This past weekend was a holiday party-filled snowy mess in New York. Between over-committing to friends and work, I re-learned a valuable lesson: Sleep and self-love come first. This is especially true this season. Fall & Winter are times for us to go inward. Nature gets it: trees shed their leaves & animals hibernate. But, we humans decide to do just the opposite. We wear sparkly things, go to parties, get home at 2 am, and then do it all again.
Do I expect you to sit at home and hibernate?
But I do think the often-debated topic of sleep deserves revisiting. Today, let’s look at why we really need more sleep and talk about
5 realistic things you can do to get quality sleep tonight!
There are a TON of reasons we need more sleep than we're getting. I’ll leave it to the Bigwigs at Harvard Medical School to give you the details, but here are a few of the ones we often forget:
1. Staying up all night to cram for a test or presentation won’t do you any favors. Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory. In studies, people who slept after learning performed better when tested.
2. Chronic sleep deprivation (under 7-8 hours on a regular basis) alters our hormone levels, telling our bodies to store carbs and slow our metabolism. i.e. Sleep more, weigh less.
3. Take it from me (and anyone who’s ever met me) that sleep loss leads to irritability, impatience, and an inability to focus. So maybe staying up to be productive isn’t so productive after all?!
What to do about it:
1. Shut it down. Put down your cellphone and turn off your computer (after you finish reading this, of course!) White and blue lights disrupt your sleep cycle by tricking your brain into thinking it’s actually daytime. Make a pact with yourself that after 10 pm, you’ll live like the Amish.
2. Cover your windows. Not only will curtains or blinds block artificial street lights, but you’ll save on heating & cooling costs. Or, you can always use a sleep mask!
3. Keep it cool. As much as I hate the cold, I keep my apartment cool at night to lower my body temperature which leads to restful sleep. The ideal temperature? 65-70 degrees Farenheit.
4. Create a ritual. A self-care ritual at bed that you do regularly will signal your brain that it’s time for sleep. Consistency is key as is doing it around the same time each night. So no matter what it looks like (10 minutes of reading, meditation, or a bath) your actions will tell your brain that it’s time for sleep.
5. Slow it down. I empathize with people who suffer from racing thoughts at night. If you expect to go from an active day to restful sleep without a mental transition, you’re in for a sleepless night. And, no, TV time is not downtime. Your mind and body assume you’re a part of whatever show you’re watching. Plus, the light is simply resetting your suprachiasmatic nucleus (big word!) and assuming it’s daytime. Here's my advice: try a few yogic breathing exercises, a gratitude list, meditation, or some simple restorative yoga poses.
Try these tips and get restful sleep tonight. Your brain and body will thank you!
Got sleep woes? Let me know! Try these 5 tips and share your experience in the Comments section below!