Sleep: Top 5 Sleep Hacks

Do you wake up in the mornings feeling rested and ready to take on the day, or are you wishing you could hit that snooze button just one more time?  Most Americans, when surveyed, say they could use more sleep.  I know I could, but given the nature of my situation and where my priorities are right now, this is not an option.  It’s been being recommended for years now to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. Confession, I average only about 5.5 hours and a fair amount of the time it’s interrupted sleep due to my kiddo waking for one reason or another.  Sleep really is one of the most important factors that influences your health.  If I have a patient with sleep issues, we try to handle this issue along the way too otherwise they will heal much slower.  Before getting into the hacks, check out these facts:

Some interesting facts about Sleep:

  • 200% – going to bed late doubles the risk of breast cancer
  • 100% – the increased likelihood of a heart attack if you get less than 7 hours of sleep per night
  • 14.3 lbs – the amount of pounds you could lose in a year by sleeping just 1 hour more eaach day versus watching TV
  • 20% – if you’re sleep deprived, you’re 20% more likely to be dead in 20 years
  • One night of solid sleep can more than double your ability to solve difficult problems
  • Longer sleep is associated with higher IQ’s in kids
  • Sleep deprivation reduces our ability to empathize
  • One night without sleep leaves you performing like you were legally drunk at a blood alcohol content of 0.08.

Yikes!  These are a bit alarming!  Main point, sleep is critically important for your overall health and well-being.  I think, beyond the 7 hours of sleep, that quality of sleep is much more important.  Get as much QUALITY sleep as you can.  Afterall, you may be in bed for 7 hours, but you got up to use the restroom 5 times!  That is just as detrimental, if not more, than not getting enough sleep.  So, how do you get the best quality of sleep for the time that you’re in your bed?

Top 5 Sleep Hacks for Increasing Quality of Sleep

  1. Create a Sleep Routine – When we were all babes, we had sleep routines.  We all know, if we have kids, how wonderful these sleep routines can be.  The routine helps trigger the body to know it’s about time to go to bed.  It prepares you to sleep.  Part of this routine should include an appropriate bedtime that stays the same daily.  It’s also suggested that you wake up at nearly the same time daily everyday as well.  We are creatures of habits and routines.  Implementing even this suggestion will help you go to bed and wake up more naturally.  Here’s another little trick for you to: don’t know an ideal bed time?  Count backwards from the time you have to be awake in the mornings by increments of 1.5 hours.  For example, if you need to be up by 6 am, an ideal time to go to bed on the early side would be around 9pm.  Of course, I know a lot of people who get most of their work or unwinding done after the kids go to bed, so the next ideal time would be around 10:30pm.  Why the 1.5 hour increments?  Your sleep cycles are 1.5 hours long.  If you go to bed so that when you’re suppose to be waking up it’s towards the end of your sleep cycle instead of in the deepest part of it, it will be easier to wake up.
  2. Sleep in complete darkness  Our body’s ability to produce melatonin, the hormone that helps you get to sleep, are already being challenged by all of the “fake” light we’re exposed to regularly.  If you have lightness in your room, this can keep you from producing melatonin as well.  If using an alarm clock, cover that baby up so you can’t see what time it is.  Use black out shades to keep any light from outside entering your bedroom as well.  If you have to use the restroom at night, try to find your way in the dark or have a very dim nightlight in the bathroom.  Avoid turning on the light as much as possible as this will potentially impact hormones levels associated with sleep and make it more difficult to get back to bed.
  3. Keep your room between 60 and 68 degrees F – Sleeping too hot or cold has the ability to wake you as well.  Your body actually cools down the most at night.  Keeping your room around this temperature range helps facilitate your body’s natural cooling cycle.
  4. Get uplugged! – One of the worst activities you can do just up to bedtime is watching TV, especially action-packed, thriller, violent shows.  These are much too stimulating to the brain.  All technology is too stimulating to the brain.  Science recommends that you get unplugged at least an hour, preferably 2 hours prior to bed.  Ha!  I know most of you just laughed about this recommendation.  Again, it’s a recommendation.  I do suggest that you try to get unplugged at least 30 minutes prior to bed however.  That means no TV, no being on your phone checking all the last minute social media posts, no reading on your kindles either.  Get out an old-fashioned book instead.  Turn the lights down.  This would be a great time to get into that meditative sleep to help you decompress from your day.  (Check out this article: Stressed – Surviving the Holidays for more tricks and tips for decompressing).  It’s also recommended that you keep as much technology out of your bedroom as possible altogether.  Anything electrical outputs what is known as electromagnetic frequencies (EMF), which can be disruptive to the body and negatively impact quality of sleep as well.
  5. Finish eating an hour prior to going to bed  Be sure to avoid foods that you’re sensitive or allergic too as well.  Foods have been known for creating very vivid dreams or even nightmares that can disturb your sleep as well.  Also, on the flip side of this, if you find yourself waking in the middle of the night hungry eat a high protein snack just before the hour mark.  This is especially important for people who are working out to keep the body from waking up in a catabolic (muscle wasting) state.  People who have a hard time regulating blood sugar levels also may benefit from this strategy.  In conjunction with eating, it is suggested that you taper off your consumption of fluids around the same time and that you always empty your bladder before you climb into bed.  This will hopefully help reduce those middle-of-the-night trips to the restroom as well.

All in all, do the best you can to get the highest quality of sleep possible.  Any aspect you can change will improve upon your sleep quality and health overall.

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