Today's topic is pretty boring but oh so important!
Sleep is probably our most essential self care practice because getting enough quality sleep at the right times is necessary to good physical health, mental health, quality of life, and safety.
Unfortunately we do not take our sleep seriously. We allow electronics, excess caffeine, anxiety, workaholism, and even fun times to get in the way of a good night's sleep.
Being sleep deprived is like living our life on credit. We sure can borrow energy from caffeine, adrenaline, and even medications, but sooner or later we'll have to pay this borrowed energy back in the form of emotional instability, illnesses, and sometimes even tragic mistakes.
Sleep is important for:
- Healing, repairing, and detoxifying our organs and blood vessels.
- Keeping our immune system strong enough to fight off viruses, bacteria, and cells that have become dysfunctional.
- Maintaning a healthy balance of the hormones that make us feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin).
- Regulating our insulin, the hormone that controls our blood glucose level.
- Supporting a healthy brain function to form new pathways and remember new information.
- Processing the emotions experienced during the day and remaining emotionally grounded.
- Being focused, making good decisions, and being creative.
Not sleeping enough leads to all kinds of problems:
- A loss of just 1–2 hours of sleep per night affects our ability to function well.
- Increased risk of cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.
- Feeling hungrier than when we're well-rested, which increase our risk of becoming overweight.
- Having trouble fighting common infections.
- Loss of productivity and increased risk of making mistakes - some that could be tragic.
- Having trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling our emotions and behavior, and coping with change.
- Increased risk of suffering from depression.
Here are a few tips to improve our sleep naturally:
- Getting up and going to bed at the same time every day.
- Avoiding caffeine for at least 8 hours before bedtime.
- Being physically active during the day but avoiding vigorous workouts for at least 4 hours before bedtime.
- Only using our bed for sleep and sex.
- Turning off TV and electronics and dimming lights 30 minutes to one hour before the time we want to fall asleep.
- Engaging in a soothing bedtime ritual such as journaling, listening to relaxing music, reading something non-stimulating (from a real book, not a screen), doing some restorative yoga, drinking a cup of herbal tea, etc.
- Sleeping only when feeling sleepy. If we can't fall asleep within 20 minutes, it's best to get up and do something boring until feeling sleepy again.
- How many hours do I sleep for on a regular basis? Do I sleep enough?
- How is the quality of my sleep? Do I fall asleep easily? Do I wake up in the middle of the night? Do I dream? Do I feel rested in the morning?
- What does my evening routine looks like?
- What's my use of caffeine, alcohol, and sleeping aids?
- If there were one thing I could do to improve my sleep, what would it be?