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Do you sleep well at night? My husband complains about his lack of “good sleep”. So last year for Father’s Day, I gifted him a book about sleep by one of my favorite health and fitness experts, Shawn Stevenson. His book Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success has received positive feedback from hundreds of readers. Shawn Stevenson is also the host of the top-rated podcast, The Model Health Show. If you haven’t had the pleasure of listening to the podcast, I highly recommend it!
I don’t see myself as a horrible sleeper now. I’m happy to say my sleepless days as a Mom are finally behind me. It’s funny I’ve always wondered when the time would come that I wouldn’t have to get up every three hours to feed my baby, or be woken up by a toddler in the middle of the night to crawl in bed with me. Well, it happened! My daughters are 3 and 6 yrs old who now stays in bed close to eleven hours!
Prior to kids, I was younger and in the military. Sleep was inconsistent especially when one of your jobs was to stand watch on the bridge of a naval ship. The shift I hated most was from 2 to 7am. It’s hard to go to bed before 8pm for a decent amount of sleep. By the time you’re off shift, you have to handle a few things before you can go back to bed. Another phase of my life I am thankful to be in the past.
THE VALUE OF SLEEP
Here am I in my 40s and sleep is important to me more now than ever! Why do we need to value sleep?
In Shawn Stevenson’s words:
“Always remember the value of sleep, you will perform better, make better decisions, and have a better body when you get the sleep your require…It’s a natural state your body requires to boost your hormone function; heal your muscles, tissues, and organs; protect you from diseases; and make your mind work at its optimal level…You will work better, be more efficient, and get more stuff done when you’re properly rested.”
You’re familiar with the saying I can sleep when I’m dead. Sleep seems to be the last priority when we are busy working towards our huge endeavors in life. Actually, you’re not really sleeping when you’re dead. But sleep deprivation can definitely fast-track you to your death bed.
WAYS TO OPTIMIZE THE QUALITY OF YOUR SLEEP
Sleep Smarter covers 21 strategies to help you become a champion sleeper! I feel that I have a handle on many of the strategies. However I realized I can do more to further enhance the quality of my sleep.
Sharing 5 strategies I am working on for optimal sleep:
TURN OFF ALL SCREENS 60 TO 90 MIN BEFORE BEDTIME
Artificial blue light emitted by electronic screens triggers your body to produce more daytime hormones (such as cortisol) and disorients your body’s natural preparation for sleep.
Aaaaarrgghhh!! This is such a hard habit to break! I am controlled by my devices, from my laptop to my cell phone to the big screen TV. I will admit I only watch an hour’s (maybe even less) worth of TV nightly. By the time the girls are tucked in bed (note – they still like me to cuddle with them for 5 to 10 min before they actually sleep), it’s already 8:30p which means I have two hours left to unwind before my usual 10:30p bedtime. Lately I’ve been trying to avoid screens by 9:30p the latest, but it’s been a challenge!
For me it’s a matter of prioritizing what needs to be done and determine how to be more productive during the day so I don’t have unfinished matters left to do at night after the girls are in bed. The other problem of course, as mentioned in the book is being sucked into the ‘Internet black hole’, in particular the Social Media black hole. My intentions are usually to do a quick browse of Facebook/Instagram and all of sudden twenty minutes have passed. This phenomenon is explained as a result of our body producing a powerful chemical called DOPAMINE. Dopamine is actually a brain chemical that causes a seeking behavior. And it’s followed up by the opioid system which gives us the pleasure of the results of what we sought. It’s a continuous loop especially with the power of the Internet, we can constantly seek and be rewarded.
How is this problem resolved? By finding an alternative you find equally pleasurable. For me, it’s reading a book. For others it could be listening to music or a podcast; talking with your loved one – actually making a connection with someone in person instead of online.
Shawn Stevenson also recommended using a blue light blocker whether it’s a pair of glasses or an application on your computer screen. I know the Iphone has a nighttime setting to block out the blue light. However, this is not an excuse to continue to be glued on the screen up to your bedtime. This is only suggested for extenuating circumstances.
TURN YOUR BEDROOM TO A NO CELL PHONE ZONE (better yet a No Electronic Device Zone)
Electronic devices emit both electric and magnetic fields known as EMFs. EMFs have been found to cause disruption in the communication among the cells in our bodies.
On my To-Do List – Buy an Alarm Clock! Yes I am one of the guilty ones who keeps the cell phone on the dresser next to the bed and used as an alarm clock. I also use my phone as part of my morning routine where I turn on the Calm app to begin my mini-meditation session. It’s a change for the better though. I will find a way to make it work!
In the book, Shawn details the risks of cell phone EMFs. In 2011, a document was released by the World Health Organization (WHO)/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifying cell phone radiation as a Group 2B carcinogen based on an increased risk of a malignant type of brain cancer, glioma from cell phone use.
Now that we know cell phones could possibly cause cancer. How does it affect our sleep? As found in a study, EMF significantly disrupts melatonin secretion. “Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland and other tissues in your body that send signals to your cells to prepare you for sleep.” When melatonin isn’t properly secreted, the quality of sleep is negatively impacted.
BE COOL INSIDE AND OUT
Optimal Room Temperature for Sleep is around 60 deg to 68 deg F
Do you keep your home’s thermostat below 68 deg at night? The body’s core temperature fluctuates throughout the day. At night, when your body is ready for bed, it automatically drops to prepare for sleep. Apparently, if your house is warmer than the ideal temperature it’s harder for your body to achieve good sleep.
This happened to me the other night when I purposely went to bed early before 10pm, but I didn’t open the window to allow for the cooler air to cool down the bedroom. I tossed and turned all night! Pulling the covers off me but I’d put them back on because it felt weird to sleep without a blanket over my body. But then I’d get hot again and it was a sleepless cycle of covers on then off.
Besides the thermostat in your home, you also have to check your “Internal Thermostat”. Stress and Anxiety are likely contributors to an increase in core body temperature. “…stress can arouse your system, elevate your body temperature, and unwittingly disrupt your sleep. You absolutely must have a strategy to manage stress in our high stress world today, or you can sleep in an igloo and still not be cool enough.”
PRACTICE MEDITATION TO CALM YOUR INNER CHATTER
Meditation increases ‘feel-good’ hormones and endorphins, lowers stress hormones like cortisol, and even reduces inflammation in the body.
Speaking of strategies to manage stress, meditation may just be one of the best ways to do it. As Shawn Stevenson mentioned in the book, it doesn’t have to be complicated. You can make it as short and simple with a five minute session – focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body. The trick is to do it more often throughout the day to feel calm and stay present especially during stressful moments.
I mentioned earlier about the short meditation session I practice first thing in the morning. It’s usually five to ten minutes. To establish the habit of meditating was my one goal for this year and I’ve done well on this goal. What I didn’t realize was the morning is one of the best times for meditation. “As the American Academy of Sleep Medicine research showed, meditating in the morning is proven to help test subjects sleep at night. You’re creating a conscious neuro-pathway to relaxation, a buffer against stress, and a profound sense of presence that will help you sleep better in the evening.”
FIX YOUR GUT TO FIX YOUR SLEEP
Remember, food isn’t just food – it’s information. And the types of food that you eat, along with the nutrients they contain (or lack thereof), automatically incite processes that determine what your body, health, and sleep will look like.
How your gut health is connected to sleep has to do with serotonin, where 95% of it is found in the gut. Serotonin is the building block for Melatonin – as mentioned previously melatonin is the hormone that signals your body to sleep. In the book, Shawn Stevenson goes into details regarding the physiology of the gut with the way serotonin is produced relative to the health of your digestion. Basically, you want the bacteria (friendly and unfriendly flora) to achieve a natural balance to effectively produce serotonin and melatonin.
Watch out for these items as they have been clinically proven to damage your gut microbiome: Agricultural chemicals ie. pesticides, Processed foods, Repeated antibiotic use, Chemical food additives and preservatives, Chlorinated water.
Do you really need the standard 8 hours of sleep’?
Nowhere in the book does Shawn recommend the required hours of sleep. Even if you get 8 hours of sleep, you can still feel groggy the next day if the quality of sleep is sub-par. However, what he recommended in Ch. 6 Get to Bed At the Right Time is to ‘aim getting to bed within a few hours of it getting dark outside’ to get the highest quality of sleep. This is approximately between 9 and 11pm.
Another tip is set your alarm so it wakes you up at the end of your sleep cycle. The typical sleep cycle is 90 minutes, repeating four to six times per night. I usually sleep around 10:30pm so if I want to wake up without interrupting my sleep cycle, I need to set my alarm at 4:30am for 4 cycles of sleep or 6am for 5 cycles. I currently have mine set at 5:30am. This means I’d have to go to bed by 10p or later at 11p and up by 5am. I will have to experiment with different times and number of cycles to see how I feel the next day.
If you’re not sleeping well at night, I hope this post gave you ideas on how to improve your sleep. My best advice is to check out Shawn Stevenson’s book, Sleep Smarter!
Want more brainpower, Sleep Smarter
Feeling unproductive, you need to Sleep Smarter
Want to lose belly fat? Sleep Smarter
Say No to diseases, you better Sleep Smarter
Be the best version of you and Sleep Smarter!
Do you have trouble sleeping at night? Have you tried any certain strategies to help you sleep better?
Linking with with Meranda and Lacey and Rachel for the Friday Five 2.0.
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