Have you heard of sleep hygiene? Well, some would argue that sleep hygiene is one of the most important determinants of health. Aside from crankiness, brain fog, and general inability to function at our best, did you know that poor sleep actually makes you gain weight too? Addressing your sleep hygiene could be the easiest way to stimulate weight loss.
Do not think that all is lost because you’re a mother with an infant refusing to sleep, you are working five jobs, or you are simply a creative who does their best work between the hours of 2 and 4am. Sleep hygiene addresses the quality of sleep and not duration. Ideally we want to get 6 – 8 hours of sleep each night, but the quality thereof can actually play a larger role.
There are 5 quick and easy ways to address your sleep hygiene today:
1. Cut the caffeine
Caffeine is designed to keep you awake and alert. By definition, it is not a good idea if you are trying to go to sleep. I am not suggesting you give it up entirely (even I cannot do that), but I am suggesting that you have your last cup of coffee for the day before 12pm.
2. Limit blue light exposure
The digital age has done wonders for our productivity, but has completely messed with our sleep. Did you know that blue light exposure (from cell phones, laptops, ipads and television) actually inhibits melatonin production? Our bodies are exceptionally intelligent. The first light rays of the day when the sun rises are shorter, blue light waves which inhibit melatonin and are designed to wake the body up. The sunset light rays are longer red light waves. These are designed to calm the body down and prepare you for sleep by stimulating melatonin production. With this in mind, watching TV or checking our phones right before bedtime is probably the worst thing we can do. Aim for the last 2 hours or so before bedtime to be blue-light free. Try to read a book, or heaven-forbid, engage with your spouse!
3. Set the Mood for Sleep
Your bedroom should be your place of rest. Ideally we want our bodies to begin unwinding from the moment we begin our bedtime routine. The idea is to separate our work from our bedroom area, so never ever work on that business proposal on your laptop right before you go to sleep (see point number 3). Aim to complete your work in another room so that your body forms the distinction between your place of work and your place of rest.
In line with setting the mood, you want to fulfil a number of criteria for restful sleep. Make sure that all of your lights are switched off in the room and that there are no little flashing lights on any sets of equipment that may interfere with this. I took the liberty of taking masking tape to my own bedroom to cover the little light from my aircon (tip: you will need a ladder for this). You also want to make sure that your room is cool, but not cold, and has good airflow.
4. Actively reduce your stress
This sounds like a no-brainer, and one that we hear all the time from all sides. The fact of the matter is that stress is the bad guy in ANY health-related story. We all need to make sure we are doing something to reduce our stress. Perhaps not checking your phone’s calendar or To-Do list before bedtime will help with this? Two easy ways to manage stress is to include 10 minutes of daily meditation (or prayer or quiet time) or to take a walk outside. We live in such a beautiful part of South Africa and the beach truly is a tonic for the soul!
5. Consider Supplements
Sometimes we all need a bit of extra support, which is where supplementing with specific nutrients can be extremely beneficial. When it comes to sleep we really want to avoid the pharmaceutical sleeping aids, as these give you the quantity of sleep but not the quality, and often leave you feeling groggy the next day. Some of the most effective nutrients for sleep management include:
– Magnesium glycinate – magnesium is inherently a calming mineral so taking it right before bedtime can boost the quality of your sleep.
– Griffonia (or 5HTP) – 5HTP is a serotonin precursor, so this helps with stress-related inability to sleep.
– Chamomile and Valerian Root – these are primarily calming herbs so can help you unwind before bedtime.
– Montmorency Cherry Extract – tart cherry juice is a natural source of the sleep-wake cycle hormone melatonin and amino acid tryptophan, thus promoting sleep naturally.
– L-Theanine and Lemon Balm – taken in combination, these specific nutrients help to calm the mind and promote a more restful sleep.
Lack of good quality sleep will negatively affect your health and your waistline, as well as affecting your mental function. Improve the quality of your sleep by taking the steps above and you will feel the difference.