Sleep is an underrated topic in the health world. I don’t know about you, but when I don’t get enough sleep, I am a monster. I’m cranky and I do not look good. There are so many times where people who claim to run on 4 or 5 hours of sleep are typically viewed as superstars while those who need a full 8 or more hours of sleep are viewed as downright lazy. So, as someone who needs more sleep than most to be functioning, I take this subject to heart. If you feel like you could use more or better quality sleep, I have some tips for you. There are 9 things to avoid before sleepthat are keeping you from getting the deepest sleep possible.
I have done a ton of research over the years to figure out how to get the best and most efficient sleep. To my surprise, I found a lot of ways you can mess up your sleep (including some I was doing already, whoops) but also many ways to improve it. Originally this was going to be one post but there is just so much information I want to share so I am breaking it up into two separate posts (sleep is one of my favorite activities). This post is on the benefits and enemies of sleep, the next post on my secret weapons to help you get your best sleep.
Why the I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead Mindset Does More Harm than Good
Sleep is pivotal to everyone’s health and no one likes a grouchy sleep monster. We need this time to rejuvenate our bodies and minds. Kids and teens need this the most but that doesn’t give us adults an excuse to skip out.
Restores our Body’s Organs and Systems
Prolonged inadequate sleep can give you a slew of health problems. If you have been skipping out on sleep for a long period of time, getting more sleep can literally change your life. Long term lack of sleep has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
I don’t know how many people I have seen in my office chugging Emergen-C or kombucha to ward off the common cold, but little did they know that if they got more sleep at night, they would boost their immune system for free.
More sleep can also lead to a better sex. Over 1 in 4 people said that their sex life suffers because they are too tired. This is especially the case in men, where lack of sleep has been associated to lower testosterone.
Lack of sleep has been linked to weight gain and even obesity. When you aren’t getting enough sleep, you can expect to feel hungrier than normal and it can also lead to higher than normal blood sugar levels. Higher blood sugar can increase your risk for diabetes. Since diabetes is already too common here in the US, we don’t need another contributor to more people with this disease.
Do you want to be smarter, faster, and a better person overall? No this isn’t a commercial for some magic pill, it is what you can achieve with more sleep. Lack of sleep affects how efficiently your brain works. It takes longer to think and react to problems and everyday situations. You are less productive, your memory suffers, and you make more mistakes. Tired drivers are extremely dangerous for this reason. On top of all of this, you also lose control of your emotions more easily.
What is pretty scary is that you may not even be aware of any of this while it is happening. I also speak from experience when it comes to this lack of awareness. When I was younger, I was working long hours and not getting enough sleep but didn’t think twice about it because many of my coworkers were in the same boat so I thought this was normal. I was tired when I woke up but was still functioning after my coffee. It wasn’t until I started getting more sleep that I noticed how much I quicker I could solve problems and get work done. I also stopped getting easily annoyed by small issues (maybe New Yorkers get a bad rap because everyone is sleep deprived, just a thought).
Instead of look good feel good, feel good look good seems more appropriate for this topic. I already mentioned the weight gain but getting enough sleep makes you look better as well. Your body wants you to be healthy and it rewards you with glowing skin. If you get enough sleep and quality deep sleep, then your body rewards you with more of the growth hormone which gives you better skin. Poor sleep will get you very little of this youthful hormone at night.
Enemies of the State…of Sleep
Sorry for the pun but I think I’m funny. While sleep is a natural process that your body does without thinking, you have probably noticed that some nights you just don’t get good sleep. You may wake up feeling exhausted, had trouble falling asleep, or just kept waking up. There are some surprising sleep disruptors causing your lack of quality sleep. These are the 9 things to avoid before sleep.
This is probably not a shocker but caffeine impacts your sleep. However, there are surprising places that caffeine hides that don’t include a late night coffee or soda (or pop depending on where you’re from). Some other culprits include:
- Decaf coffee
- Non-cola sodas such as orange soda
- Some teas, especially black and green teas
I like to have a 3pm rule for myself most days, especially if I know I’m going to need energy for work the next day. Yet, I’m not perfect and sometimes I do have caffeine after 3 pm but I try to make drink less caffeinated drinks over others. For example, in my industry, grabbing a cup of coffee with someone to catch up is very common. If someone wants to grab a 3pm coffee with me, I usually go for tea or a chai latte since they have about 1/3 of the caffeine as a cup of coffee.
Many people like to have a drink to take the edge off of a stressful day at work or a glass of wine with their dinner. Little do they know that this is ruining their restful sleep (this one I was not happy about). Alcohol is great at getting people to fall asleep (hence why I have seen my friends fall asleep at the bar a few times back in the day) but it ruins the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of your sleep, which is the most restorative phase. It can also temporarily cause sleep apnea, which is when you momentarily stop breathing throughout the night.
Marijuana is legal in some states here in the US so I want to share information on this subject since many people use marijuana in a similar way as alcohol when it comes to sleep. Like alcohol, weed makes it easier to fall asleep but it has similar negative effects on your REM cycle. So unfortunately, in both these cases you will end up with grogginess in the morning if you choose to have a night cap with alcohol or marijuana. Some people swear by a late night hit but the science is in on this one.
4. A Light Room
The darker the room, the better for falling asleep, so if your significant other wants to read in bed with a lamp on, I suggest that you ask them to move to the living room or get a good eye mask.
Having a really warm bedroom sounds cozy especially right now during the winter but surprisingly it will not do you any favors when it comes to sleep. It is best to keep your room cool but not cold. Your body temperature drops when you sleep, making it easier for your body to heat up. If your body gets too hot in the middle of the night, you won’t stay in deep sleep for as long as you would in a cool room and you may also end up waking up feeling uncomfortable.
Stress is detrimental to our bodies. It can keep you up and wake you in the middle of the night. Stress reducing techniques are critical to your overall well-being and specifically your sleep (more on those in the second sleep post).
7. Blue Light Emitting Screens
Blue light emitting screens, which are basically everywhere these days, wreak havoc on your sleep. Keep your laptop, IPad, TV, etc. out of the bedroom. The bedroom is a place for rest so your mind should subconsciously only associate your room with resting (or sex, but that relaxes people too, so same concept).
Products that have tons of sugar hype you up and then send you crashing. Besides the fact that this is awful for your body at any time of the day, it is definitely not going to help you fall asleep, even when you crash.
9. Heavy Meals and Spicy Food Late at Night
Eating heavy meals or spicy food late at night can cause indigestion which can interrupt sleep and cause damage to your esophagus. You could be like me and have symptom-less indigestion. I found out through my gastroenterologist that my late meals were giving me indigestion in my sleep without me even knowing! To be safe, it is best to avoid eating in general, at least 2 hours before bed.
Getting quality sleep will improve the health of your body and mind. It can make you a smarter and happier person. The best part is that it is free! Make sure you stay away from these enemies of sleep and come back for my next blog post about my favorite natural methods to fall asleep and stay asleep.