleep after lying in bed for 15 minutes, get up and do something that you find relaxing for a few minutes before returning to bed.

I Fall Asleep, But Then Wake Up With Insomnia

Emotional issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression cause about half of all insomnia cases. But your daytime habits, bedtime routine, and physical health can also play a major role. Insomnia can last for a few days or can become a chronic problem with an underlying psychological or medical issue.

  • Anxiety and depression are two of the most common causes of chronic insomnia.
  • Stress, anger, worry, grief, bipolar disorder, and trauma can also be trigger insomnia.
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications can often affect sleep cycle as well. If you are struggling with chronic insomnia, take inventory and if possible, cut out these medications.

Create a Morning Ritual

The premise behind the daily ritual is to set your intention, goals, and mindset for the day. If you have ever struggled with bouts of depression or feeling uninspired, it can be especially helpful to create a road map or plan for your day to establish forward progress.

Smile at yourself in the mirror for 30 seconds

This is a great way to boost your self esteem.  It can be emotionally uplifting to see a happy you reflected back in the mirror. This works on a number of different levels, but at the core is the ability it gives you to talk directly to the bigger part of yourself, the part that is running in the background and isn’t focused on or stressed by your daily tasks.

Make sure you’re smiling, but it doesn’t have to be a big goofy grin. When you focus on your smile without being critical of any other physical attributes, you’ll be surprised at the positive thoughts this exercise can inspire. Come on, how great does that feel!?!

Meditate for a few minutes

First thing in the morning is a great time to sit and clear your mind for a few minutes. As we’ve discussed in previous newsletters, there is no right or wrong way to meditate, so if you’ve tried specific methods and couldn’t get into it, it could be time to develop your own personal style. Choose a position that you find comfortable, and decide if you’d like music or not. Try different phrases or mantras and see which phrases help to bring you into the present moment. If you find a phrase that resonates with you, stick with it for a few days or weeks. If you need to alter your phrase, do so without judgement.

You don’t need to go into a trance or spend an hour in the lotus position to meditate. You can get the benefits from meditating for just a few minutes. You will start to see a marked improvement in the upward trend your days start to take.

If you are more comfortable with the idea of prayer, substitute time in prayer for this idea of meditation. The goal can be the same, to connect you to the present moment, find gratitude in that moment, and feel peace in not worrying about the future or the past.

Add a gentle stretching routine

You only need to devote a couple of minutes to your stretching routine. This wakes up your nervous system, as well as your musculoskeletal system after a night of sleep. You may find that as you develop this habit, you’ll end up stretching for longer periods of time, and it will naturally expand on its own without the need to force yourself to do it.

Drink a glass of lemon water

Drinking a glass of warm water with lemon first thing in the morning is an excellent way to get your body going.  This will help to get your digestive system ready for the coming meals, alkalize your system, aid in healthy liver function, and improve skin appearance. It is important to note that the citric acid in lemon juice can eat away at the enamel of your teeth. As a fix, you could try drinking your lemon water through a glass straw to bi-pass your teeth. Also, you want the water to be warm, but not hot. Hot water will denature some of the enzymatic properties of the lemon juice.

Journal for 5 minutes

This is one of my favorite ideas. Taking a minute to write down your thoughts in the morning helps to set your intention for the day. You may want to reflect on a dream from the night before if it felt poignant or applicable. Then, set your intention for the day and move forward with today’s goals. This is also a great way to set your weekly or yearly goals and check in with your progress. Starting the day with a clear idea of where you want to go can help to frame your day and prioritize your task list. Intention is the name of the game.

You could also reflect on what you are grateful for today! When you start your day operating from a place of acceptance and gratitude, you set yourself up for a happier, healthier day.

“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” -Steve Jobs

Until Next time!
xo Lara