Are you sabotaging your sleep?
Sleep is valuable to all of us and yet we never seem to get enough of it. We rely on sleep medication to put us to sleep and caffeine in the morning to wake us up. Is the way we are living our lives sabotaging our ability to sleep the way nature intended us too?
Are you perhaps parenting a small child or two? Then accept that a good night of sleep is not on the cards for the foreseeable future. I resorted to some pretty devious strategies to get more shut-eye when my babies were small. One was pretending to be in such a deep sleep that I didn’t “hear” my baby crying , so eventually my hubby would have to go. My second tactic was giving him a good solid nudge and telling him “your turn”. The third one was threatening that I was going to go insane unless he did the night shift at least once a week. It is not something I am proud of, but at least I got some sleep which allowed me to function above ‘zombie’ level during the day.
Why is sleep so important?
During sleep your brain, muscles and organs are given the opportunity to recover and rejuvenate, allowing you to face the day feeling refreshed. Did you know sleep deprivation can make you fat as it alters hormones responsible for appetite and metabolism? Not getting enough sleep can also turn you into a bear with a sore head that no-one wants to be around. Oh, and let’s not forget that it can seriously impact your ability to think, concentrate and remember things. Basically, it can make stupid!
“Insufficient sleep can also lead to hypertension, elevated stress hormone levels, irregular heart beat and compromised immune function and drastically increased risk for obesity and heart disease. ”
So I reckon those are pretty solid arguments for paying more attention to our sleep. What might be preventing you from getting a good 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep each night? Mark Sisson in his book, The Primal Blueprint, sheds some light on the matter. I have summarised his main points below.
Tips for improving sleep
(1) Get technology out of the bedroom:
The bedroom should be your sanctuary for relaxation. Ban all computers, i-pads and TV as they are just a distraction and will keep you up longer than you should be . These devices emit a bright and often flickering light, which prevents melatonin being released. Melatonin is the hormone required to transition your body into sleep mode but it requires darkness to start working. Don’t bring work into the bedroom either as that can just get your thoughts racing in an unconstructive way. Stick to a good book (preferably fiction and an “easy read”). A traditional Kindle or E-reader that is not back-lit is also fine.
(2) Watch what you eat and drink:
Too much alcohol with supper and your sleep will be fitful and broken. Sugary and carbohydrate rich foods before bedtime will stimulate the production of serotonin which will give you an energy boost and a second wind. Not quite what you want right before bed (unless sleep wasn’t on the agenda anyway). Avoid caffeine and opt for chamomile tea with its mild sedative effect . A handful of nuts, which are high in magnesium, will help muscles to relax. Other good bedtime snacks are eggs, meat, fish and cheese due to their high levels of tryptophan which promotes the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone).
My two cents worth
The reality is that once the kids have been put to sleep, many of us spend our evenings engaged with technology. I reckon Facebook, Twitter and reality TV can be blamed for heaps of wasted time and feelings of disconnect with our partner. We all need to slow down a little and focus on things that matter – our relationships and quality down-time. Forego the TV and computer a few nights a week and instead play a game of Scrabble with your partner, in front of a roaring fire. Dim the lights and listen to some beautiful music. If you have been married for a while and feel like you don’t have much to say to each other, then google “conversation starters for married couples” and get a list of questions which will help you to have a meaningful conversation and some laughs.
A few months ago, around 11:30 pm, I was sitting at my computer and surfing the internet. Next to me my Blackberry beeped. Irritated I thought to myself “who sends a text message at 11:30 at night?” The message was from my husband, who was upstairs in our bedroom. It read, “Its late, come to bed!” That was a bit of a wake up call for me. Husbands and wives shouldn’t be communicating with each other via phones and emails, especially when in the same house. Since then we have been making a concerted effort to not fall into the technology trap. As a result our evenings have become far more relaxing and we end up going to bed much earlier.
So consider setting some new rules in your home. You might just get that quality sleep that has been eluding you for so long.
Imagine waking up feeling rested, alert and energised. I’ll take some of that thanks.
Reference: The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson