What prevents quality sleep
- Any light after the sun goes down. It's natural for us to go to bed with the sun. When it gets dark our body releases melatonin, a hormone made by the pineal gland in the brain that makes us drowsy because it's telling us that it's time to sleep. The problem in our modern world is that as soon as it gets dark out, we turn on the lights, watch television, or spend hours in front of the computer. Therefore keeping the brain from producing that useful hormone. In the wintertime I would force myself to stay up late because I thought I was being lazy for wanting to go to bed at 10pm but it was really my brain responding to the short days.
- Exercising too late in the day. Exercising increases the metabolism, produces endorphins, and raises body temperature. All of which are great, but will keep one up at night. This much needed energy boost is best for the beginning of the day when we need to feel pumped up, not in the evening when we are trying to relax and get ready for bed.
- Eating too late at night. Food is fuel, so any late meal or snack is going to give the body energy it doesn't need. It's custom in America for dinner to be the largest meal, but that's so wrong in many ways and can be a tough habit to break. It should actually be the smallest meal, and all of that extra food will definitely keep a person up at night. Especially anything with caffeine like coffee, tea, or chocolate.
- Working too late. If we work until we hit the sack, then it's almost impossible to stop thinking about it when we're trying to fall asleep. This could be anything too, not just a job. Hobbies, games, the internet, etc. can all burden the mind during that critical hour before bed. It seems that there's no time for rest these days.
- An irregular sleep schedule. Going to bed at different times can be a contributing factor of insomnia. Naturally the sun would keep us on schedule, but because we refuse to heed its generosity, we slowly become out of balance. This cycle is immensely more significant than most realize. Our quality of life can depend on it. We can either be a zombie barely getting by, or a fully energized being ready to take on the day.
So now let's take a look at some of the things we can do to reverse this. Be patient, and in due time it's possible to get the sleep you crave. Just stick with it, and make it a must.
Habits to promote proper sleep
- Dim the lights down around 8:30-9pm. Want to feel younger and completely full of energy? Then turn off those lights and start going to bed earlier. The hours between 10pm and 2am are called regenerative sleep or what I like to call 'the magical healing hours.' This is when the body restores itself! So if you're not sleeping during this time, you're truly missing out and night after night are becoming more run-down, because this is when our body's biological clock (circadian rhythm) dictates various healing processes that take place. When the sun goes down that means it's time to slowly get ready for bed. Start dimming/turning off all of the lights and screens. Your brain will do the rest of the work.
- Exercise before the sun goes down. Getting pumped up early in the morning is ideal for maintaining energy throughout the day. Or do what I do and take a long walk just before twilight to calm the mind and transition from the work day to a restful evening. Whatever it may be, exercise before it gets dark out.
- Do not eat four hours before bedtime. This is serious! Again, food is fuel. There is no point to fueling up (especially with junk food like dessert or caffeine) with food or drink before bed. Did you know that it takes at most ten hours for caffeine to go through the body? Indeed it does. Also, if one goes to bed with food in their stomachs, then digestion takes precedence over healing. Do not mess with those precious regenerative hours because it will age you. So make sure to have your last meal four hours before bedtime. That late-night snack is not worth it at all.
- Put work up at a reasonable time. This is hard, I know, but if it doesn't happen work thoughts will generally start creeping back in when trying to go to sleep. Again, I find that the best way I can separate work from rest is by turning off the computer before I go on my walk. That way when I return home my free/rest time begins. It works out perfectly because I do it every weekday and now it's a habit. So by the time I get ready for bed, I have distanced my mind from work and can typically fall asleep fast.
- Make a sleep schedule. Get to bed the same time every night and wake up the same time each morning. It feels so good to be in tune with the sun. It's natural, why fight it. I find what works best for me is to get ready for bed at 9:30pm and be in bed and most likely sleeping by 10pm. I set my alarm clock for 7am to start the day and sometimes find that the sun peaking through the window before 7am will wake me up before the alarm sounds. That's such a good feeling to wake up naturally. Nothing gets better than that. If going to bed by 10pm is not easy, try for a reasonable time then go to bed and wake up five minutes earlier each day until you reach your bedtime goal. When you get there, stick with it!
Sleep is too important to skip out on. Everything in life will improve once
sleep is no longer an issue. Start tonight, why wait another day.