5 Rules For Better, Deeper Sleep

From bedtimes to blankets, these guidelines will guarantee you rise and shine.

PJs on, teeth brushed, alarm set, lights out. This is the basic “how to go to bed” routine, right? Well, it’s a start…

According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans average 6.8 hours of sleep per night while experts typically recommend seven to nine hours. Four in 10 Americans get less than the recommended amount of nightly sleep.

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Why does this matter? Medical studies have related a lack of sleep to obesity, increased diabetes, heart disease and cancer risk, memory loss, and decrease your lifespan. Additionally, a 2010 study examined the impact of sleep on mortality and found that men who slept for less than six hours of a night were four times more likely to die over a 14-year period.

 

I’ve seen first-hand through my own experience and with my health coaching clients, the benefits of getting a good night’s rest and the consequences of not catching enough Zs. What are the symptoms?

  • Hunger between meals
  • Erratic emotions, heightened sensitivity, possibly even anxious or depressed
  • Forgetful, unfocused
  • Slow to get over being sick
  • Clumsiness
  • Lack of intimacy
  • Muscles take longer than expected to recover from a workout

We all want to have better, deeper sleep but “stuff” gets in the way.

 

The good news is that we can set ourselves up for healthy rest by following these five simple steps: 

 

Rule #1: Stick to a bedtime.

Humans, like all other living beings, follows a circadian rhythm or 24 hour cycle which determines patterns of brain wave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration and other biological activities like sleeping and eating. We’re pre-programmed to perform our best when we go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning (even on weekends).

By synchronizing the circadian, biological clock, we’ll positively influence our hunger regulating hormones, energy levels and overall mood.

To figure out my own bedtime, I tucked myself in eight hours before I needed to wake up for a week. And then made small adjustments (+/-15 minutes) until I could get up in the morning alarm-free and feel alert most of the day. It’s hard to judge before that first week because more than likely you’ll need to get caught up on rest like I did.

 

Rule #2: Cut caffeine after lunch.

I enjoy a hot cup of tea and an occasional cafe just as much as the next girl, but, here’s the thing: caffeine stays in the body six hours after the last sip. By avoiding it after lunch, we set ourselves up to drift off to count fewer sheep. Try an herbal tea for a quick fix & remember decaf is not actually caffeine-free.

 

Rule #3: Set the thermostat to 68° F.

Research shows that 68 degrees is the sweet spot temperature for a good night’s rest. Set your thermostat, choose a lighter blanket and PJs, or maybe even use a fan.

 

Rule #4: Ditch electronic devices.

As addictive as bedtime Instagram scrolling may be, the emitted light is the bigger problem. The blue-ish glow of most electronic devices mirrors the spectrum of day light and wakes us up. Avoid or at least dim any electronics at least 30 minutes before bed so melatonin (ie. the sleep hormone secreted when we’re in the dark) doesn’t get blocked.

 

Rule #5: Just say no to sleep-aid drugs.

Prescription sleep medications can be really dangerous—they can cause heart attacks, strokes and even death  Further, the current research on effectiveness of these drugs is unreliable—some people who are given a placebo will sleep as long as those given the real thing.

It’s important to remember to make these rules apply in our own lives. Are you well rested? What works best for you?

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