There is but one thing that makes me a happier, patient, balanced person, committed to my goals and my personal rules, and the tasks at hand. This thing makes me a better mom, wife, daughter and working woman. This one thing ensures I eat right, get enough exercise and stay on track, working efficiently throughout the day. Can you guess what it is?
It’s sleep. There is no question that I don’t always get enough. And it is clear when I don’t. I am less productive, less patient, more irritable, less inclined to exercise and definitely more inclined to eat junk. The thing about sleep is we tend to discount the need for enough. But there are serious consequences of sleep deprivation that go beyond feeling cranky. Chronic sleep deprivation can impact our health in profound ways, complicating diabetes, heart disease, cancers, depression and even dementia. Chronic sleep deprivation and disturbance can cause weight gain as well. If you are cutting into your sleep to get up early to hit the gym, your efforts may be in vain. If you aren’t getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night, your early morning exercise may not be benefiting your weight loss and fitness strategies. In fact it may be hindering your efforts.
There are countless studies on the benefits of sleep and the consequences of sleep deprivation. Many of these studies re-surfaced more recently when Industrial wind turbines, built in sizes larger than ever before began to be installed too close to homes. People were, as it turned out, suffering from low-frequency sound in their homes, caused by the turbines’ low frequency sound or vibration, inaudible to the human ear, but affecting the human body profoundly. People exposed to this “infrasound” were repeatedly woken throughout the night, to a semi-conscious state, by fluctuating low frequency turbine noise. Over time, these affected people, who didn’t realize their sleep was repeatedly disturbed through the night, experienced signs of sleep deprivation: they found they were chronically tired, they suffered from weight gain, heart palpitations and arrhythmia, tinnitus, chronic headaches, trouble concentrating and low mood.
Research continues with the study of sleep disorders and weight gain. Weight gain can lead to sleep apnea, producing more sleep disturbance and further weight gain. So the question is, how can you ensure you improve the quality of your sleep and the optimal sleep time, to allow for full, happy, productive days? Well, when I started waking at 4 am every night, and couldn’t get back to sleep, I had to do some investigating. I can tell you these practices have worked for me. Maybe you would like to try some of these strategies. Here are my strategies for a great night’s sleep:
- I make sure there are no electronics in my room. I don’t take my phone up to the bedroom. Ever. Looking at your phone or iPad at night lowers melatonin levels, shortens REM sleep cycles, and delays circadian rhythms. The blue light from many of these devices lowers melatonin levels and tells our body to stay awake.
- Eat raspberries or gogi berries: These berries are known to be a great source of dietary melatonin which is our sleep hormone.
- Kiwi fruit: Kiwi has shown to improve sleep quality and be an effective tool in overcoming insomnia. Studies showing the effectiveness of kiwi implemented two kiwi, about 2 hours before bed.
- Keep hot baths under 15 minutes long. While hydrotherapy is a great way to calm us and make us sleepy, being in the tub for extended periods of time will actually stimulate and invigorate. In short, a long bath, beyond 15 minutes will make it harder to get to sleep.
- Limit caffeine to the early part of the day. I make it a rule not to have any caffeine 10 hours before bed time.
- Find and herbal tea you like and make it a part of an evening ritual. My favourite is one by a company called Flora”. Its called Echinacea-Elderberry with Cranberry and Rooibos.
- Read a book with real pages. Reading is a great part of a bedtime routine. This is why we tell our children a bed-time story! Because it is so effective in getting them to sleep.
- Use and repeat affirmations to get back to sleep when you wake at an ungodly hour. I found that telling myself over and over that I was going back to sleep now, and that my body was working perfectly, kept my mind from spinning and soothed me back to sleep.
- Get regular excercise!
- Avoid alcohol, which disrupts REM sleep and causes waking in the night.
- Last but not least, Read Arianna Huffington’s book called “The Sleep Revolution”. I love her suggestion of reserving the closing scene of your day for a moment of gratitude. In this way she explains, we focus on the good, and not on the things that stress us out, that may whirl around in our brains during the night!
So, Remember that a good night’s sleep is an essential part of your success with nutrition, dietary choices, fitness and lifestyle modifications for a happier, healthier you. And that is why I have included it here.
Hope that helps!