Catching Some Z's

Mar 18, 2020
Written by
Aliona Ciobanu
Photographed by
Y

our quality of sleep will have a major impact on your daily function. Sleep is not just important for your body and mind, but also for your energy levels and ability to stay alert.

Lack of sleep is no joke and can contribute to serious health issues. If you are curious to know on how you can optimize your sleep, this article is for you and I can assure you that the tips that are about to follow will help you catch some high quality Z’s next time you hit that pillow.

The science of sleep is continuously evolving and the more I dive into it, the more I regret all those sleepless nights I spent in college. 

Ask yourself the following: Are you having a tough time sleeping through the night? Do you feel like you are “running on stress hormones” all day? Have you resorted to the title of “light sleeper”?

A lack of sleep affects just about everything in your mind and body. Individuals that get less sleep tend to be at a much higher risk for quite a few health issues, such as: diabetes, certain types of cancer, and even heart disease. In addition to that, there are other negative effects like slower metabolism, weight gain, hormone imbalance, and inflammation. And let us not forget the impact that lack of sleep can have on mood regulation, memory and even your ability to make decisions!

Did you know that sleep deprivation may even negate the health benefits of your exercise program? (All those workout efforts gone to waste!)

Seriously, are there any aspects of health that sleep does not affect?

Sleep has multiple functions in the body, but the fundamental role that it plays in our overall health can be summarized in the following three aspects:

1.    Sleep allows the detoxification of our brain cells to take place (this can’t happen when you’re out and about, doing your thing)

2.    Sleep improves our brain's ability to learn and remember things (good luck writing that exam with no sleep under your belt!)

3.    Sleep allows your immune system to recover. (Remember how sleeping has helped you fight that nasty flu in the past)

You might have heard that adults require somewhere between 7 and 9 hours of sleep at night (who has 9 hours a day these days?!). Well, I don’t have a magic number for you because quality of sleep will play a role in determining what that magic number is for you. Buddhist monks can sleep as little as 4 hours a night without having any health issues. The only way I can make sense of that is by acknowledging that sleep quality has an important role to play.

Here are some tips that you can apply in your own life as a means to better your sleep:

●    Get some sunshine and exercise during the day. This is what communicates to your brain that it’s daytime and therefore time for being productive, active and alert. This will help you wind down more easily in the evening.

●    Try to get yourself into a consistent sleep schedule (i.e. try going to bed at around the same time every day). Weekends can easily throw this off but by making sleep a priority for a few weeks your body and mind will adjust and you will reap the benefits, trust me.

●    Balance your blood sugar during the day. Eat more fiber and stay away from processed food and packaged goods. And yes, it’s okay to have a fruit before bed. Your liver will appreciate that extra glucose and will prevent you from having a drop in blood sugar during sleep.

●    Here comes the tough one: cut off your caffeine and processed sugars after 12pm. Yes, this includes your evening chai latte or mochaccino.  Both caffeine and added sugar can keep your mind a bit more active than you want it to be.

●    This may sound like a déjà vu, but having a relaxing bedtime routine can really help you unwind. The routine should start about 1 hour before you plan to lie down. This would include dimming your artificial lights, and maybe reading a book. If you are feeling ambitious, you can have a bath with a few drops of lavender essential oil in it.

See how you can apply some of these tips and watch yourself catch extra Z’s!

Tip: I like to use certain herbal remedies to aid in my sleep. What I like about herbal extracts and teas is that they provide a very gentle result with no unwanted side-effects. For example, having a 1:1 mixture of Valerian root tea and lemon balm tea can be a great way to unwind and prepare yourself for your beauty sleep. Another herb that has shown to be successful at reducing anxiety and supporting sleep is passion flower. Ending your day with a herbal tea blend made of these herbs can be a great way to calm your nervous system and promote sleep.

I do recommend that you speak with a holistic practitioner before you start taking any herbal remedies, especially if you are taking daily medications.

I hope this helps you get some restful nights in the near future!

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