Why Sleep Matters
At the risk of boring you into a gaping, wide-mouth yawn (pun intended) with all our talk of sleep, it's extremely underrated ability to heal and maintain overall health compels us...obligates us to share more.
Why is it so important?
- Sleep supports healthy brain function including memory, cognition, concentration, productivity and performance. It also decreases the chances of developing dementia and Alzheimer's.
- Proper sleep helps manage blood sugar and blood pressure.
- It regulates appetite and could help with weight loss. A University of Chicago study compared two groups of people on the same calorie-restricted diet and exercise regimen. The adequate sleep group experienced a 55% increase in weight loss when compared to the sleep deprived.
- Sleep is a massively underutilized anti-aging strategy. We all know the phrase "beauty sleep". Well, it is real. Our bodies (including the skin - our largest organ) recover during sleep. It is when new collagen is made and when the skin repairs itself from environmental stressors from products and polluted air and over sun exposure.
- Lack of sleep can precipitate a long list of diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer, just to name a few.
Why are we (as a general population) sleep-deprived?
- Since the dawn of electricity, we've learned how to extend our waking hours drastically. Back in the day, all we had in terms of lighting beyond dusk was fire. Today, our options are limitless. Our natural rhythms are highly sensitive to light, especially those that are bright and blue. This has disrupted our innate ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- We are ever-flooded with distractions ranging from the internet, 24 hour accessibility through text messages, and television. Our nervous systems are in a constant state of stimulation, making it difficult to focus, calm our monkey minds and wind down in the evenings.
- Our sleeping environments are poor. Our bedrooms are no longer just for sleep. They are charging stations, work stations, movie theaters, etc, and are often lit by street lights, power lights and charger lights. In the presence of these lights, the receptors in our skin signal our bodies to stay awake.
- Working out and eating too late in the day. Our bodies are over-heated and revved up to get the unwind, relax and-sleep wheels in motion.
How can we mimic the perfect sleep our ancestors experienced back when there was no artificial light and no electricity to disrupt our natural rhythms and allow us to keep going all night long?
We are here to be the bridge between now and then.
- Shawn Stevenson, sleep specialist and author of Sleep Smarter writes, "...a great night of sleep begins the moment you wake up in the morning. Exposure to direct sunlight and 5-10 minute of early morning heart-rate elevating exercise with help you sleep better in the evening. It increases sleep cycle efficiency and decreases nighttime cortisol.
- As soon as the sun sets, limit evening artificial light and especially blue-light from all screens, including television. If you must be on your computer for work, download blue blocking software such as F.LUX or IRIS, and/or wear blue blocking glasses. Definitely stay off social media. The search-and-discovery effects of social media provide small hits of dopamine, putting your body in a more alert state. Keep the lights dim and maybe even eat dinner over candlelight!
- Consistency is key. Whether weekday, weekend or holiday, preserve your circadian rhythm by maintaining the same bed and wake up time. This has everything to do with your body's natural ability to produce melatonin. Melatonin is one of the hormones responsible for helping you fall and stay asleep throughout the night.
- Turn your bedroom into a cozy-bat-cave, cool and dark. Our body temperature naturally lowers at night as a means of energy conservation. It uses that energy to support sleep functions. If you are too warm, the body redirects some of that energy to keeping you cool, thereby disrupting your sleep. Scientists say somewhere between 60 and 67 degrees fahrenheit is the ideal sleeping temperature. With regards to light, any tiny bit, even the tiny lights flashing from smoke detectors, can interfere with sleep. It increases core temperature and effects melatonin release. Our skin has light receptors, so while sleep masks help, but don't fully do the trick. Ideally, there is zero light in the room.
- Breathwork as you are falling asleep is often helpful to calm the nervous system. Try box breathing (4 counts in, 4 counts hold, 4 counts out, 4 counts hold), 4-7-8 breathing (4 counts in, 7 counts hold, 8 counts out), or a 1:2 ratio inhale to exhale.
- Show your soft tissues some love to help increase parasympathetic nervous system dominance. While we'd all love a pre-bedtime personal massage, a simple 5 minute foam rolling session or CARS (controlled articular rotations) also do the trick. For more information about CARS, send Gregg a note!
- Avoid alcohol in the evening. Alcohol raises core body temperature, again, causing the body to work extra hard to cool off instead of focusing on sleep functions. This often causes disrupted, restless sleep. It also interferes with REM sleep, which is crucial for memory consolidation and processing.
- Essential oils are often helpful to induce a sleep. Diffuse calming scents such as lavender into your bedroom at bedtime. Learn an aroma-accu-point calming protocol (send Fatima a note to learn more about this).
- Supplement with magnesium. Magnesium is responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body including the functioning of GABA receptors in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that allows the brain to transition to a state of rest. For several reasons we won't get into right now, most of us are deficient in magnesium. Ideas for supplementation include Natural Calm by Natural Vitality and Magnesium baths and body oils (we like the ones called Ancient Minerals by Enviromedica).
- Doc Parsley's Sleep Remedy, developed by a Navy Seal doctor, is wonderful help if you are truly having trouble sleeping. (Use code cookbooks for a 10% discount)
- CBD, or cannabidiol is a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant and is associated with several therapeutic benefits. In addition to being an anti-inflammatory, it has the ability to calm and reduce pain. CBD does not include the THC, or "high" inducing portion of the plant and is legal in all 50 states and for centuries has been used medicinally as a sleep aid.
Experiment this week with some early morning quick HIIT sessions and see how it affects your sleep. Want some ideas?
- 10 kettlebell swings followed by 10 burpees, 3 x through.
- 10 jump squats, followed by 10 push ups, 3 x through.
- 4 30-second sprints with 30-seconds of rest between each on a stationary bike or rebounder.
- On a nice day, take a quick run around the block. The exposure to early morning light gets you double points!
Let us know how you feel!
Speaking of sleep...want to experience true restorative and restful sleep? We've built it in to our retreat in Mallorca, Spain in September. Join us. There are only a few spots remaining! For more information and to sign up, click HERE.
*Full disclosure: While we make a small profit from the affiliate links above, these are products we personally use and have benefitted from. We will never endorse anything we do not fully believe in.