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How to Get The Best Sleep For Your Health

The science is clear… If you want to age quickly, sleep less. If you want to age slowly, sleep more. Sleep is a vital part of your day (or should I say night) as during your sleep is when your body does most of its healing, growing, recovering, and remodeling. If you don’t get enough sleep, you restrict the opportunity for your body to heal, grow, recover, and remodel and it is inevitable that your health will suffer in some way.  So rather than regarding sleep as a luxury, its time to appreciate sleep as an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Here are the key components to a healthy sleep…

Poor sleep is directly related to weight gain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, poor moods. Insufficient sleep can cause a 500% drop in your immunity and skimping just 90 minutes of sleep can reduce your memory and decision making by a third and increases risk-taking behaviour. According to “the sleep doctor”, Dr. Michael Breus, each individual requires five sleep cycles for healthy sleep. Each sleep cycle lasts for an average of 90 minutes. That means the average amount of sleep is 450 minutes or 7.5 hours. But understand that this is an average. Some people need longer sleep cycles. Some people need shorter sleep cycles. Knowing how much sleep you need is an important first step in the seven steps required for creating healthy sleep patterns…

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7 Keys to Healthy Sleep

1st Key to Healthy Sleep: Work Out How Much Sleep You Need

For 3 days straight turn off your alarms. Close your blinds. Close the door to your bedroom. Note what time you go to bed and what time you wake up without the use of an alarm or light shining in the window. Understand that if you have a lot on your plate mentally or academically you will need to have more sleep. If you feel you are fighting off some illness you will need more sleep. A word of warning to those who feel that they have “adjusted” to less sleep. Dr. Philip Gehrmann from the Uni of Pennsylvania Sleep Center studied such people who were getting 6 rather than 7-8 hours of sleep but felt that they had adapted. When they looked at how these people did on actual tests of mental alertness and performance, they continued to worsen. So sleep deprivation can lead to when we lose touch with how impaired we actually are!

2nd Key to Healthy Sleep: Make Your Wake Up Time Consistent

We all have a socially determined time when we need to wake up. Let’s say that time for you is 6 am. If you have worked out through step one that you need 7.5 hours sleep then make sure that you go to bed by 10.30 pm. Making your wake up time consistent “locks ” your body’s circadian rhythm in place. If your brain knows, through habit, when to sleep, you go to sleep faster and goes int a deeper sleep faster. This then reduces the time needed to fall asleep… saving you time.

3rd Key to Healthy Sleep: No Caffeine After 2 pm

Caffeine, as you know,  keeps you awake. Caffeine has a 1/2 life of 6-8 hours. Stopping the consumption of caffeine after 2 pm allows you the opportunity to enjoy your coffee and, at the same time, give you the chance of getting rid of over half the caffeine in your system.

4th Key to Healthy Sleep: Give 1 Hour Per Alcoholic Beverage Per Hour

Alcohol, whilst making you feel sleepy, actually prevents you from getting into the deeper states of REM sleep ( the process of memory processing occurs during REM sleep). It also takes one hour for your body to “digest” one alcoholic beverage so its important to allow time for this to happen before you go to sleep. So if you start drinking at 7 pm and have 3 drinks, don’t hit the sheets until 10 pm. To help prevent you from drinking too much, consider alternating between an alcoholic beverage and a glass of water.

5th Key to Healthy Sleep: Exercise is the Best Way to Improve Sleep Quality

Remember some days when you have been out and about, walking long distances and you come home and you don’t even feel yourself hitting the sheets. That’s the benefit that exercise has on your sleep. If you have difficulty not getting enough sleep do more exercise. But don’t exercise within 4 hours of wanting to go to sleep because sometimes it can affect your ability to fall asleep.

6th Key to Healthy Sleep: Get Sunlight on Your Skin

Within 30 minutes of waking make sure you get direct sunlight on your skin for 15 minutes. Sunlight onto receptors in your skin will turn off your body’s production of your own sleepy chemical called melatonin. It is another way that helps to “lock-in” your circadian rhythm. (This helps you to be able to go to sleep faster and into a deeper sleep faster) If getting fatigued around 1-3 pm give yourself a sunshine break (rather than a coffee break) which will help to keep the melatonin turned off for the whole day. If you can’t get direct sunlight on your skin, get some type of blue light onto your skin.

7th Key to Healthy Sleep: Technology Use

The blue light from technology devices acts like coffee to the brain. Harvard University found that for every hour you are on your device at night it suppresses melatonin ( our sleep-inducing chemical) production for 30 minutes. This is why you need to limit your use of devices around bedtime. If you are on your phone/screen from 7 pm- 9 pm you should stay off the devices for the following hour. Consider giving yourself a screen curfew at night.  Replace your screen use with reading a book, listening to a podcast/music, shower/bath, meditation/pray or some “adult play” with your partner. If you are on your phone/screen from 7 pm- 9 pm you should stay off the devices for the following hour. Additional options are to wear blue blocker glasses when using these devices. Don’t rely on the nightshift function on the iPhone to reduce the blue light emitted because it has been tested independently and found to be completely ineffective. You can download some free software to your computer that changes the frequency of the light on your computer. This does reduce ( but not eliminate) the amount of blue light exposure when using these screens. You can download the software here. If you combine these 7 keys for healthy sleep along with sleeping in the best sleeping posture it will make a huge difference to your immunity, energy, mental and emotional state, and your productivity.

You may also want to read: Waking Up About the Correct Sleeping Posture

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