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Why Prioritize Sleep?
It’s easy to put off sleep. We’ve got countless things on our todo list and it seems never enough time to actually get it done. Instead of focusing on the benefits of laying in bed for many hours every night, it’s more important to understand what lack of sleep does to our bodies and lives.
Besides just feeling tired, the short term effects of sleep deprivation includes:
- Impacts motor function
- Increase caloric intake
- Impaired cognitive function
- Mood changes
- Increased risk of motor accidents
- Weakened immune system
- Reduced stress regulation
And when we start getting to the long term effects of sleep deprivation:
- Heart Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- Weight Gain & Obesity
- Certain Cancers
The list actually doesn’t end there. However, I think that does a pretty good job at helping us understand just how important it is to prioritize getting a good night’s rest.
10 Ways To Sleep Better
Before we begin the list, I need to point out that this is a huge list. Not everything will affect everyone the same way, so I really recommend testing 1-3 things at once to see if it really actually helps you.
Step Outside For Some Sunlight
Sleep is greatly regulated by our Circadian Rhythm. That’s the internal clock that our bodies follow to keep track of all the little processes that go on inside of us.
Sunlight exposure is a critical part of our circadian rhythm, because it helps set the start time and tells our body that our day is beginning.
If it’s hard to get a full 30 minutes all at once, I recommend:
- Spend 5-10 minutes outside in the morning during breakfast or coffee
- Take short walks outside throughout the day
- Eat your lunch outside
- Pull a chair outside if you work from home
Keep Your Room Cool
Temperature preferences may vary, based on preferences, but generally, a room temperature of 60-67 degrees is ideal for improved sleep quality.
There are a few ways to try this.
- Lower your thermostat
- Turn on a fan
- Wear loose clothing or no clothing
- Use a temperature-controlled mattress
Have A Consistent Sleep Schedule
Cycling back to our circadian rhythm, many of the processes our body needs to perform throughout the day are also regulated by our circadian rhythm. That means that if we’re always sleeping at a different time, our bodies will get confused and be able to trigger all the little functions that it needs to go through during our sleep.
Work on the point by sticking to a consistent sleep schedule as often as you can.
Workout For At Least 30 Minutes
While we don’t completely understand why exercise improves sleep quality, there is a strong connection showing that at least 30 minutes of exercise a day will help improve sleep quality. The best part of this benefit is that it produces an immediate effect.
It’s important to pay attention to what time of day you exercise, because exercise elevates core body temperature and heart rate. Those two things can actually prevent from falling and staying asleep if you exercise too late into the evening.
Curious what other benefits exercise can provide? Here are 5 ways that exercise can help speed up weight loss.
Make Time To Unwind Before Bed
This one made a huge difference for me and I think it’s important for anyone who works from home. It’s too easy to work up until bedtime, turn off the laptop, and jump straight into bed.
The problem with that is that your brain is still active from productive tasks. It’s hard to transition immediately from that state and go straight into a sleeping state. When possible, give yourself at least an hour to wind down and do something non-productive to relax and get your body ready to rest.
Avoid Using Electronics At Night
Most electronics emit blue light which may impact your circadian rhythm and prevent your body from wanting to fall asleep at night. The best way to avoid blue light is to avoid electronic use and slowly dim down the lights as it gets later into the evening.
There’s also blue light blocking glasses that help filter out blue lights in case you have to work late or just want to spend time on your devices in the evening.
Another challenge that electronics can cause is just keeping your mind awake from endless scrolling. A lot of apps nowadays are designed to make you want to overconsume, so it’s best not to put yourself in that state right before bed.
To test this out, try to:
- Don’t leave your phone on your bed stand
- Charge your phone outside your room
- Try blue light blockers
- Turn down the lights in the evening
Have A Caffeine Cutoff Time
Coffee is delicious and jam-packed with nutrients, but having caffeine too late into the day can prevent you from getting sleepy when it comes to bedtime. As we progress throughout the day, the molecule adenosine builds up in our bodies. The increase in adenosine causes us to feel tired and get sleepier in the evening.
What caffeine does is it blocks our bodies’ ability to absorb adenosine, so it stops us from feeling tired. This causes a buildup and eventual crash.
Depending on your body’s rate of caffeine metabolism, most of the caffeine leaves your body around 6-12 hours after consumption. That means that 12 hours after you drank your coffee, some of that caffeine is still sitting in your system.
The only 2 ways to prevent caffeine from interrupting your rest are:
- Don’t consume caffeine
- Cut off your daily caffeine consumption at around noon
Don’t Drink Alcohol Before Bed
Alcohol has long been used as a nightcap. Although alcohol can help you fall asleep faster, it’ll significantly reduce your REM stage sleep which is very important for brain health.
The best method would be to just not drink at night, but since that’s not always a fun option, it’s best to try avoiding alcohol in the evening as often as possible.
Avoid Eating Large Meals At Night
Your digestive system has to work to help you digest. The digestive system slows down during sleep, so it makes it harder for your body to digest anything you ate and ends up causes disruptions during sleep.
Try to eat smaller meals towards the end of the day and shoot to have at least a 3 hour gap between your last meal and your bedtime.
Don’t Nap Too Late In The Day
Taking naps is still a normal habit in many parts of the world today. It’s believe that our ancestors were biphasic sleepers, which means they slept twice a day. However, in our modern society, it’s a lot harder to find the time to squeeze in that extra nap.
Sleeping helps our body get rid of adenosine. That’s same molecule that causes us to feel sleepy the later into the day we get. By resetting our adenosine levels, we feel more alert and awake, but resetting those levels too close to bedtime can make it harder for us to fall asleep at night.
Here are the best practices when it comes to taking naps:
- Keep your naps to no longer than 60 minutes
- Don’t take a nap too late into the afternoon
The one thing that I hope you take away from this is that sleep matters a lot.
Not everything in that list will impact everyone reading this, but I would highly recommend you all least give them all a try. Think if it as making an investment of your time and effort to improving the quality of your sleep for the rest of your life.
Even a small improvement can make a huge difference to your quality of life over the years to come.