When we first had both of our girls, I remember hearing the term “sleep like a baby” and I am sure you have heard it thrown around somewhere too. Funny thing is, I always disagreed with that.
I wanted to sleep like my husband, dead to the world, dead to the little humans crying, dead to basically any sound. Early on in our marriage I gave him the nickname, Grizz. Because this guy is a literal grizzly bear, who would hibernate 12 hours a days-if I let him.
It is irritating and I am envious.
Here we are years later though and I am now starting to think that maybe he isn’t really getting good sleep, he just sounds and looks like it. Our wonderful functional doctor has asked him to do a sleep study because he has some concerns about possible sleep apnea, oh yes, it is so exciting and sexy to get older!
We have long included a sleep hygiene in our home, and I have watched it help us tremendously. I figured best to share how and why because most Americans are not getting enough sleep and that is leaving us more than just tired.
Sleep is incredibly important for our overall health.
According to the Mayo Clinic “For adults, getting less than seven hours of sleep a night on a regular basis, has been linked with poor health, including weight gain, having a body mass index of 30 or higher, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and depression.”
So yes, those are some of the end results we see with sleeplessness but what is happening while we sleep is what I believe we should also be aware of.
Sleep is the time that our bodies and more importantly our brains are cleaning house. We remove cellular waste via our bloodstream, liver, kidneys and finally elimination all while we are snoozing away. Miraculous, isn’t it? Our immune cells are also the most active as we sleep and studies suggest that sleep deprivation can actually mirror our bodies stress response. Lets be honest, in the age of where stress grows on trees, we do not need anymore, especially while we sleep!
Here are some of my GOLDEN rules of sleep hygiene I use in my own home as well as with clients when we first start working together.
Shut down all lights.
Turn off and shut down all extra lighting included but not limited to any LCD screens, night lights, alarm clocks, outside lights filtering through windows and more. Sleeping in complete darkness regulates your body’s ability to produce melatonin in the tissues and pineal gland. Production and release of melatonin from the pineal gland occurs with a clear daily (circadian) rhythm, with peak levels occurring at night.
Pro-tip: Swap out all *necessary* night lights with red bulbs as to protect your eyes from artificial blue light from household lights.
Cool down or sleep in the buff.
Studies show the optimal room temperature for sleep is between 60 to 68 degrees F. Keeping your room cooler or hotter can lead to restless sleep. When you sleep, your body's internal temperature drops to its lowest level, generally about four hours after you fall asleep.
Scientists believe a cooler bedroom may be most conducive to sleep since it mimics your body's natural temperature drop. If you do not want to crank down the temperature on your air conditioning, sleeping naked may do the trick (you are welcome, husbands). Studies have also found sleeping in the nude has several other health benefits, including improved metabolism and blood circulation
Kitchen is closed.
Do not eat or drink 2 hours prior to bedtime. This will eliminate your need for sleep disruption with bathroom calls in the middle of the night. Also, it will help to stabilize your blood sugar, resulting in the regular fasting period while your body resets.
Cut the Screens.
Minimize use of electronics, both during the day and in the evening. Research has shown that the more time you spend on electronic devices during the day, and especially at night, the longer it takes to fall asleep and the less sleep you get overall. Those who use their computers or cell phones the last 60 minutes before bed were 53% and 35% more likely to miss out on two or more hours of sleep. So, kill the blue light screens at a minimum 2 hours before bedtime. Some research even suggests the adverse effects of night-time light on sleep and circadian rhythms can be reduced by replacing blue-enriched light with red or orange-enriched white light after sunset. Furthermore, if you just cannot seem to cut out screens before bedtime, wear blue light blocking glasses.
Go to BED and be consistent.
Do not binge on Netflix, stay up snacking or scrolling your phone for the latest and greatest. Set your goal for sleep and stick to it consistently. Aiming to be asleep between 9-10pm at the latest is the best for your body. Your body does most of its cleaning and recharging during the hours of 11pm-1am. Like most everything consistency is key in maintaining and protecting your rhythms and it will aide you in waking up more refreshed.
Set the Stage.
The key to setting the stage is find the relaxation techniques that work for you and introduce them as a part of your wind down routine.
However, you achieve that is up to you. Some simple ideas are:
• Warm shower or bath before bed
• Meditation and/or prayer
• Deep controlled breathing, slow but deep and steady breathing activates your parasympathetic response while rapid, shallow breathing activates your sympathetic response, involved in releasing cortisol and other stress hormones.
• Aromatherapy and/or diffusing essential oils
Avoiding the night cap.
Alcohol makes you drowsy and most use it as a ‘wind down’ measure. Sure, it works temporarily but, the effect is short lived, and you often will wake up several hours later unable to snooze back to sleep. Alcohol also inhibits deeper stages of sleep, where your body does most of its healing.
Regular exercise for at least 30 minutes per day can improve your sleep. However, don't exercise too close to bedtime or it may keep you awake. Studies show exercising in the morning is the best if you can manage it.
To alarm or not to alarm?
It may not be necessary to use an alarm, especially if you are getting enough sleep. If you must use an alarm clock, purchase a talking alarm clock. Used for the visual impaired, the clock will speak the time to you and have no artificial backlights that can disrupt your sleep. Try to find one that has a slow start that will not jolt you awake and stress your body. There are gentler alternatives include a sun alarm clock (my favorite), which wakes you up by gradually increasing the intensity of light, thereby simulating sunrise.
Some of our favorite products we use:
Sources and References
1. Burkhart K, Phelps JR. Amber lenses to block blue light and improve sleep: a randomized trial. Chronobiol Int. 2009 Dec;26(8):1602-12. doi: 10.3109/07420520903523719. PMID:20030543.
2. Wood B, Rea MS, Plitnick B, Figueiro MG. Light level and duration of exposure determine the impact of self- luminous tablets on melatonin suppression. Appl Ergon. 2013 Mar;44(2):237-40. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2012.07.008. Epub 2012Jul 31. PMID:22850476.
3. Gooley JJ, Chamberlain K, Smith KA, et al. Exposure to room light before bedtime suppresses melatonin onset and shortens melatonin duration in humans. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011;96(3):E463-E472. doi:10.1210/jc.2010-2098
4. Ackermann K, Revell VL, Lao O, Rombouts EJ, Skene DJ, Kayser M. Diurnal rhythms in blood cell populations and the effect of acute sleep deprivation in healthy young men. Sleep. 2012 Jul 1;35(7):933-40. doi: 10.5665/sleep.1954. PMID: 22754039; PMCID: PMC3369228.