Sleep…is there anything less appreciated until we can’t have it???
And guess what – it is #1 of the 25 Solutions in my eBook “25 Solutions Guide.” I think it is that important. Deep sleep is when our bodies “scrub away” the damage of the day, by clearing out toxins that accumulate in the brain throughout normal daily activities. Beta-amyloid (a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease) is an example of one such toxin. Stakes are very high to control our risk factors for this disease.
During sleep, channels in the brain known as the glymphatic system expand to flow cerebrospinal fluid to clear out the debris. This is hugely impactful on the function of your vagus nerve, which in turn affects many, many functions in your body, such as digestion and emotional well-being.
Sleep affects memory, physical strength and stamina, and regulates the hormones that control hunger (ghrelin and leptin) and also insulin, which regulates blood sugar. No wonder sleep deficiency is associated with increased obesity, especially in the form of visceral fat, that dangerous “organ fat” that accumulates in your kidney or liver, grows its own blood vessels and secretes its own hormones to keep you fat.
Chronic sleep deficiency is also linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease. There is truly no way of getting around it – getting too little sleep is very bad!
Sleep intersects all three sides of my Triangle of Health: physical structure, chemical, and mental/emotional. Insufficient – or poor quality – sleep degrades your chemistry and physical performance, but also GREATLY impacts what you think and how you feel. Improving the amount and quality of sleep you get is a powerful health pivot.
Sleep – or the lack thereof – is a major player on your “Wellness Team.” Level up your sleep, both in quality and quantity, and you’ll make much healthier choices for food, movement and emotions.
Here are my strategies for you to up level this part of your life to better improve your overall health:
Begin your sleep in the morning.
a. Get outside every morning in the sun for at least ½ hour. Optimally without sunglasses or sunscreen (hat is fine), as you want your eyes and your skin to register the sun without mediation. This sets your circadian rhythms to the correct day-night cycles.
b. Rise at the same time every day to establish regularity so that your body knows when to get sleepy, and when to rise.
c. Water before caffeine. While not directly related to sleep, hydration is important to all the systems of your body, so hydrate well – drinking 1 ounce per ½ pound of body weight every day.
Amount: Sleep at least 7 hours per night. 8 hours is even better.
This base minimum has been proven over and over again to be the amount required by us humans. If you have been existing on less, it probably means that you have been surviving while running a “sleep deficit.” No matter what any influencer says about “hustle to win,” or there being time to sleep after we die (!), you cannot outsmart your anatomy without consequences. If you exist on less than 7-8 hours per night, your health is suffering, plain and simple.
Bedroom: Create an optimal sleep environment.
Your bedroom is for sleep and intimacy. Clear it of the elements that inhibit sleep: electronics, work, light, heat, noise, and clutter:
- Electronics – no TV, laptop, desktop, phone, etc. Use a clock for an alarm if you need one.
- Work – maintain a work station elsewhere, not where you sleep.
- Light – if you can see your hand in front of your face after your lights are out, your bedroom is too light. Get room darkening curtains if you need them. Light affects the production of your melatonin.
- Heat – your bedroom temperature should not exceed 65 degrees (18 Celsius). Or as I hear one person say, when you strip to put on your pajamas, you should shiver slightly! There are “cooling blankets” and whole systems available online.
- Noise – if you cannot control outdoor noises, check out white noise machines to drown them out.
- Clutter – represents unfinished business, which our mind then wants to work on while we sleep. Put your clothes away. Don’t store things underneath your bed. Check out various feng shui resources online to see how to create a peaceful bedroom.
Sleep Hygiene: Practice “sleep hygiene” by implementing the 10-3-2-1-0 method (this comes from Craig Ballantyne in his book, The Perfect Day Formula):
- 10 hours before your desired bedtime: stop all caffeine.
- 3 hours before bedtime: no more food or alcohol.
- 2 hours before bedtime: no more work.
- 1 hour before bedtime: no more screen time. Read, take a bath, give thanks, pray.
- Hit the snooze “0” times next morning.
Monitor your sleep.
“What gets measured can be improved, ” as says Robin Sharma (or Peter Drucker). I wear an Oura ring (ouraring.com). I track metrics in my own health such as deep sleep, REM sleep, heart rate variability and resting heart rate. I notice how various factors affect me even more than they might affect others (such as alcohol consumption) and I have the data I need to make changes.
Find out what is bothering you.
What are you allergic/sensitive to? Do you have unresolved trauma? Are you carrying toxins from an exposure such as mold, or an inborn incapacity to clear them? Do you have a nutritional deficiency to remediate? Do you have a microbial imbalance (yeast, mold, virus, bacteria)? Are there genetic factors impairing you? Get high level Functional testing to really uncover these answers – I have written on the Six Underlying Causes of Chronic Disease, which these represent.
Gratitude: Every day, every night.
Finish your day by giving thanks. Maintain a “Gratitude Journal” and list at least 3 things for which you are grateful today. Also, write actual thank you notes and send them to people who have impacted you (bonus: do this with your children, and watch the magic happen).