If you struggle to sleep at night your environment could be to blame! Here are 5 tips to set up your environment to help improve your quality of sleep!
Perfect temperature : Did you know that melatonin (your sleep hormone) levels in your blood increase when the temperature drops? The optimal temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees.
Blackout curtains or blinds : Light is the enemy of sleep! It inhibits the production of melatonin and tells your body it is time to start the day! Consider blackout curtains for those long summer days to keep the sunlight (or street lights) out when you are trying to fall asleep, and keep you from some early morning wakings!
White noise: Noisy neighbors? Busy street? Construction? Or maybe it’s just too dang quiet! Try white noise! This can not only cue your body for sleep, but it can help block out noises that might distract or wake you.
Ditch the clock: You know how it goes… you are lying in bed struggling to fall asleep and you check your clock to see what time it is. You start doing the math on how many hours of sleep you would get if you have to wake up at 6 am. You don’t fall asleep right away, you check again, and again, and again, and you feel your stress levels rising. DITCH THE CLOCKS! Move all clocks out of the bedroom. If you need an alarm, use your phone, then sit it to do not disturb and put it in a drawer or on the other side of the room.
Bye bye blue light: Blue light such as TV, phones, tablets, and computers all disrupt your body’s natural melatonin production. Do your best to avoid screens 2 hours before bed.
BENEFITS OF SLEEP: HEALTH
The working class of the DMV has mastered the art of “busy”. You get sucked into that work project, TV show, or kid’s homework assignment and the next thing you know it is 2 am and you have an early meeting the next day. You tell yourself “I’ll just drink an extra cup of coffee and I’ll be fine.” We all can agree that food and water are necessities to life. But what if we add one more thing to that list. SLEEP.
Studies repeatedly show that lack of sleep (consistently less than 7 hours) and poor quality sleep have a huge impact on our health.
Lack of sleep weakens your immune system. “Sleep allows our bodies to create protein to repair cell damage and produce infection-fighting antibodies. Antibodies are required to help us battle bacteria and protect the immune system.”
Lack of sleep affects your blood sugar control thus increasing your risk for diabetes.
If you don’t get enough sleep your body produces ghrelin, a hormone that boosts your appetite and decreases leptin, the hormone that tells you when you are full. The increase and decrease of those hormones puts you in a dangerous position for packing on unwanted pounds.
One study found that even modestly reduced sleep was associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular conditions.
Let’s prioritize our sleep the same way we prioritize our need for food and water and watch our bodies thrive!
NUTRITION AND SLEEP
We already talked about how lack of sleep can throw your hormones out of whack and affect your hunger hormones, but did you know that what you eat affects how you sleep? It is important to work on improving your sleep, but you can’t just work on improving sleep without also working on improving your lifestyle habits such as stress, exercise, and nutrition!
Here are four dietary tips to help support a good night sleep!
Time your caffeine intake! While every individual is different and metabolizes things at various rates, caffeine has an average half life of 5 hours! This means that 5 hours after consuming 200mg of caffeine, you still have 100mg running through your body! If you find yourself starting to reach for that late afternoon pick me up, try going on a walk or having a nutrient dense snack instead!
Plan an earlier dinner! There are some studies that show that eating too close to bedtime can disrupt our sleep. If you find you are hungry close to bed, choose a high fat or high protein snack such as nuts or eggs!
Fiber! There are several studies showing that individuals who hit the minimum daily requirement for fiber intake (35g for men, 25g for women) had better night sleep than those who didn’t hit their fiber goals.
Add in natural supplements and herbs to support sleep! Magnesium helps your muscles to relax and helps with nerve function. It is thought to help the neurotransmitters that are responsible for sleep. Chamomile (a natural herb) and lavender ( a botanical) are said to help relieve stress and promote a calmness in the body.
BENEFITS OF SLEEP: BRAIN
It shouldn’t be a surprise that a good night’s rest is crucial for your brain! But did you know just how important it is?
A study found you are twice as likely to get in a car accident when you only have 6-7 hours of sleep and your chances of a crash quadruple when you have less than 5 hours of sleep. This is because your reaction time slows when your brain isn’t well rested.
Sleep helps to improve your memory. When you sleep your brain processes and consolidates memories.
Sleep affects how your neurons communicate to each other. Neurons are information messengers. They use electrical impulses and chemical signals to transmit information between different areas of the brain and from the brain to the rest of the nervous system! The better rested, the better the communication in your body!
Scientists have now linked longer waking time with increased risk of cognitive impairment and higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
A good night’s sleep literally clears the brain. When you sleep your body flushes out toxins in the brain and creates room!
BENEFITS OF SLEEP: MOOD
You probably are well aware of the fact that sleep affects our moods. After a rough night of sleep you may find yourself to be more irritable, short tempered, and more stressed out. Studies have shown that even partial sleep deprivation has a significant effect on mood.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, diagnosed insomniacs have a far greater risk of developing depression than others who sleep well.
Lack of sleep is also a risk factor for anxiety. People who are prone to anxiety are especially sensitive to the effects of insufficient sleep.
Researchers from UC Berkley found that sleep deprived people feel lonelier and less inclined to engage with others. Sleep loss also blunts activity in brain regions that normally encourages social engagement.
During sleep, the brain consolidates thoughts and memory, and it appears that a lack of sleep affects the storing or positive thoughts and memories.
Studies have also found that sleep deprivation and disturbances exacerbate ADHD symptoms in children.
Let’s do ourselves and everyone around us a favor and prioritize our sleep so we always wake up on the right side of the bed!
SLEEP & KIDS
Sleep & kids! You may be thinking, wait… those two things don’t fit in the same sentence! But did you know that your child needs 11-12 hours of sleep until they reach elementary school? Let’s dive into this!
All the benefits of sleep that we have shared for you are the same for your kiddos! Sleep helps brain development, it helps their temperament (studies have shown that well rested babies were also “easier” babies, it helps them grow (the majority of your child’s growth hormone is secreted while they sleep!), it also helps their stress levels!
Here are a few tips to help your babies and kids sleep better, so you can also sleep better and everyone can be happier and healthier!
Set up their environment! Hanging blackout curtains, turning on white noise, and setting the temperature between 68 and 72 degrees are practical things you can do to ensure your child’s environment is set up well for a proper night sleep.
Bed time routine! Having a bedtime routine cues your kids that we are preparing our bodies for bed! A bedtime routine can be started on day 1 with your newborn! Here is what a bedtime routine may look like for a baby:
Nurse or bottle (fill them up for a good night sleep)
Sound machines on, lights out & curtains drawn
In the crib they go!
A bedtime routine for a toddler may be:
Dance party (to get all the last minute wiggles out) or reading books (to wind them down).
Tucked in bed!
Fun fact! Research shows that a warm bath actually promotes good sleep! If you don’t want to do bath every night, do something simple like washing their face or letting your baby kick their feet in some warm water!
Wake windows & baby sleep! To ensure your baby gets a good night sleep, you need to master their daytime sleep! This is where wake windows come in! A wake window is simply how long your baby is awake for before going back down for a nap or down for the night and it is adjusted by their age. Follow these recommended wake windows for your baby:
0-4 Weeks = 30-45 minutes
4-12 Weeks = 60-90 minutes
3-4 Months = 75-120 minutes
5-7 Months = 2-3 hours
7-10 Months = 2.5-3.5 hours
11-24 Months = 4-6 hours
By 3 years old your child will need 11-12 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period! So if your child is still napping, subtract their nap time from their night sleep!
Toddler Clocks & Checklists! If you have one then you know that toddlers love to be in control! They also crave routine! If you find your toddler is fighting bedtime routine, try giving them some options. Ask them, “do you want to hop like a bunny to the bath tub or slither like a snake?” “Do you want your princess pajamas or your unicorn pajamas?” You can also create a checklist for your toddler to check off each step of their bedtime routine! Another helpful tool is a color coded clock like the Hatch! You can set it up with different colors to mean different things! For example, yellow means start bed time routine, red means in bed and sleep, blue means it’s morning and they can get out of bed!
BENEFITS OF SLEEP: FITNESS
“We exercise for a purpose: for cardiovascular health, to increase lean muscle mass, to improve endurance, and more. All of these 'goals' require sleep…if you don’t sleep, you undermine your body.” says W. Christopher Winter, MD, the president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine and the author of The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It.
Sleep and exercise are co-dependent! You need to sleep for exercise and your exercise can help your sleep!
Sleep helps your body to recover, repair, and build up the muscles you worked!
It is believed that up to 75% of our human growth hormone is secreted when we sleep! HGH helps your kids to grow and helps your body build lean muscle and repair what we have torn up in a hard workout!
Adequate sleep has been proven to motivate people to stick to their exercise plan! If you don’t get enough sleep it can make exercise harder. It won’t affect your cardiovascular and respiratory responses or your muscle strength or performance capability, but you will fatigue faster making it harder to complete the exercise program.
Regular exercise can help you sleep! Exercise has a chemical effect on the brain where it creates adenosine which promotes your sleep drive or your body’s need for sleep!
If you have to choose between getting your full 7 hours of sleep or getting your workout in, choose the sleep! You will likely have a subpar workout anyway.