A great night’s sleep (or not) will have a significant impact on your day, body and life. So let’s set you up for success!
Sleep is one of the basic principles for health and wellbeing and one we have the most control over! We cannot be healthy without sufficient sleep! It is absolutely necessary for bodily maintenance, recovery and repairing. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the optimum levels of sleep needed for younger adults and adults (age range from 18-64) is around 7–9 hours per night.
The amount of time is not the only thing that matters, but also the hours we get before midnight as they provide more quality sleep and patterns than those after midnight. When we don’t get an adequate amount of quality sleep, it causes imbalance in our bodies. Getting fewer than six hours per day is associated with low-grade chronic inflammation and worsening insulin resistance, as well as increased risk for obesity, type 2-diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The brain also needs sleep to be able to process and store all new information, make sure our hormones are balanced and strengthen the immune system etc.
What quality sleep does for us
- Enhances memory and mental clarity.
- Improves athletic performance.
- Boosts our mood and overall energy.
- Improves our immune function.
- Internal organs get to rest and recover, tissue gets repaired and muscles grow.
- Hormones are released which help to regulate appetite control, stress, metabolism, and other bodily functions.
In today’s society sleep deprivation is unfortunately a big struggle for a lot of people. Insomnia and other issues around sleep are common. We pride ourselves in being too busy and sleep is usually not a top priority (more likely a bottom priority), it is for me though as I know how awful I feel when I haven’t slept enough!
Some of the potential consequences of lack of sleep
- Lowered immunity: Without sufficient sleep the body is in stress mode and cannot function optimally.
- Lowered brain functioning: Our ability to focus, remember and process new information declines.
- Increased risk of injuries: When we are mentally and physically tired we easier make mistakes and react slower.
- Increased weight: Our leptin levels (leptin is an appetite-regulating hormone) fall, which promote an appetite increase.
- Emotional imbalance: When we are sleep deprived we can easily get angry, sad, irritable and our emotions can be like roller coasters.
- Systemic inflammation: Sleep deprivation causes chronic, low-grade inflammation and inflammation is the root of all modern disease.
Prioritizing sleep and de-stressing is so very important for our wellbeing and long-term health! What are your sleep patterns like? Do you fall asleep easily or lie tossing and turning? Do you wake up during the night? Do you wake up refreshed and energized? Be aware of your sleeping patterns and how they affect you. Remember that everyone is different and just because your partner, parent or friend does well with 7 hours a night it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what will work best for you.
Setting you up for a great night’s sleep!
The way we breathe is crucial, both when we are sleeping and when we are awake. It is easy to take the breath for granted, as the body does it automatically. But with an increased stress in our daily life, it has a great impact on our breathing. Mouth breathing has become more common, whilst nostril breathing is the optimal way. Sleeping with an open mouth creates an imbalance between oxygen and carbon dioxide, which causes hyperventilating, a lack of oxygen and restless sleep.
It might be hard to know whether we sleep with a closed mouth or not but one way to check it is to use Sleep Tape. You put the tape over the mouth which makes sure you only breathe through your nose.
So why is it important to breathe through your nose while sleeping?
- Avoid hyperventilating – Sleeping with an open mouth automatically make us breathe more than the body needs and this creates an imbalance and a lack of oxygen.
- Wake up refreshed – Nostril breathing is the first step towards great breathing habits and it makes your body relax and able to rest and recover during sleep.
- Deeper sleep – Restless sleep is common amongst people who breathe through their mouth. When we perceive danger (or are in a stressful state) we automatically open our mouth, as it is a reaction connected with our fight-and-flight response (sympathetic system). When sleeping we instead need our rest-and-repair system to be active (parasympathetic system).
To get you ready for bed…
- Our bodies like routines so try to go to bed more or less the same time every day. I would also recommend you to have your morning routines set. If not, check out this post.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine and other stimulants (preferably no later than lunch time as it takes several hours to get it out of the system). It is quite easy, you want a good night’s sleep or not??
- Turn off the TV, computers, phones, and iPads at least one hour before bedtime and don’t keep them in the bedroom during night-time! If you need an alarm, keep the phone turned off or use an alarm clock on battery. Keep the Wi-Fi unit turned off at night to minimize EMF (electromagnetic fields) exposure.
- Avoid going to bed hungry or too full. If the body has to spend hours working on metabolizing your food, it won’t really be fully focused on recovering your body and it’s organs.
- Use relaxing essential oils like chamomile or lavender in a bath or a drop on the pillow (I use it on my pillow).
- Deep breathing or meditation relaxes the body and gets you into sleep-mode. If you have not yet started with your meditation, have a look at this post on why successful people meditate and this post on how to get started. I use both meditation and make sure I focus on my breathing just before falling asleep.
- Daily physical activity increases sleep quality (even better if practiced outdoors). Personally I include it in my morning routines but also try to get a session done during the day and love being outdoors in nature.
- Do your journaling before going to bed as it can be helpful against mental stress. Read my post on journaling and this one on gratitude journaling.
- Open your windows and let fresh air in before going to bed! Otherwise you will be breathing in bad quality of air all night long!
- Keep your bedroom completely dark as our bodies are easily stimulated by light. I always try to do this and also get up with or before sunrise 🙂
The circadian rhythm and our built-in biological clock are what regulates when we are tired and when energized and to be able to function well they need light during the day and darkness at night. All kinds of light will stimulate the brain so it is important to get out in the daylight early in the morning for energy and keep it dark at night for relaxing and to get the optimal rhythm. When it gets dark at night our sleeping hormone melatonin increases in the body which makes us ready for sleep. By having bright lights turned on or watching screens, the release of melatonin decreases and our natural rhythm and tiredness get disturbed. This is one of the reasons why it can be hard falling asleep at night.
Sleep is instrumental to optimal function of the brain and body and to be successful you need both so make sure to prioritize it!