Sleep is one of the most important factors to a healthy lifestyle. Lack of sleep can lead to increased blood pressure, diabetes / increased glucose levels, obesity, mental conditions such as depression and anxiety, pain, swelling, and chronic inflammation. Sleep is our brain’s way of resetting and detoxifying our bodies. The more research done on sleep, the more we find how incredibly important it is for our mind, body, and soul.
Sleep hygiene is one factor that is strongly related to sleep quality. Sleep hygiene refers to the cleanliness of your sleep environment. Sleep routine, stimulus control, health, environment and cognitive variables all impact our sleep quality. Sleep recommendations for teens (age 14-17) are 8-10 hours / night. Recommendations for adults (age 18-64) are 7-9 hours / night. Recommendations for age 65+ are 7-8 hours / night. This does not include naps. Most adults I know are surviving off 5 hours / night. There are, of course, phases in life that will inhibit sleep (children, careers, travel, etc.) but it is important to know what we should be striving for.
So how do we get a grasp on sleep and how does sleep hygiene fit in? Factors that will help increase sleep are diet, exercise, understanding our hormones and how to regulate them, and our topic of conversation, sleep hygiene. Good practices for sleep hygiene are:
1. Reduce blue light before bed. Remove all screens (phones, tablets, TV, etc.) 30-60 minutes before bed. Kindle light is okay as it is not blue light.
2. Create a quiet, dark, and cool bedroom. If you like white noise or brown noise, keep it at a level so that it does not wake you up in the middle of the night. Need a darker room? Try blackout curtains. Studies show that a temperature of 65F promotes the most restful sleep.
3. Build a consistent schedule: going to bed around the same time every night and waking up around the same time.
4. Start a bedtime routine: take a warm shower / bath or wash your face with a warm wash cloth, brush your teeth, put on lotion, read a book, lie down and practice your breath work, meditate, etc.
5. Dim all lights in your home once it gets dark out. This will help you wind down for the evening and get ready for bed.
Foods that promoter sleep and help increase melatonin (which is the hormone secreted that makes us sleepy) are:
- Tryptophan (an amino acid that converts niacin into serotonin. Found in poultry, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, tofu, edamame, mushrooms)
- Tart cherries
- Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring)
- Goji berries
Foods to avoid before bed as they cause a decrease in melatonin release
- Foods that cause a sugar spike (this includes eating fruits alone without a healthy fat)
- Citrus fruits (these are a diuretic and may make you have to use the restroom at night)
It is important to be aware of your body’s natural circadian rhythm and work with that. Some individuals love an early morning whereas others love a late night. It is important to find the right balance for you so that your body, mind and soul have the chance to rest, reset and recharge.