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.