Do you know what to do before bed to optimize your sleep quality?
Sleep is under-rated by many Americans who try to survive on 4-5 hours per night, and then an endless supply of caffeine to make up for it the next day. Quality sleep is essential for repairing your body, fighting off illness, and being your most productive self.
Think you can game your body’s systems and run on minimal sleep? You’re wrong!
Chronic poor quality sleep, or sleep deprivation, has been linked to a higher prevalence of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and may even be a contributing factor to development of certain types of cancer (breast, prostate).
So what are you doing before bed? Reading a book, or face buried in Facebook?
Last quarter Facebook reported more than 728 million daily users, and more than 1.19 billion monthly users.
Many of the daily users reported waking up and turning to their friendly blue screen as the first thing they do each morning. Almost as many reported scrolling themselves to sleep at night as well.
It was no coincidence that Facebook chose that welcoming blue background on their site. Blue light is what welcomes and awakens our brains in the morning when we open the blinds or step outside. The blue light wavelengths are particularly helpful in making you feel alert, energized, and focused.
What about the blue light being emitted from your computer, tablet, or smart phone? It is just as stimulating, but if you’re staring at it just before bed, it is the wrong time.
This confuses your brain. Should it be awake? Should it be sleeping? If this is your pre-bed routine, this will wreak havoc on your sleep cycle and the quality of sleep you get each night.
What else is affected by poor sleep quality?:
- Recovery from workouts/injury/pain/inflammation
- Impairs the normal circadian rhythm, or the normal cycle of your body
- Disrupts regulation of blood sugar
- Stalls weight/fat loss
- Hormone balance (growth hormone, testosterone, estrogen)
- Energy levels and alertness at the right time of the day
Disrupting this cycle with an irregular sleep pattern, or being a night owl, will also decrease the body’s natural production of melatonin. Preliminary research suggests that chronic disruption of melatonin may be a contributing link to development of certain types of cancer.
The amount of sleep you require varies from person to person. How much do you need?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests that most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, but more than 30% of adults report less than 6 hours.
How do you figure out your “sleep number,” or how many hours you need per night?
The last time you were on vacation, awakening without an alarm clock, you probably discovered what your body needs – that is, if your vacation itinerary was not jam-packed like the rest of your life and you took some days to truly relax.
If you took an average of a few nights where you slept until you naturally woke up, instead of to the buzz of an obnoxious alarm, that would give you a good estimate of the amount of sleep your body requires each night.
After you have figured out your “sleep number” reboot your circadian rhythm with a consistent routine using the following tips:
- Go to bed at the same time, and get up at the same time 7 days per week. (If you stay out late, still get up at the same time, and take a nap if you feel you need one to “catch up”, just keep it to under 30 minutes)
- Curb caffeine intake in the early afternoon.
- Discontinue more stimulating activity such as TV or computer work a minimum of 60 minutes before bed. (No Facebook!)
- Do not watch TV, work on your computer, or read in bed.
- Develop a quiet, pre-bed routine for 45-60 minutes such as reading a book or magazine, taking a bath, etc.
- Maintain a dark, cool bedroom.
- Remove electronic devices and distracting lights from the bedroom.
- If you’re struggling to get into a pattern, some supplemental melatonin may be beneficial to “reboot the sleep cycle”.
- Put your nose in a book rather than a blue screen before bed each night and I promise you will sleep better.
Committed to your health, fitness and sweet dreams.
P.S. Environmental factors, allergies, and sensitivities can be major contributing factors to insomnia and poor sleep quality. I strongly recommend testing your environment if you’re still struggling after the tips above – before turning to sleeping pills.