Sleep is such an important topic that many of us are struggling with. And lack of sleep as well as low quality of sleep has many negative consequences for our long-term health … and our short-term mood and focus.
Let’s take some time to look at why sleep is so important – and then start to explore areas we can look at to support our sleep.
Key insights to consider:
What are key insights and considerations to be aware of? Why is sleep so crucial for our health?
1. Sleep is important for everything
Okay, that is a bit general, I admit – but sleep impacts your health and well-being in the most profound ways.
Hormone Health? Yes. Immune System? For sure. Metabolism. Yup. General Recovery which impacts every bodily system. Yes.
So – living a life of not getting enough sleep and making it work somehow is going to catch up with you sooner or later, unfortunately.
This whole idea of wearing stress, exhaustion and lack of sleep as a badge of honour: totally and absolutely OUT. Let’s move on from this!
2. Good sleep gets harder to maintain as we age
Once we start having kids, grown-up responsibilities and/or issues with hormones, blood sugar, pain, stress or any mental impairments – the sleep that used to be such an easy thing to get and maintain, is so much harder to actually have. And it gets even more important to support our health – so we need to dial in our habits around sleep to make sure we get enough of it!
3. Lack of sleep fuels chronic inflammation
Chronic inflammation has been shown to be implicated in chronic disease. If you want to age healthily, thrive and keep on thriving – chronic inflammation is something you need to learn how to manage. Main influencing factors are nutrition, movement and different lifestyle factors – and sleep and stress are key ones to be aware of. Sleep, stress management and proper recovery are KEY to long-term health and happiness.
Do I have your attention? If not – let me throw in that lack of sleep also makes us fat and grumpy!
How? We usually reach to sugary foods and more crap to keep us awake. And that doesn’t only lead to even less energy – but also makes us fat and ruins our gut health.
What simple habits support my sleep?
So – what are we going to do about this? How can you support your sleep with simple shifts, routines, holistic healthy habits that support good sleep? As always, one size does not fit all and the details will be most impactful and lasting if individually tailored to your needs and your live!!!
BUT – here are a few key areas to look at, be aware of and explore:
1. Bed-time routines
Bedtime routines don’t only work for little kids – they work wonders for all of us! Having rituals with regards to time (sleep research is clear on this one: a relatively set bed time and wake up time works best for all (if possible!) to integrate!), locations and calming and unwinding activities to engage in before bed is ideal.
Ideal sleep duration for most grown ups is somewhere between 7 and 9 hours. Many don’t get that and many of us are not even trying because we still prioritize business over rest and recovery. Let’s shift our mindset towards recognizing the importance and priority of sleep – so that we feel better, take care of our long-term health AND can get more done in less time!
2. Sleep-supporting behaviours
One of the most important call outs: staying away from screens, ideally 1-2 hours before bed supports healthy melatonin production and supports you in engaging in relaxing bedtime routines like reading, journaling, meditating etc. (…if screen absolutely can’t be avoided and falling asleep is an issue, try blue light blocking glasses).
Movement and exercise. I know I hammer home the health benefits and the positive side effects of exercise all day every day – and one I don’t mention enough is this: Moving your body plenty during the day, getting fresh air and natural light (especially in the morning) and being active promotes good sleep! You will be more tired and more balanced overall (you were made to move and then rest and then move etc) – which improves your sleep.
This actually becomes extremely obvious during lock-downs and more time spent at home. Many people move less and don’t sleep well at all with that.
Make sure to get outside, expose yourself to natural light (especially in the morning) – and move.
3. Sleep-disrupting and -promoting foods
Certain foods can impact sleep – and that is usually individually stronger or weaker – depending on YOUR body, genetics and metabolism – but here are a few foods to look at if sleep is an issue:
SLEEP-DISRUPTING FOODS: coffee/caffeine, anything high sugar!, dark chocolate, spicy foods, aged cheese – and – important topic: alcohol!
If sleep is disrupted, consider moving timing and amount of these foods.
SLEEP-SUPPORTING FOODS: sleep-supporting teas like chamomile, pistachios (high in vitamin B6 and melatonin), high magnesium foods (spinach, beans, almonds….), eggs, kiwi…
If sleep needs support, consider integrating these foods/teas close to bedtime. A protein-rich snack close to bedtime helps you avoid sleep interruption due to blood sugar dips – opting for a handful of nuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds works great for many! (and yes, as I see this issue a lot – allow me this remark: this is where potential intermittent fasting plans with no dinner might not work for some of us! At all).
Side note: a good magnesium supplement close to bedtime works wonders for many as well.
4. Sleep-enhancing environment
Sleep is best supported when the environment is dark, and has no electronic disruptions (like stand by lights, electric alarm clocks etc). Keeping the cellphone away from your bedroom is good for many reasons (one of them being having no distraction that sucks you in should you wake up in the night). Quiet is good – if noise is an issue, white noise can support. The optimal temperature for a bedroom is cooler: 15-19 degrees Celsius/ approx 60-67 F: many bedrooms are way too warm for a high quality sleep! Lower your thermostat, my friends!
High-quality mattress (ideally non toxic/ no fire retardant chemicals) and a neck supportive pillow, adjusted to your sleep position. Natural materials that you feel comfortable in are best.
No screen close to bed can only be repeated here, again…
As always, this is a high level blog post to get you started on considering what might support – if you need more info and would like to discuss what is relevant for YOU – please be in touch.
And share in the comments on Instagram what works for you!
P.S: I really like listening to Podcasts recently – easy way to learn and inform myself (as I am always trying to do) while doing other stuff. Multi-tasking in a way that feels right…anyway – the Podcast I was listening to a neuroscientist I admire – and he was talking about a recent study that revealed the impact of screen time between 11pm and 4am onto our dopamine levels – basically resulting in us making ourselves depressed if we routinely expose ourselves to screen between these times. Heavy, huh?
Especially if you look teenagers and the pandemic… and people in general and the pandemic – anyway – this is a long winded way to support the importance of lots of sleep SLEEP. And how staying away from screens around bedtime is smart!