Keep Your Sleep!

One of the first things I look at when I begin working with a new client is sleep.  It’s right up there with water and air as a necessity for body function.  Our bodies are not designed to operate without all three, and lack of any one of those three causes havoc.  Since most of my clients are in North America, generally sleep gets the most neglect. We take for granted that whatever rest we offer we’ll function with. Our values are more around productivity, and sleep, sadly, isn’t usually considered part of that equation. It should be, as it is critical to optimal function.  Why should we value sleep and want to make it a priority? Let’s take a look:

FUNCTION
First, we’re well aware of the mood factor, especially when we’re around those who haven’t had enough sleep. We call the girls ‘grumpy gills’ when that happens, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Lack of adequate sleep contributes to:

  • inability of the body to cleanse the organs and cells of toxins (deep sleep)
  • inability to sort, file, and clear our brains of the day’s experiences (REM sleep)
  • foggy brain with lack of focus (poor performance)
  • increased risk of injury and accident
  • decreased sex drive
  • increased tension
  • forgetfulness
  • premature aging of skin
  • weight gain (affect regulating factors in the body driving hunger and metabolism)

HEALTH RISKS: Chronic Disease

  • Heart Disease/Hypertension
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased inflammation
  • Diabetes (Impaired blood glucose metabolism)
  • Obesity (imbalanced hormones affecting metabolism, cortisol,and glucose levels)
  • Depression and other Mood disorders
  • Weak Immunity (inability to adequately fight infection)
  • Shorter Life Expectancy (one study found that 5 or less hours per night nearly doubled risk of death)

WHOA! See anyone you know in these health risks?  How many items could you relate to in the ‘function’ section that you’ve experienced. Did you catch yourself taking a quick glance at your skin to make sure it looked ok?  Gotcha!

So, what’s a busy person to do?  With only 24 hours in a day, how do we make that shift to allowing sleep to be a priority when we’ve got ALL THIS OTHER STUFF to get done?

SLEEP STRATEGIES
Commit.  Make a commitment to it.  Try out a ’21 days to a habit’ and see what changes for you. Chances are, you’ll find that what you trade in time for sleep you gain in productivity and clarity to do more, better, in less time.  Can you say ‘Winning’?!  Hey, maybe even MORE sleep will help you get even MORE efficient!

Tune In.  Learn your sleep needs. Track your sleep, experimenting with 7 hours for a couple days, 7.5 hours for a couple days, 8 hours, etc.  Notice and note how you feel and how you function to hone in on the best amount of sleep for your unique needs.  Some people will discover 7 hours are plenty. Others may need 9. Once you know, you are equipped with tools to make a significant change to your daily life and health.

Practice ‘Sleep Hygiene’. Yes, that’s another way of saying clean up your sleep habits!  Here’s a start:

  • Remove all electronics from the bedroom. That blue light glow disrupts circadian rhythm.
  • Limit screen time within 2 hours of sleeping.  Use a dimmer software such as Flux for evening electronics use.
  • Finish workouts and physical activity early, allowing at least 3 hours to wind down before sleep.
  • Drink earlier in the day, less in the evening to ensure less interrupted sleep.
  • Go to sleep on a relatively empty stomach – consume foods at least 2 hours before sleep.
  • Do quiet or peaceful activities such as reading, meditation, writing, or snuggle time for an hour or more before bedtime.
  • Create and maintain a regular sleep and wake time and stick to it, even on the weekends, to allow your body to acclimate to the program.
  • Avoid stimulants and large meals in the 4-6 hours before sleep
  • Get outside in natural light during the daytime to help maintain a sleep-wake cycle
  • Use your bed for sleep and sex only, not to watch TV or work. Make that your brain’s expectation to help it ‘plan’ to settle down to rest.
  • Create a sleep environment that is peaceful and comfortable in temperature, light, and bedding.  If pets are disruptive bed hogs, get them a cozy pet bed on the floor by you.

Is getting enough sleep an issue for you?  Is it worth it to make a change?  There are some pretty compelling health statistics to support a ‘YES’, but only you can determine whether it’s worth your effort to make a change. Yet this, should you put yourself up to the challenge, is the easiest, most effortless health management step you can take.  Tangible changes are often evident in mere days to encourage you to continue in greater success.

If it seems to big, take just one or two of the suggestions, baby steps, to explore small wins, then build on it as you gain confidence and improved sense of wellbeing. Have a strategy you love that’s not listed?  Tried one of these and found HUGE success? Share in the comments below.

Sleep well and prosper!

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