As much as I talk about the importance of sleep, you’d think I was over here napping every day and sleeping in. Far from it! One of the reasons I’m so focused on sleep is that it’s one of those things I fight to work into my busy schedule consistently.
There are meditation techniques, personal habits, environment changes, and foods for better sleep. Some of them are easy to incorporate into daily life but others are a work in progress.
It seems that when we’re busy or stressed, sleep is the first thing we sacrifice. I know it’s that way for me and it’s the last thing I should be giving up when I have deadlines!
Chronic sleep deprivation affects more than 40 million adults in the United States alone according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s almost one-third of us who are getting fewer than six hours each night.Chronic sleep deprivation affects more than 40 million adults in the U.S. alone!Click To Tweet
The CDC explained, “Sleep is increasingly recognized as important to public health, with sleep insufficiency linked to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and medical and other occupational errors.”
Long-term lack of quality sleep raises your risk for diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and various forms of dementia. Those who work night-shifts also tend to consume more calories than people who do those same jobs during the day.
Your body has certain physical, mental, and behavioral patterns known as circadian rhythm. This rhythm is influenced by factors in your body as well as environmental input such as day and night, work schedules that force the body to operate at varying times, and even jet lag.
Disruptions in your circadian rhythm can lead to insomnia, depression, and bipolar disorder. Working a night shift can drastically interrupt this natural cycle and your body tries to compensate.
Sleep deprivation results in a greater production of cortisol. Also known as the “stress hormone,” cortisol freaks out your whole system and to compensate, your brain craves a “hit” of serotonin. Most people find a quick fix in junk food.
Top Industries for Sleep Deprivation
- Warehouse or manufacturing
- First responders (police, fire, or paramedics)
Naturally, if you work in a store or business that operates 24 hours per day, you’re more likely to end up with a night shift position as well.
Do and Don’t Foods for Better Sleep
When you load your body up on caffeine, alcohol, refined sugars, and preservatives before you plan to go to sleep, your system is forced to spend more time processing them. Most junk foods, sodas, and snacks offer nothing to your cells and have even been proven to steal from your overall nutritional levels.
Instead of burning fat, storing your memories, or repairing damaged tissue, your digestive system is sorting toxins and attempting to get rid of “junk fuel” it cannot use.
A better method is giving your body pure fuel in the form of complete proteins (eggs, beans, or lean meats), healthy fats (avocado, butter, or coconut oil), and complex carbohydrates (veggies and true grains) a couple of hours before you plan to climb in your bed.
Naturally, including these foods in what you eat for dinner is the simplest way to provide high-test fuel your body will utilize while you sleep.
Another better sleep food isn’t a food at all…it’s water. Drinking a big glass of water (infused if you prefer) two hours before bed is an excellent way to keep yourself hydrated and improve sleep quality.
Making Sleep a Priority
It’s critical to your total body health that you work enough quality sleep back into your routine. Developing a sleep system is going to be unique to you and your life.
“We live in a 24/7 society,” says Carl Hunt, MD, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health. “People just don’t realize how important sleep is, and what the health consequences are of not getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis. Sleep is just as important for overall health as diet and exercise.”
Every minute spent not getting enough rest, you’re weakening your immune system. You’re also raising your risk of mood disorders such as depression and anxiety as well as physical diseases.Every minute spent not getting enough rest, you’re weakening your immune system. #GetSomeSleepClick To Tweet
7-Step Sleep Routine
There are several habits you can put in place to boost your sleep quality. If you have children, setting these habits when they’re young will benefit them for the rest of their lives!
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time daily (even on the weekends).
- Shut down all electronics one hour before you plan to go to sleep. (This one is hard for me.) Put your phone on “do not disturb” for a set number of hours so you don’t get notifications. Keep electronics away from your bed. (I know, I know.)
- Ease yourself into wakefulness. Consider using an alarm light or vibration rather than a loud (and jarring) alarm buzzer. If you must have sound to wake properly, use building volume.
- Keep your room cool and dark. This might require buying blackout curtains and a fan but it’s absolutely worth it.
- Wash your sheets every 7-10 days (maximum) to remove dead skin, oils, and hair that you shed while you sleep. Clean sheets are refreshing and aid in sleep quality.
- Before you climb in bed, handle all the essentials. Let your pet out, lock up your house, shower (if you do so at night), and go to the bathroom. Train your body that once you climb in bed, you’re sleeping!
- Avoid junk food as much as possible. For better sleep, foods that are high in protein and healthy fats are the way to go. Cut back on the refined sugars and simple carbs where you can and replace those with foods from our list.
Sleep doesn’t have to be complicated but it does have to be addressed. By tweaking your bedtime, wake-time, and overall sleep routine, you’re going to look better, think better, and feel better during the day.