Few of us can say we get enough rest on a day-to-day basis for our bodies to feel refreshed and rejuvenated when our dreaded alarm clock goes off. If you’re anything like me, I justify my lack of shut-eye on the weekdays by saving those extra hours of sleep for the weekend. Of course that rarely happens since there’s always a soccer practice, baseball game, birthday party, or baby shower to get to or that never-ending to-do list to tackle. Before I know it, it’s Sunday night and those hours of sleep I promised I would catch up on are long gone.
The truth is, rest is the foundation for our health and overall wellness. Without a solid foundation, our bodies can’t perform their basic functions, like having energy, mental stability (hello, moodiness!), and cognitive endurance. If our bodies can’t function at a basic level, our pursuit of wellness and balance will never be achieved. Simply put, we will always be playing “catch-up.”
Here’s a simple science lesson. When we lack sleep and proper rest, stress takes over and our body produces adrenaline. Since the body always wants to be in a state of homeostasis, or what we call balance, cortisol is produced to try and counteract the adrenaline. Long-term stress leads to even more production of adrenaline and cortisol which can then lead to things like weight gain, depression, insulin resistance, fatigue, high blood pressure, and the list goes on.
The good thing is you can be in control of this imbalance! We all know it’s easier said than done so start with just one or two changes at a time. Remember, these are just suggestions and not all of them may work for you. Find the ones that will and you will be on your way a more restful you!
1. Create a dark environment
Light decreases melatonin, your sleep hormone. The more light in your room at night the lower your quality of sleep. Even the light from the moon can have a negative effect on our sleep. Creating a dark environment fosters melatonin production and allows your body to achieve the highest quality of rest. Try buying “blackout” shades or arrange your furniture so that the head of your bed is not in line with your windows.
2. Stick to a schedule
Going to sleep and waking up within the same hour each day sets your internal clock to allow your body to get into a natural rhythm of rest. If you crave “sleeping-in” on the weekends try setting your alarm to the end of the hour that you normally wake-up on the work week. For example, if you normally wake-up at 6:00am Monday-Friday, aim to wake-up at 6:45am on the weekend.
3. Create 30 minutes of down time before bed
Strive to turn off all electronics and choose another ritual such as reading a book, journaling, or meditating. If 30 minutes seems too long at first, start with just 10 minutes and add more time as this habit it created.
4. Avoid carbohydrates, caffeine, and other energy stimulants in the evening
Carbohydrates are the body’s most preferred source of energy because they can be broken down quicker than protein and fat to give you immediate energy. HINT: if you’re craving carbohydrates at night it’s most likely because you are tired. It’s your body’s way of telling you to go to bed.
5. Develop a “go-to” sleep routine
This could be as simple as washing your face or brushing and flossing your teeth. Doing the same thing every night right before you turn-in tells your body it’s time to wind-down and relax.