By Alexa Ferri
Sleep… How much sleep did you get last night? Was it less than the recommended 8 hours? If you were asked to name three bedtime rituals that you practice every night, could you? Before we dive into a few things to set ourselves up for success, let’s talk about the importance of it all.
When we were young, our parents did something for us. We probably didn’t realize what it was at the time, but they created a bedtime routine for us. “Did you finish all of your homework?” “It’s 7 o’clock, get your jammies on.” “No more sugar, it’s getting close to bed.” “How about you go brush your teeth and floss.” “Can you read to me before bed?” All things we heard or said as a child at some point. As we grow into adulthood the structure our parents put into play, no longer exists. Now, we let life get in the way, school, work, gatherings, thoughts, cell phone screens, iPads, nightcaps, late night caffeine, etc.
We neglect ourselves from the importance of a system that is conducive to getting quality sleep. And why is quality sleep so important? Well most of us reading this are probably interested or into some form of exercise. Sleep is when most of your recovery takes place so that you can continue to train and train efficiently. Sleep is when our brain encodes new information, stores memories and allows us to make logical decisions so that we can score well on tomorrow’s test or remember our grandma’s birthday or function in any aspect of life, really.
Sleep is also crucial for glucose regulation. The pancreatic cells called beta islet, secrete insulin, and when sleep is low our beta islet cells are less responsive to glucose. This leads to other hunger hormone malfunction i.e. leptin and ghrelin thus, creating a spiraling effect and potentially leading to weight gain. Sleep is needed for a proper functioning metabolic state.
Last interesting fact, the brain’s emotional center called the amygdala becomes 60 percent more reactive when sleep levels are scarce. Something to think about when we are acting emotionally irrational with fear and rage, it could be the 2 hours of sleep we got the night before.
So, after hearing some of the importance’s of getting a good night’s sleep, let’s talk about some of the rituals we can adopt and things to be mindful of the closer we are to bedtime.
Bedtime rituals to have in check/things to be mindful of:
Did you have caffeine 5 hours ago? Maybe less? Caffeine has a half-life of around 5 hours. If you consume 100 mg of caffeine, you will have 50 mg remaining in your system 5 hours later. Be mindful of the time you take the last gulp of the liquid gold.
Large amounts of alcohol consumption close to bedtime can have an impact on sleep quality. Particularly, REM sleep. REM is the stage of sleep where we can dream, muscles become paralyzed, eyes move back and forth. REM is also important for our cognitive function. REM is when our brain’s process information and store for long-term memory. So, if you have some important events in life that require some increased cognition, try to make REM a priority.
I feel this is a no brainer, but often easy to look past. Heavy water consumption 1-2 hours before bed is no good. Getting up multiple times per night is going to impact the quality of your sleep. Try to create a water cut off time 1-2 hours prior to bedtime.
We all have 33 alarms set to wake us up in the morning. But, do we have an alarm set to get into bed at night? Setting a routine to wake up and go to bed around the same time every day, if not most days, will help create a healthy circadian rhythm for our body.
Exercising before sleep is not a great idea if you can help it. Our body’s core temperature needs to decrease to sleep optimally. Obviously, training cause our temperature to rise. So, try to limit training 2-3 hours before bed.
Your bedroom should be the coolest room in your house. This is to ensure your body’s core temperature to drop. Set it for around 65-67 degrees Fahrenheit.
Since it is 2019 and cell phones are a hot commodity, I think we have all heard about limiting screen time before bed. The omission of blue light from all the toys causes a decrease in melatonin production. You can have your phone set to shut off all apps 1 hour before bed to eliminate any temptations. Try this, as well as keeping your phone at a distance when sleeping.
Also, it is important to let your body know when it is day and when it is night. What I mean by that is, make sure you get some light exposure during the day and keep your house darker at night. Daylight is great for regulating our body’s circadian rhythm.
There it is! I hope this helps put into perspective the importance of sleep and how we function as human beings when we don’t get enough. Create a routine that works best for you. Happy sleeping everyone!