Getting enough sleep was never a major priority for me.
Ever since I can remember I’ve been a night owl. I loved to stay up late and sleep in.
Dinking and getting completely wasted wasn’t my thing but, I always volunteered to be the designated driver and go out with my friends.
My nights consisted of staying out until 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning and then come home and sleep into the afternoon.
Wake up and do it all again.
As I got older, it got a little bit harder for me to rally as quickly as I had when I was in my 20s. I would sleep later and later into the afternoon.
But, I never really thought anything of it.
When I started having kids, I still stayed up late but, I didn’t have the freedom to stay in bed late like I did before I was a mom.
That was the beginning of the end for days as a night owl.
As soon as I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue by naturopath asked me about my sleep and was appalled when I told her I stayed up until midnight or 2 am and then woke up at 6 am with the kids and to start work.
That sentence hit me hard because I needed so badly to get healthy. At the time, I just wanted to heal from adrenal fatigue and minimize the number of panic attacks I had each day.
But, soon I realized these changes I was making were going to be for life. As soon as I started to feel stronger and more present in my day, I knew I would never go back to my old lifestyle.
And that meant, always making sure that I was getting enough rest.
How much sleep is enough?
The National Sleep Foundation did a study over the course of two years gathering data about the recommended number of hours for different age groups.
There was a panel of 18 leading researchers and scientists came together to conduct the study. The result was a set of ranges that give a general guideline for the number of hours each age group needs.
For an adult, ages 26 to 64 the recommended range is seven to nine hours per night.
When I first started my journey back from adrenal fatigue, I moved bedtime for all of the kids back one hour to 8 pm and set my bedtime at 9 pm.
That way, I could put them to bed, spend an hour with the hubs and still get a full nine hours before getting up at 6 am.
Now that I am much stronger and don’t have the same symptoms I used to, I go to bed at 10 pm and wake up at 5 am so I’m getting seven hours.
You can play with this a bit to find how many hours of rest is enough for you. And, if you are having symptoms of deprivation, you should definitely try to get a few more hours of rest than the minimum recommended.
What are some signs of lack of sleep?
The number one sign of lack of sleep is daytime sleepiness. But, there are some other clear signs to pay attention to:
Difficulty or inability to learn something new
inability to concentrate or a “fuzzy” head
lack of motivation
eating more and craving carbohydrates
Why is getting enough sleep important?
Getting enough sleep is just as important to your physical and emotional health as nutrition and exercise. But, for many people, getting enough sleep just isn’t a priority.
There’s always one more episode to stream or a kid who had a nightmare, or a goal that needs attention like growing a business and advancing education.
But, none of the reasons that we choose to not get enough sleep is good enough. Getting enough sleep has so many benefits and makes a huge impact on your overall health in so many ways.
Helps prevent weight gain
People with shorter sleep duration tend to weigh much more than people who sleep longer.
The link between the two has been established in numerous studies. It is speculated that the reason is that people who sleep less aren’t getting the regenerative effects of sleep so they have a hormone imbalance.
Also, tired people are far less likely to have the motivation to exercise
Improves concentration and productivity
When you’re getting enough sleep, your brain functions at its peak and has no trouble being productive and efficient.
Sleep affects the parts of the brain responsible for concentration, cognition, and productivity. One study found that lack of sleep has a negative effect on these areas similar to alcohol consumption.
If you have a demanding job, working longer hours is not going to help you as much as getting enough sleep will.
Reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke
It has been proven in several medical studies that getting enough sleep helps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
It is thought that this is because your body goes into restoration mode when you’re asleep and, if you’re not getting enough sleep, that restoration is limited.
Limits the chances of depression
Not getting enough sleep has been linked to developing depression or having depressed moods.
In fact, nearly 90% of patients with depression complain about having poor sleep quality. This is true for people with sleep disorders who are not getting enough sleep.
When your body is rested and rejuvenated you feel more optimistic and happy about your life.
Improves your immune system
Getting enough sleep actually improves how well your immune system functions.
One study even found that people who sleep less than seven hours are three times more likely to develop a cold than people who slept eight hours or more.
If you are prone to colds or get the flu every year, not getting enough sleep could be contributing to your susceptibility.
Not getting enough sleep has been linked to increased inflammation in your body. It can also cause cell damage and activation of certain disease markers.
Poor sleep has a strong link to inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn’s disease, which are both chronic inflammatory processes.
Getting enough sleep has a positive impact on your overall health and your ability to stay healthy.
What can I do to sleep better?
When I first started my journey back to health and changed my sleep habits, my biggest challenge was learning how to fall asleep earlier.
I was always tired at 3 pm and wide awake at 8 pm.
But, over time I was able to learn some simple tips to help me fall asleep quickly.
Lower the temperature in your bedroom
We live in Idaho and in the winter this one is way easier to achieve than in the summer when it’s 90 degrees at 7 pm.
But, if you don’t want to drop the thermostat too significantly, you can add some fans to your room to drop the temperature.
When your bedroom is cooler, it helps to speed up the process of your core body temperature changing while you fall asleep.
This is really just another way of saying that you should practice meditation before bed.
My daughter used to have the worst time falling asleep and my older son is the same way that she was.
We use the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
The general idea is you breath in through your nose for four counts, hold your breath for seven counts, and exhale for eight counts.
Then repeat for three to five more cycles
This technique relaxes the body and the mind to help you drift off to sleep
Set a schedule
Having a sleep schedule is really important to get enough sleep. Setting a time that you will get into bed each night and wake up each morning helps to set your internal clock.
The key is consistency.
You have to follow the schedule even on the weekends and on the days when you don’t necessarily NEED to wake up early.
So, your night routine should be consistent no matter what. Something like; hot tea, journal, clean beauty routine, and then sleep.
Keep your stress under control
When you’re stressed you’re going to have a difficult time falling asleep. You’ll lay your head on the pillow and your mind will just start racing with thoughts and plans.
Instead, practice yoga or meditation to reduce your stress level and calm your mind. Develop a healthy relationship with money so you’re not always worried about it. Put more value on experiences than on possessions to increase happiness.
Watch what you eat and when you eat it
Several studies agree that high carb – low fat meals significantly reduce the quality of sleep you’re getting.
If you’re going to have a meal with those macros, make sure that you eat it at least four hours before you go to sleep
If you need a snack before bed, make sure it is turkey, walnuts or almonds.
Get enough exercise
Being active during the day will help your body to wind down and get tired at night. Make sure that you are doing some kind of exercise or physical activity during the day.
Things like lifting weights, playing basketball, or going for a hike or run are all good ways to get some exercise in the day that will “tire you out”. For bed
Listen to white noise
Turn on a relaxing CD or YouTube channel that plays white noise of some sort. Things like ocean waves, rain falling, or water rushing are all relaxing and take the focus from your mind so you can drift off.
Getting enough sleep is not only crucial to your overall physical health but also to your emotional and mental health. If you’re chronically running on empty and starting to feel the effects, try changing your sleep habits and make sure you’re getting enough sleep