Act like an adult but sleep like a baby
SLEEP FEELS SO GOOD. Few things compare to that of getting a good night’s sleep. Even a good ole power nap can make you feel pretty damn invincible.
Oddly enough, I always find a major sleep issue when starting out with a new client. I’ll address each issue individually in hopes that you’ll be able to understand why this may be occurring to you, along with habits to implement for a better night’s sleep.
REMINDER… common ≠ normal
Sleep isn’t a priority | First thing I’ll do is ask why. The responses range from work to kids to simply not knowing the importance of sleep. Regardless of the reason, it’s important that the client understand he/she is capable of making changes; and it’s my job to help them come up with that plan. Most of the time it comes down to poor time management. It doesn’t hurt to sit down and brainstorm on this one. In our society, too much sleep is unheard of. “But I sleep for four hours and I feel fine throughout the day.” Although adaptive, your body is still running off of fumes. The right amount of sleep should have you feeling more than fine. And it’s no surprise that these same people who feel “fine” drink 3-4 cups of a coffee throughout the day.
Takes forever to fall asleep | We’ve all been there before— you’re tucked in bed, ready for sleep, but your thoughts just keep rolling through. You’re hot and you keep asking yourself if you should get up to pee one last time.
The importance of unwinding: You can't expect your mind to shut off and go right to sleep unless you make yourself unwind. Skip the tv, computer, and phone time at least an hour before bed. The blue light rays from these devices drastically shift your circadian rhythm by suppressing melatonin production. We are diurnal animals by nature, which means we have evolved to be most active by day and least active by night. Easy access to lights at night has created for illuminated evenings, throwing off the body's internal clock. Allow yourself to gradually wind down instead. Forgo the large overhead lights and use lamps as needed. Put cellphones on "do not disturb" mode and do your best to keep from mindlessly scrolling. Most people don't read for fun nowadays, so grab a book, learn some new things, and the slumber will come.
Mind racing? : Before bed each night, grab a notebook or agenda (depending on your type of thoughts) and write that stuff down. Busy day tomorrow? Things that you NEED to get done and worry you’ll forget again? Write it down, leave it on the paper, and go to sleep. Knowing that you’ll be reminded by your notes in the morning, your mind is able to shut off.
Too hot? : The body prefers a cooler environmental temperature between (60-67º F) to enter the initial stages of the sleep cycle. Find yourself laying in bed early in the night and you feel like you’re sweating bullets? Your body thermoregulates itself to lose heat in order to reach that optimal temperature and the covers will trap that heat in. Opt for thinner bedding linens or drop the temperature in the house to help yourself out. Your basal temperature will drop by about 2 degrees and then crank back up when your body is ready to wake up.
For those of you who sleep like a baby and are interested in finding a specific number of hours that works best for yourself: That moment when your temperature increases, thus waking you up, can be a good metric to use as your body is telling you it’s done coursing through the sleep cycles.
Once asleep, you wake up throughout the night | Buy a pair of ear plugs. They help like crazy. Earplugs are inexpensive and it’s a quick way to experiment to see if noise is a factor for you. You might find it surprising by how loud and distracting your environment is (even at night).
MOST COMMON-- Waking up around that 3/4 AM early mark: This is a huge sign that your body needs more fuel for this recovery process. Your body uses food, preferably carbohydrates, as fuel by breaking them down and converting them to their most usable form: glucose. If your meal frequency and caloric intake are optimal, your body will store the leftover glucose (fuel) in the liver as a storable form called glycogen. Although motionless while you sleep, this recovery process requires fuel and you are essentially fasting for 6-8 hours during this time. While you are sleeping, your blood sugar drops below the necessary level, and your body releases a series of hormones, adrenaline and glucagon. Glucagon (think: glucose gone) signals for glycogen to be released from the liver and converted to glucose. The average person does not adequately store fuel in the liver, which means the first response to retrieve fuel won’t work. The next step is for the hypothalamus to act on the pituitary to act on the adrenal gland to produce cortisol. This stimulates the breakdown of body tissues, primarily muscle, for fuel. Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, and the continuous release of adrenaline, cause your heart rate to spike and your alertness to increase— two things you DON’T want happening while you’re trying to sleep. How can you take steps to prevent this cascade of events? Start by consuming a small something before you go to bed. No processed “food”. I opt for orange juice, a glass of milk, fruit and yogurt, or even ice cream (after all, it’s just a mixture of carbs, protein, and fat).
The importance of naps | We might do everything to set ourselves up for the best sleep ever, but some nights just seem to inevitably suck. Don't underestimate how much a 30 minute power nap can do for you. If your schedule allows for it, why not? You can take a power nap almost anywhere. Set an alarm and let your mind drift. When that 30 minutes is over, get up, get moving, and roll with that new momentum.
I'm not asking that you place sleep above everything else, but use the benefits of sleep to your advantage. Make recharging your priority! You might be surprised by how much your body thanks you for it!
Wishing you lots of Zzzz's!