Hey, you over there. You know how you complain about being tired all of the time, can’t exercise and you feel like the whole world is crashing in on you because you’re stressed from work?
If I told you I had the absolute best solution to drastically improve your well being, create more energy and vitality and maybe even help you lose weight, and that it was free and something anyone can do immediately, you would probably think I was crazy, right? Well, I’m about to get a bit crazy up in here.
Lean in real close…
Want to know what it is?
Here you go…
Sleep. More sleep.
Yep. It’s really that simple.
The thing is, we walk around all day in a sympathetic state, and that doesn’t mean you feel bad for everyone you see. Our nervous system is governed by two sides, the sympathetic (or fight and flight) side and the parasympathetic (or rest and digest) side. When you’re at work, driving your car, watching your tablet or posting on Facebook, you’re engaging your sympathetic nervous system. The average person spends about 18 hours a day in this state, and then we sleep for only about 6 hours and the parasympathetic side has to repair all of the stuff we are doing to ourselves 75% of the time. No wonder that our bodies get overtaxed, our hormonal system gets out of whack and we walk around with no energy and stressed out.
As a society today we don’t prioritize this side of our nervous system and it is so important. When you sleep, your major organs can repair themselves, you can regulate a lot of your internal systems and your mood will increase greatly. Just a week of sleep deprivation can cause a major alteration in glucose tolerance – which means if you’re trying to lose weight, you’re going to have a much harder time. Your immune system isn’t as strong. And your stress hormones like cortisol (which increased amounts of can not only cause obesity but are linked to diabetes) increase as well.
Without getting into too many details, you need more sleep. In fact, if you just added one hour per night you would feel the benefits immediately. The question is, how to get it?
My revelation about this came from after my daughter was born and setting her up for sleep success. Since she’s been 6 months old she typically sleeps through the night and for about 10-12 hours average, plus a nap during the day. And, she’s usually in a great mood surprisingly enough. So here’s some tips taken straight out of the toddler sleep handbook, and the great thing is that they apply to all of us, plus a bit extra.
Stay on a proper sleep cycle every day and don’t alter it. – This means going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time, every day, even on weekends. Changing things once in a while is okay, but doing it every few days only sets your internal clock up for failure. This might mean leaving a party early on the weekend once in a while. Trust me, your body will thank you for it.
Schedule the proper amount of hours each night. – Studies show that the lowest BMI comes from people who sleep an average of 7.7 hours per night. So whether it is 10-6am or 11-7am, try for the 8 hour cycle. Some of your major organs like your gall bladder and liver repair themselves at different times, and most organ repair has been shown to start after 10pm.
If this is something you need to ease into, simply start going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until your new cycle is established and you are where you want to be.
Practice good sleep hygiene – Turn off any bright lights at least 30 minutes before bed (that includes your TV and computer or download an app like f.lux that adjusts the light of your screen to promote melatonin release. Do something relaxing before you try to close your eyes like reading or meditating. Make sure that your bedroom is as dark as possible and turn your clock away so you can’t see it.
Don’t eat anything significant right before trying to sleep – Things like caffeine (obviously) and alcohol will alter your sleep patterns. Also, eating a light carbohydrate about 30 minutes before bed can actually help you drift off by making sure your blood sugar isn’t crashing – but keep it light.
Don’t also think that napping during the day isn’t effective, because it is. However, it can’t replace good solid sleeping at night.
Doing this simple little change as discussed before can completely alter your energy levels and really make you feel a lot better instantly. And before you start in with excuses, remember that I have a 15 month old at home and one on the way. I understand sleep deprivation but I worked really hard at getting my own sleep patterns optimal so that I can be at my best for my clients. Anyone can do this, and pretty much everyone should.
So simply repeat after me in the mirror…
You are getting sleepy…