What you need to know about sleep and why it’s essential for our health!

You probably know by now that your sleep is important, but what you may not know is that the quality of your sleep is essential for your health.  The CDC recommends adults ages 18-60 getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night. In this post, we’ll dive into how to improve your sleep quality so you can make those hours count!           

The stages of sleep

During a typical nights sleep your body cycles through different cycles and phases. The first cycle of sleep is non-REM sleep which consists of four phases. In the first and second phases of sleep your heart rate, breathing, rate, and body temperature drop. The third and fourth phases of sleep are considered deep sleep. After non-REM sleep comes REM sleep. REM sleep is associated with dreams where your eyes move rapidly behind your closed lids and your brain waves mimicking wakefulness. 

A good nights sleep is defined by falling asleep within 15-20 minutes, sleeping for 7-9 hours a night, waking up minimally (no more than twice) for brief periods of time, and waking up feeling refreshed. 

While you are sleeping your body is busy detoxing, balancing hormones, boosting immunity, and brain plasticity, among other important functions. People who sleep well have better weight management, mental health, brain health, fertility, productivity, as well as reduced disease and cancer risk, and anti-aging effects. 

What influences sleep?

Your sleep is influenced by a ton of different factors, but two very important ones are your circadian rhythm and your sleep routine (leading up to bed). Your circadian rhythm is the physical, mental, and behavioral cycles/fluctuations that follow a 24-hour cycle that affects your sleep, mood, and many other physiological reactions in your body. If you’re sleeping poorly it may be worth trying to reset your circadian rhythm. 

This can be done by: 

  1. Watching the sunrise (or getting sunlight first thing in the AM – no later than 15 min upon waking)
  2. Watching the sunset 
  3. Eating regularly and consistently 
  4. Trying intermittent fasting (try to keep it to 12 hours or less) 
  5. Aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep nightly 
  6. Spend 30 minutes or more outside for mood-boosting (bonus if you get movement in)

Simply put, your sleep drive is your body’s natural craving for sleep. We’ll get into how you can get this in check below. 

How you can improve your sleep

Improving your sleep quality does not have to be complicated. My top tips for getting a good nights sleep are:

  • Move 10k + steps a day 
  • Don’t consume caffeine after 2 pm 
  • Cut back on sugar (avoid sneaky added sugars in foods)
  • Drink water! (aim for half of your body weight in ounces)
  • Eat more plants (they have minerals and brain/hormone healthy nutrients)
  • Eat some carbohydrates with dinner (bonus for complex carbs)
  • Try soothing tea before bed
  • Wear blue light blocking glasses and put night shift mode on your devices
  • Work on stress management – try meditating or journaling before bed 
  • Avoid anything too stimulating before bed (avoid work, and finances, working out)
  • Take a warm bath before bed (bonus if it is with Epsom salt) 
  • Use aromatherapy (this can be diffused in your room, or used on your pillow) 
  • Don’t get into bed until you’re ready to sleep 
  • Create a bedtime routine so your body knows it’s time to sleep 

In addition to the above, your sleep environment matters. Making sure your room is dark, quiet, cool at around 65 degrees Farenheight, and clean with no dust, mold, or allergens is imperative

Bottom Line

One of the most overlooked and key aspects of wellness is sleep and sleep quality. Without proper sleep, our bodies cannot rest, recover, and recuperate. Making sure you are prioritizing your sleep is critical to your health. I often find that the people who eat well, exercise, and live overall healthy lifestyles but still don’t feel well are the ones slacking on their sleep. 

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