Being able to fall asleep when tired, sleep throughout the night, and wake up well rested has become increasingly difficult. But why? The National Sleep Foundation states, "One of the primary causes of excessive sleepiness among Americans is self-imposed sleep deprivation." This includes those nights you stay up to watch your favorite show, or go out with friends for dinner and drinks, or even spending too much time looking at your electronics before falling asleep. Read below to learn why sleep is so important and the first steps you should take to have better sleep hygiene!
Why is sleeping so important:
- Weight management: People who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to have bigger appetites due to the fact that their leptin levels (leptin is an appetite-regulating hormone) fall, promoting appetite increase.
- Disease prevention: According to the International Classifications of Sleep Disorders, shift workers are at increased risk for a variety of chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular and gastrointestinal diseases.
- Alzheimers prevention: The brain’s unique method of waste removal.. is highly active during sleep, clearing away toxins responsible for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders. -From the University of Rochester Center for Translational Neuromedicine
- Long-term health: Growth hormone, or the “anti-aging” hormone, is secreted during sleep, which stimulates tissue regeneration, liver cleansing, muscle building, break down of fat stores and normalization of blood sugar.
- Psycho-social-emotional (PSE): Sleep disorders, particularly insomnia, can precede and predispose to psychiatric disorders and can exacerbate psychiatric disorders. (PMID: 251348760)
- Maintain a schedule: Go to bed and wake at consistent times. This helps regulate your catecholamines, which are responsible for telling your body when it is tired and when it is time to be awake.
- Create a proper sleeping environment: Make sure your room is cool and comfortable. Remove electronics from the bedroom. People who are sensitive to electromagnetic fields (EMF) can have disturbed sleep. Avoid using your cell phone and TV's at night. These emit "blue light" which increases endogenous cortisol and keeps you awake.
- Create a bed time ritual: Follow a similar routine each night before going to bed. Do any necessary work- emails, checking social media, etc.- BEFORE starting your bedtime routine. An example of a bed time ritual:
- Make a cup of sleepy-time tea 1 hour before bed.
- Turn off all major lights and electronics and lock up your home.
- Change into your pajamas.
- Brush teeth in dim lighting.
- Go to bed.
- Exercise regularly: In general, exercising regularly makes it easier to fall asleep and contributes to sounder sleep. However, exercising sporadically or right before going to bed will make falling asleep more difficult.
- Regulate blood sugar: If you wake during the night, try having a small protein snack before bed. Focus on whole food protein sources such as a piece of turkey, a handful of nuts, a spoon full of nut butter, etc.
- Read the most boring book you own: Ever wonder why you couldn't stay away to study when you were in school? It was boring! Find a magazine, book, newspaper, or anything you would never chose to read, and read part of it. Make sure you don't find it interesting, otherwise it will wake you right up!
- Avoid caffeine after 1 pm: Caffeine increases the catecholamines you need to stay awake. You may not have the jittery feeling of being caffeinated, but your body is still reacting to any caffeine intake internally and will keep you awake.
Have you tried everything and still have trouble falling and staying asleep?
- Contact your Naturopath to discuss different options available to aid in proper sleeping habits. There are many natural ways to help with sleep, including: homeopathy, botanical medicine, hydrotherapy, counseling, biofeedback, acupuncture, and more!
- Certain lab testing may also be beneficial for you. For instance, checking your neurotransmitter levels, doing a sleep study, and/or doing blood work.