The lifestyle strategy of sleep- or rather- not getting enough sleep is often discussed in exasperation. Many of us fantasize about getting enough zzz’s to keep us thriving in our lives, but we struggle to do it in real life. Let's discuss some tools to improve this important function, so we feel more vibrant and focused, while staying free from diseases of the brain and body.
What is Sleep?
So, what is sleep? Dr Kirk Parsley defines it as, a state of existence where there's a barrier between you and your environment, and you can be awakened from it (check out one of his amazing podcasts about his work on improving sleep with Navy Seals).
The Benefits of Sleep
Some of the benefits of sleep for our brains and bodies include, restoring and repairing damaged tissues, cleansing our brains from toxin exposure, and reducing overall inflammation in our bodies.
Sleep gives the digestive systems a break, reducing GI inflammation and allowing it to fast which will improve insulin sensitivity. Sleep tells the body's cells to begin the process of ‘autophagy’ – which is like recycling and removing damaged parts within the cells. Some new research explains that during sleep, the space around the brain expands, allowing an easier pathway for cerebral spinal fluid to wash away debris including amyloid, and in addition the number and frequency of brain synapse reduces allowing the brain to rest, repair, and prepare for new learning the next day. Sleep is also connected to reduced amyloid formation.
What Happens when We don't Sleep?
When we don't sleep, none of these things happen! ☹
In fact, the exact opposite of rest, repair and preparing can occur, with some research suggesting certain genes and metabolic pathways can only be activated during sleep! When we miss out on sleep, we miss out on the much need restoration of our brain.
How Do We Improve?
So, how do we improve? We learn about Sleep Hygiene strategies and then try a few of them to see how they work in our lives.
We recommend you don’t try everything at once, as this becomes very overwhelming and will surely have you laying stiffly in bed, eyes wide open wondering if you did it all correctly!
Easy Tips for Sleep Hygiene
Here are some of the easiest tips for sleep hygiene- the quickies- to have you resting better asap!
Make your room dark
Not kinda dark, SUPER dark so even the boogie man can’t see you!
Ensure your windows are completely covered. Dr Parsley suggests covering them with tinfoil and masking tape first, to convince yourself that darkness really does improve your sleep- then invest in blackout drapes.
Pro Tips: Put a piece of masking tape over every LED light in your room- the smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector etc. Yes, it means you’ll have to get the ladder out…just do it!
Remove ALL electronics
TVs (Yep… especially the television), DVD players, radios, cell phones, weather radios, iPads etc. These all emit electromagnetic rays which likely interfere with sleep. Plus, all those electronics cast light into your dark room.
Pro tips: Place your alarm clock in a drawer- even if your alarm clock is your cell phone- you’ll still hear it when it goes off. Plus, when your cell phone is hidden you’ll be less likely to look at it if you wake up, or be disturbed by late night texters.
Sleep in a cold room
Turn the temperature down to about 64-66 degrees F (19C). Studies note that our bodies must drop 1-2 degrees for optimal sleep. A cold room will facilitate this quick. You could program it into your thermostat to avoid a crazy energy bill.
Pro Tip: Add an extra blanket to your feet.
Limit evening technology and block the blue rays
Blue blockers block blue light (you can find all styles of these on Amazon- and you’ll look cool). Use blue blockers with ALL technology- even your TV.
Pro Tip: Add the Night Shift setting to your Smart devices, and computer. You can tag 'important'people so any emergency calls will come through.
Invest in linens you love
Consider investing in hypoallergenic pillows, linens and mattress covers. Contemplate a body pillow to place between your knees and to hug. If you’re a side sleeper, try a side-lying pillow to keep your neck aligned, and if you’re having some pain, bolster sore body parts with pillows to help alleviate pressure.
Pro Tip: Splurge on the most expensive linens you can afford.
Try meditation or deep breathing
If you find it difficult to fall asleep, with a wandering mind, try deep breathing for a few minutes, it’ll slow down your heart and respiration and give your mind something else to focus on.
There you have it, some of the best tips (but not the only tips) we have for developing better sleep hygiene. This knowledge will cradle you into a dark, cold, electronic-free, comfortable and meditative sleep, which in turn, will help rest, repair, and prepare your mind, body, and spirit for a life filled with vitality and good health.
Try One or Two!
Try one or two over the next week and leave us a comment explaining how it goes! Plus, feel free to share this blog with your friends and family who have trouble resting.
We'd love to partner with you to help you define your personal lifestyle strategies to prevent brain and body diseases. Click Contact Us to leave us a message!
Nicole A. Vienneau MSN, RN, NC-BC and has been a Registered Nurse for over 20 years. She is Executive Director of the 501c3 Brave Mind Living where their mission is to share lifestyle strategies with active, older adults to prevent diseases of the brain and body. She loves people and in her work as a board certified Integrative Nurse Coach, she personalizes every interaction and plan to ensure her clients are recognized for the unique strengths they bring to the world. Contact her.