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Let Me Rant About Sleep Hygiene for a Minute and How to Have Your Best Night in Bed…Ever.

As children, the idea of sleep is a punishment. We’re told we need to nap at a certain time and go to sleep at a certain time, and we fight it and throw temper tantrums to avoid it. As adults, when we finally realize that sleep is awesome, we have a hard time getting in more than 5 interrupted hours. Between you and me, I would give anything to have one of those teen-year, 11-hour nights of sleep, where I would wake up completely confused and mystified but also entirely refreshed.

So why are we having issues sleeping?

Because of our modern way of life, with 100% reliance on computers and cell phones, our brains have adapted to working much faster than ever before. We are overconsuming in all areas of our lives: too much food, too much information, too much light, too much sugar, and too much caffeine. We are also overcommitting in our schedules and rarely have the true downtime that Saturdays and Sundays were built for. As such, it takes longer for the brain to slow down and prepare for sleep and therefore, sleep is becoming more and more critical to the quality of life.

And why is sleep so damn important?

[Insert Science Lesson]: Our circadian rhythm supplies the subconscious cues we need to understand when to be active when to eat, when to sleep, and when to secrete all of the hormones that our body needs to run properly. This 24-hour cycle is the natural rhythm that dictates all our mental, physical, and behavioral activities. Proper sleep is critical for stress management, weight management, immune function, and overall health and well-being. So, when the rhythm is thrown off balance, it can lead to cognitive and behavioral issues like reduced focus and efficiency, slower motor skills, depression, poor memory recall, and even balance. About 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep problems.

The biggest contributors to body clock rhythm imbalances are the cycle of sunrise + sunset and temperature variations. There are some small adjustments that we can all make to ensure the most optimal sleep of your life. Here are my Top 10 Fail-Proof Tips for getting a better night’s sleep:

Daytime Prep:

· Wear blue-light-blocking glasses to protect your eyes from the excess blue light from TVs, computers, smartphones, and fluorescent or LED lighting.

· Reduce caffeine intake. While caffeine affects everyone differently, it has been scientifically proven to cause shorter total sleep time, worse sleep quality, more frequent awakenings, shortening of deep sleep time, and an overall decline in restorative sleep. I’m a 1-cup-of-coffee gal and it’s often decaf now. Once your sleep quality starts to improve, you won’t need that morning pick-me-up as desperately as you once did!

· Practice intermittent fasting in whatever way works for you. Ideally, your last meal should be 3 hours before bed, minimum. When you eat, your body temperature rises. However, one of the keys to better sleep is that your body temperature should drop – whoops! In addition, people who practice I.F. tend to remain in REM sleep for longer than normal, which leads to better memory recall, learning, and mood.

· Live by the sunrise and sunset. Tune out the blue lights as much as possible after sundown. For me, this means no more lights on in the house after dinner. It’s not that hard, especially with sunset being after 8pm these days.

The Wind Down Routine:

· Cool the temperature down. I live in a 74-degree house year ‘round. It’s my happy temperature. But come 9pm, that AC automatically kicks into high gear and starts cooling things down to 72, then 70, and ultimately 68 degrees when I’m already under the covers. Not So Fun fact: sleeping in a room warmer than 70 degrees will stop your body from producing melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that helps you fall asleep and stay asleep. And it’s also one of our BEST anti-aging hormones. So, if you’re over the hill like I am…I’d get as much of that as I can!

· Put your phone away, in another room, on DND (do not disturb), 1-hour before you get into bed to wind down. I don’t even need to justify this one. You already know…

· Invest in some serious blackout shades or a great eye mask. Remove any of those annoying electronic lights from your bedroom. Even the tiniest little green indicator light can affect your sleep.

· Don’t forget the importance of quality bedding and pillows. Thread count is bullshit, but the quality is not. Look for something natural, like cotton, which is breathable and soft. And make sure you have the right support for your neck and back in whatever your chosen sleep position may be.

· The final game-changer for me was this small practice…when I get into bed and find my cozy spot, I take 3 long deep cleansing breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth. It signals to my body that it’s time for rest and that I’ve done enough for the day. It’s time to let go.

Once you’ve perfected your unique sleep hygiene practice, inevitably something will wake you up on occasion; a middle-of-the-night bio break, a partner snoring or trying to get frisky, or maybe just a loud thunderstorm. I IMPLORE YOU to not reach for your cell phone. But…I know you will and if you must, I would highly recommend you quickly dive into the podcast app and find a boring sleep story for adults to lull you back to sleep. It works every time.


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