What if there was one simple thing you could do to increase your overall health that cost you nothing? You’d want to do it right? Well what if I told you that one thing is as simple as getting enough sleep? Getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night is one of the best things we can do for our health and yet one of the most overlooked wellness practices. Remember when you were a kid and your mom would tell you to go to bed, and you thought sleep was the worst thing in the world? As adults, we seem to have the same aversion to going to bed – all the while wishing we could get enough sleep.
Americans are chronically sleep deprived, and with that comes a host of health problems. A weakened immune system, memory problems, depression, heart disease, and weight gain are all issues that can be related to sleep deprivation. In fact, just getting enough sleep has been shown to help with weight loss even without changing diet and exercise. And scripture even promises us sleep as a sign of God’s love for us (Psalm 127:2). We can know all these things about sleep, but knowing you need more sleep is easy. Actually getting that sleep is the hard part, whether you’re having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or simply finding enough time for sleep.
Follow these tips to get more of the restful sleep you need:
5 Tips for Getting Enough Sleep
Schedule 8-10 hours for sleep
This takes some discipline, and requires knowing what time you need to wake up the next morning. On average it takes our bodies 30 minutes to actually fall asleep so plan that time into your schedule as well. Another strategy is getting up at the same time every morning regardless of when you went to sleep. Eventually your body gets used to that wake up time and starts asking for sleep earlier in the evening.
Create a positive sleep environment
Remove distractions like phones and TVs, close curtains to get the room as dark as possible. Even just a little bit of light can disrupt you’re body’s sense of when it’s time to produce melatonin. Keeping the room temperature cooler can also help with creating a positive sleep environment. You may also want to try a white noise machine to drown out distracting noises and street sounds.
Move during the day
Having a higher activity level during the day can help you feel more tired and ready to fall asleep at bed time. Gentle stretching or restorative yoga right before bed can also help you relax. A FitBit is a great way to help you track your activity and encourage you to be more active. While most experts recommend avoiding aerobic exercise right before bed, if you’ve had a really sedentary day it can be helpful to go for a run in the evening or do some other form of aerobic exercise to help your body feel tired. You may have to experiment to see what works best for you.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Especially close to bedtime, avoiding caffeine and alcohol helps your body be chemically ready for sleep. Caffeine can take a full 12 hours to leave your system. Taking a magnesium supplement maybe help caffeine leave your system more quickly. And, while alcohol may make you feel sleepy, it actually messes with your blood sugar levels and will leave you struggling to stay asleep.
Try an herbal sleep aid
Herbal remedies such as valerian root, kava, and chamomile tea can help, but check with your doctor or naturopath before using any kind of sleep aid – herbal or not. Melatonin is often recommended as an herbal sleep aid but can be dangerous if taken consistently for too long as melatonin is a chemical our bodies naturally produce. Over time, taking melatonin can signal to our bodies to reduce the natural levels of melatonin. (Note: Do not take chamomile while pregnant, as it has been shown to cause miscarriage)
If you find yourself waking up at the same time every night, paying attention to your meridian body clock can help you figure out what may be waking you up. Our organ systems go through the same cycle of peak activity every day, knowing what organ systems are waking you up can help you fix the problem by identifying the physical or even emotional roots of your sleep struggles.