Although sleep isn't sexy and needs a new PR campaign, it forms a necessary part of life and it's lack can tremendously affect your health and wellbeing.
Research shows that sleep affects nearly every function of our body - from skin health, emotional regeneration, immune strength and inflammation (lower risk of disease and cancer), improved cognitive function (lower risk of Alzheimer's), to hormonal balance (which will impact the ability to lose weight). It also influences performance, recovery, bone strength and your ability to operate a vehicle.
If you think that Ambien will solve your sleeping problems, research shows that taking even as little as one pill 20 times per year has shows to be associated with increased mortality. Additionally prescription sleepers don't necessarily add quality sleep to your schedule. They make you unconscious which is not the same as sleep.
So what can you do to naturally improve your sleep and your health? Read below.
8 easy things you can do today to get better sleep
1. Get more sunlight
Your sleep cycle, or circadian timing system is heavily impacted by the amount of sunlight you receive during the day. The body clock is most responsive to sunlight between 6 and 8.30 am. Getting direct sunlight outdoors for at least half an hour has been shown to produce the most benefit.
2. Avoid screens before bedtime
Avoid blue light (all screens) at least 2 hours before bedtime in order to allow melatonin and cortisol levels to normalize. Use this time to read a book, talk to your loved ones, journal, stretch, knit or you know what.
3. Create an optimal temperature
Studies have found that the optimal room temperature hovers around 60 to 68 F. If you still have problems falling asleep, try taking a warm bath or a shower 1.5 - 2hrs before hitting the sack.
4. Make it dark
Having any type of light source can disrupt your sleep pattern. Not only your eyes have receptors that can pick up light - your skin too. Light pollution (any artificial light) has a huge impact on melatonin - studies show that exposure to room light during usual hours of sleep surpasses melatonin levels by more than 50 percent. Get blackout curtains and cover any sources of light in your room (including alarm clocks).
5. Get the electronics out of the bedroom
Our appliances and electronic devices emit not only radiation but also electric and magnetic fields know as EMFs. EMFs have been found to cause disruption in the communication among the cells inner bodies. The World Health Organization has now classified cell phone radiation as a group 2B carcinogen. Moreover, EMFs from common electronic friends have been linked to leukemia, brain tumors, and breast cancer.
So instead of using your phone as an alarm clock, get a cheap non-ticking alarm clock like this one and get your phone (tablet, desktop, etc) out of your bedroom (at least 6 feet away).
6. Master the nap
Try to avoid napping during the day but if you are super tired make sure you are napping no longer than 20 minutes, and keep it as far away from the actual bedtime as possible.
7. Create a sleep sanctuary
Keep your sleeping quarters to sleeping (and sex) only. Keep office work out of the bedroom and get a houseplant to improve the air quality in your home. English ivy and perennial snake plant are great air-filtering houseplants.
8. Have a caffeine & alcohol curfew
Caffeine and alcohol are powerful nervous system stimulants.
Additionally, caffeine affects your endocrine system and provokes your adrenal glands to produce two anti sleep hormones: adrenaline and cortisol.
In order to sleep better, set a caffeine curfew that's generally around 2 pm (even earlier if you are sensitive).
When it comes to alcohol, although it may make you fall asleep faster, studies show that alcohol significantly disrupts REM sleep during which short-term memories and experiences get converted into long-term memories. So wrap up the drinks at least 3 hours before bed, work on minimizing the amount of alcohol you drink (optimally 1 (or less) alcoholic drink per day) and increase water intake (for every alcoholic drink you have, your body can eliminate up to four times as much liquid).
9. Go to bed at the right time
Time between the hours of 10 pm and 2 am is considered money time. This is where humans get the most beneficial hormonal secretions and recovery.
If you want to learn even more about sleep, check out this great book "Sleep Smarter - 21 essential strategies to sleep your way to a better body, better health, and bigger success" by Shawn Stevenson. You can buy it HERE on Amazon.