It seems that sleep has been in the news of late. Though I have been reading more about it, I have been getting less of it and I don't think I am alone. There are few things more satisfying than a good night sleep and research shows there are many benefits such as muscle repair and tissue growth, as well as cognitive function and memory. We know that eating healthfully, moving our bodies and managing stress are all integral parts to a healthy whole but sleep is a big, if not wholly understood, piece of the big picture. An interesting read can be found at www.amazon.com/Eat-Move-Sleep-Choices-Changes-ebook/dp/B00CRGI0OI
Though I am well aware of the benefit of sleep, changes in my own body, primarily due to hormone fluctuation, have made a good night sleep elusive. I have discovered many things that help tremendously and have conducted several experiments using myself as a guinea pig. Here's what I've discovered:
consistency matters. Going to bed and getting up at the same time set you up both physiologically and psychologically for sleep success. Physiologically, we have an internal clock or circadian rhythm. Most of us are designed to feel sleepy when it gets dark and alert when it is light, though technology often disrupts this rhythm. Psychologically, the routine of getting ready for bed, reading, sipping tea or whatever you do in preparation for sleep create an association. If you have children you know how important the bedtime ritual can be and it is no different for us.
The things we do before bed have become critical in not only getting to sleep but staying asleep. Drinking caffeine or alcohol too close to bed can disrupt your sleep cycle. I usually only drink a cup of coffee in the morning but sometimes I'll have a second cup later and have discovered any consumption beyond lunch time can adversely affect my sleep. I have also noticed that a glass of red wine after 7pm can send me into hot flash hell in the middle of the night. Finally, I try very hard, not always successfully, to avoid using technology in the hour before I turn off the light. Blue light emitted from our devices can wreak havoc on the secretion of melatonin and cripple our sleep quality. Here's more info: www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side
Mindfulness has helped me stay aware of my own habits and the effect they have on my sleep. I do a pretty good job of eating healthfully, moving my body, and managing stress but sleep is a struggle and the struggle is real. In desperation, I have tried melatonin supplements without any success and have found no real evidence, aside from anecdotal, to suggest the efficacy of supplementation. Speaking of anecdotal, I can tell you my college students are not getting enough sleep based on their performance, it definitely plays a role in their ability to pay attention and retain information. Check out the 60 minute "Science of Sleep" piece on youtube for a fascinating look at how much our culture of busy and sleep deprivation is costing us in terms of our health. I am including the link as my website of the week.