IMAGINE: You’ve woken up in the morning, it’s the weekday and you feel exhilarated. You’re energized and focused; you are ready to take on whatever the day brings to you.
Imagine still… If those great mornings add up, you could soon be shouting out that you’re living your best life!
In this article, I’ll list the top 10 reasons why you need sleep including metabolism, cardiovascular disease, weight gain, skin aging, sex drive, athletic performance, sickness, early death, and motivation. I will also discuss 6 ways to achieve it which includes: mindfulness, journaling, healthy foods, light exposure, temperature, and environment
How I live my best life because of great sleep!
My sleep habits rank among the highest of importance in my day to day health. If I do not get good, quality sleep for one night my whole day is off. If I don’t get good, quality sleep for a week my relationships suffer and my health begins to deteriorate. After only two weeks without quality sleep, my body already shows signs that it’s withering and soon I will crash both physically and mentally.
Can you relate?
When I’m well rested, I am clear headed. Which helps me make better decisions, faster. My emotions are stable and I feel less bloated. I don’t want to chow down on every cookie or carb loaded meal that I can get into my mouth. I could go on and on. I’m simply a better person to myself and to those around me. And this is a big deal considering that the chronic pain and fibromyalgia that I live with can truly kick my rear end if I don’t sleep well.
In the event that sleep has not been a priority in your life, might I suggest a list of reasons why sleep should be a priority in your life?
Top 10: Reasons to sleep well
- Cardiovascular disease
- Weight gain
- Skin aging
- Sex drive decreases
- Decreased athletic performance
- Early death
The above list looks daunting, scary even. I once thought that sleep was what it was and I could not make it happen. I felt powerless over it. I would lay in bed for hours unable to turn off my brain, settle in and achieve a good night’s rest. Or, I would ignore sleep, it was an inconvenience and I had dragons to slay. No time for sleep! If you feel helpless about your sleep, don’t fear, below is my list of things that you can change to get better sleep. You’re not helpless, you have the power to do these things. The above top 10 reasons for creating a great routine for better sleep is the perfect motivation to start now.
Best ways for better sleep without pharmaceuticals
- Mindfulness: Instead of lying in bed expecting sleep to come, become an active participant in your sleep habits. Create a space of time that allows you to calm your thoughts and emotions. Acknowledge feelings and how your body is feeling, without judgment. Taking the time to assess the vessel that you live in and give it some acknowledgment can help you relax. (Gale 2019) This takes some practice and there are even some great sleep talk-down podcasts and meditations available in a variety of formats. I suggest Sleep Cove podcast.When I listen to it I fall asleep within 5 minutes. https://www.sleepcove.com (I have no affiliation with Sleep Cove, I simply love the podcast)
- Journal: If something is pressing or comes up that you keep thinking about. Write it down. Keep a journal beside the bed just so it can hold those thoughts instead of forcing your brain to do it. Journal in the middle of the night if the thoughts creep in at 2 a.m. They’ll be there in the morning to worry over, but for the time being, sleep is more important than trying to remember to take your car in for an oil change.
- Healthy foods help you sleep better. Yes, you should stay away from caffeine and sweets before bedtime but did you know that your meal plan (or non-plan) may just be preventing you from sleeping well? The hormone, cortisol is quite responsive to what foods you eat among other things. More specifically High Glycemic foods send your cortisol levels skyward. “Today’s Dietitian” recommends a low inflammatory, low glycemic diet along with regular exercise and probiotics (if necessitated), for better sleep and overall health. (Aronson 2009)
- Light exposure at night: Of all the things that you should wear to bed, the sleeping mask is one of the most important. Your bright red alarm clock, Tinker Bell night light and the hall light seeping underneath your door are killing your efforts to sleep deeply. If you decide to skip every one of these suggestions to get better sleep, don’t skip the easiest and honestly, the cutest suggestion so far. The production of melatonin (a sleep hormone) is limited if our eyes, even if closed, are exposed to light. Our bodies produce melatonin when the sun goes down (naturally or as you turn the lamps off at night) and during sleep. It stops producing melatonin once your eyes are exposed to the morning light. (Vann 2013) Richard Hansler, Ph.D., author of ““Great Sleep! Reduce Cancer!”, states that melatonin is important for a properly functioning body. Light, specifically, blue wavelengths suppress melatonin production and therefore, reduces the quality of sleep that we have. It is important to state that blue light emitted by LED’s are not always bad, it’s the timing of the light that affects sleep the most. (Duff 2011)
- Temperature: Your body naturally cools itself when it’s time for sleep. The process of regulating your body temperature is called thermoregulation. Your body cools itself just before sleep so it does not have to use much energy. Humans are meant to sleep at night when it’s cool and are not naturally nocturnal beings. Increased room temperature prompts your body to cool itself, therefore, it must work harder which will keep you awake. Rising body temperatures communicates to your biological clock that it must be awake and alert, ready for activity. (Team 2018) The suggested bedroom temperature should be between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit according to Sleep.org. Keep in mind that too many blankets or sheets that don’t breathe may disrupt your body temperature. If I don’t want to take off my layers of blankets and I get too hot or I find that I’m lying awake for no reason, I take one foot out from beneath the covers. Your feet help to regulate your body temperature and just one cool foot will help reduce the warmth of your entire body. Exposing your foot or feet helps your body cool and you will fall asleep soon after you release just one tootsie (foot). Science ABC produced a humorous article about how feet regulate your body temperatures. https://www.scienceabc.com/humans/why-sleeping-with-feet-outside-the-covers-helps-you-sleep-better.html
- Environment (noise, clutter, bed): I’m guilty of letting the clutter pile up in my bedroom. I’m typically not in there during waking hours so the mess just stays out of sight and out of mind until it’s time to go to bed. Admittedly, by the time I’m ready for bed, I am so exhausted that the mess is not something that I want to deal with. The theory of having a clean and tidy bedroom is not too far-fetched when you think about how your brain filters problems without your conscious realizing it. Our brain needs organization and when it perceives all the potential time, energy and focus that it will take to clean up the mess, it internalizes the “problem” which then results in fitful or restless sleep. You are basically going to bed with an anxious mind. (How A Messy Bedroom Affects Sleep n.d.) Environment does not only consist of what is inside the bedroom but outside as well. Do you have street noise filtering into your bedroom? Are there noises in your bedroom that you are unconscious of? Take a listen when you go into your bedroom at night. You might hear gonging clocks, air conditioners turning on and off, sirens, noisy neighbors, cars passing, kids playing video games… It sounds chaotic and you want to make it all stop! Reality is, that you can’t make it all stop. Your next best option is white noise. There are hundreds of ways to achieve a sound that numbs out the rest of the world from a plain old box fan to fancy gadgets or apps on your phone. Pick one that soothes you. I enjoy a simple fan that blocks out all the random noises.
Achieving your best life starts and stops in the bedroom. Without this basic-necessities of life, we create havoc in our body and mind. If you want to focus better, play better, relax better, and have more energy a good night’s rest is the way to begin. You’re not doing yourself any favors by forgoing sleep. In fact, avoiding it will make you less productive, less sharp, and even more temperamental. Think of all the wonderful things that you can do if you simply had more energy, focus and drive to get things done. Living your best life has a lot to do with feeling your best!
I hope that you get a chance to check out some of the many articles that I referenced in this piece. For brevity, I did not include information that is also pertinent to your health and even athletic performance. These articles are referenced in the “References” section below.
I also hope that you get a chance to check out this sleep mask for better sleep. I don’t have this specific mask. I bought mine from Brookstone 15 years ago and it desperately needs to be replaced. The one below is a better version of the one that I have now. Your purchase helps to support the costs of this site! If you have a sleep mask or find one that you like better, let me know! Thank you so much for reading and I hope that the suggestions above help you get a better night’s rest.
n.d. “AMERICAN FRIENDS OF TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY,” “Lack of Sleep Tampers With Your Emotions”, https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-12/afot-los120815.php
Aronson, Dina, MS, RD, 2009, “Cortisol – Its Role in Stress, Inflammation and Indications for Diet Therapy” Vol. 11 No. 11 P. 38., Accessed November 2019. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/111609p38.shtml
Berkson, Devaki Lindsey, “New Whys and Ways to Sleep Better, Especially After 40” Gale Health and Wellness,Townsend Newsletter, 2019, Accessed November 2019, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A584328431/HWRC?u=pwpls_remote&sid=HWRC&xid=86c4cfc8
Duff, Katherine, 2011, “Control Blue Light for Better Sleep”, Gale Health and Wellness, Issue 340 Townsend Letter. November. Accessed November 2019, https://go.gale.com/ps/i.do?p=HWRC&u=pwpls_remote&id=GALE%7CA271811636&v=2.1&it=r&sid=HWRC&asid=ff6adf34.
Gale, 2019, “Soften Into Better Sleep: Practiced regularly, these mindfulness methods can help you ease into nightly slumber drug free.”, June, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A586904161/HWRC?u=pwpls_remote&sid=HWRC&xid=0639b099.
Harding, Pauline N., MD., “Eat Your Way to Better Sleep”, http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/eat-your-way-better-sleep
n.d., “How A Messy Bedroom Affects Sleep”, The Sleep Council, Accessed December 2019, https://sleepcouncil.org.uk/sleep-hub/messy-bedroom/
Jacoby, Zoldan, Rachel, “This is What Actually Happens to Your Body When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep”, https://www.allure.com/story/sleep-deprivation-side-effects
Mateljan, George,“What is the Glycemic Index?”, http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=faq&dbid=32
n.d., Sleep.org, “The Ideal Temperature for Sleep”, https://www.sleep.org/articles/temperature-for-sleep/
Team, Tomorrow, “Thermoregulation – Here’s Why Your Temperature Drops While Sleeping”, Tomorrow Magazine,Accessed November 2019, https://www.tomorrowsleep.com/thermoregulation
Vann, Madeline R., MPH,. “Too Much LIght: Ruining Not Just Your Sleep But Your Health Too”, Everyday Health, https://www.everydayhealth.com/sleep/too-much-light-ruining-not-just-your-sleep-but-your-health-too.aspx
Vitale, Owens, Hopkins, Malhotra, Int J Sports Med, 2019 Aug;40(8):535-543. doi: 10.1055/a-0905-3103. Epub 2019 Jul 9. . “Pubmed.” “Sleep Hygiene for Optimizing Recovery in Athletes: Review and Recommendations.”, Accessed 2019 December, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/312
Xiao, Qian, “Sleep Duration and Total and Cause-Specific Mortality in a Large US Cohort: Interrelationships With Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior, and Body Mass Index” , https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/180/10/997/2739110
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