These days, it seems like a good night's sleep can be elusive. At the same time, human beings are remarkably adaptable, so many of us have learned to function with chronic under-rest. Maybe this survival strategy works, but here are 5 signs that you might need to come up with better sleep habits:
- WEIGHT STRUGGLES Poor sleep is linked to excess body fat, as it can disrupt appetite regulation, cause you to feel hungrier, and lead to increased calorie intake. And if you are carrying around excess weight, that can also disrupt your sleep
- BRAIN FOG What we experience and learn gets cemented to memory while we sleep. Interference with this process causes reduced alertness and concentration, confusion, impaired judgement, and forgetfulness.
- RECURRENT ILLNESS When we don’t sleep enough, T-cells go down and inflammation goes up, resulting in increased vulnerability to viruses and bacteria, acute increase in risk of getting sick, and increased risk of heart disease and other inflammation-related illnesses.
- WORKING OUT FEELS AWFUL Our body uses sleep as an opportunity to refresh neurotransmitter levels and remove energy-draining metabolites. Otherwise, we experience decreased central nervous system activity, slower reaction time, low energy and endurance capacity, depressed mood, and reduces desire to exercise.
- GRUMPY OR MOODY? While we sleep, we produce fresh neurotransmitters and regulate hormone production. Interference here causes impaired regulation of emotions, heightened stress, low mood, and possible increase in risk of depression.
So what can you do to promote better sleep hygiene? Once you recognize that you might need to improve your sleep routine, here are some helpful suggestions:
- REGULAR BEDTIMES. A predictable bedtime isn't just for young children - we can all use a regular bedtime to send a signal to the brain that sleep is imminent. That means keeping weekend hours close to weekday sleep times. There isn't really any benefit to "sleeping in" on the weekends - you can't get back sleep missed on one day by sleeping more on the next. Adopting regular bedtimes will net you more sleep and more restful sleep overall.
- MINIMIZE CAFFEINE AND ALCOHOL. Both substances can interfere with sleep. Try not to consume caffeine containing beverages after 2:00 pm and cut down alcohol consumption and refrain from consuming alcohol for at least 2 hours before bedtime.
- BAN DEVICES AND TV FROM THE BEDROOM and WIND DOWN FOR AT LEAST 1-2 HOURS. We live in interesting times, and being on social media or answering work emails right before bed time might "amp" you up in a way that prevents the sleep cycle from running it's course. Take the TV, smart phone and laptop out of your room and create a calm, media free sleeping space. Then create a simple wind-down routine like stretching, meditating or taking a warm shower or bath in the hour before bed. You may also want to complete your hygiene tasks (toothbrushing/flossing etc) before you are sleepy so that once you are in bed, you can drift off rather than drag yourself out of bed to take care of those tasks.
- PLAN FOR DISRUPTED SLEEP. Some of us have no trouble falling asleep, its getting back to sleep if you wake up in the middle of the night. Middle of the night wakefulness can give some of us anxious thoughts and feelings which are pretty much the opposite of a sleep mindset. First, recognize that it is normal to wake several times during the night, and if your sleep rhythms are normal, most of us can go back to sleep in a few minutes. If you do wake up in the middle of the night and you do not get back to sleep within a few minutes, create a coping scheme that helps you stay calm until the sleep cycle sets back in. This "sleepless response plan" is just a simple routine that you employ every time you wake up - it can be as simple as: "when I can't sleep, I'm going to get out of bed, drink water, visit the bathroom, go to another room and write down all the thoughts I'm having, and if all else fails, I'll read" . And whatever you do, do not watch the clock. Follow your routine until you feel calm and perhaps even sleepy, and then try to go back to sleep.
- NEUROFEEDBACK. If you have been addressing sleep issues with a sleep hygiene plan and you still can't seem to get a good night's sleep, you may want to consider neurofeedback. NeurOptimal neurofeedback promotes health sleep patterns and supports stress management which can really boost and amplify all your other efforts.
Summer is a great time for families with school aged children to address sleep issues because time pressures are lessened an kids have had a few weeks to adjust after a busy end of the year. Contact Peak Training Center if you want to make neurofeedback a powerful tool in your sleep hygiene arsenal.