It’s been known for some time that without quality sleep, our health still suffers despite good nutrition and fitness choices.
The undeniable value of quality sleep
With it, we enjoy stronger libidos, clearer arteries and have a better chance at reaching our best weight. Studies have linked restorative sleep with clearing the brain of damaging molecules associated with neurodegeneration. Much like our computers and phones, we need time to recharge or we may just stop functioning.
The sleep well formula: 7.5 to 8.5 hours of deep, uninterrupted sleep
Anything less than six hours is considered sleep deprivation.
What’s reassuring, says Medcan physician Dr. Lorne Greenspan, is that just a few changes to your sleep routine can lead to improvements right away. And the benefits, like more stable mood, renewed energy and focus, can be almost immediate.
Here are some suggestions you can start tonight.
1. Shut down all screens
Ideally you want to decrease all light going into your eyes at least 60 minutes before you are to be sleeping. That means no television, computer or phone screens. This even includes shutting off the little lights from electronics in your bedroom.
2. Ideal sleeping room: absolute darkness with no stimuli
Anything that incites the senses should be removed from the bedroom.
3. Establish your set sleep time by working backwards
“If you have to be up by 6 a.m. you need to be sleeping at 10:30 p.m. with no wake time. That means you’re preparing-to-sleep routine starts at 9:30 p.m. If you know you wake or get up through the night, you have to add another hour or so,” says Greenspan.
It’s been a good night’s sleep when you wake around your desired time without an alarm and feel alert throughout the day.
4. Stay hydrated
Have a glass of water for every alcoholic drink you had that day. Preferably no beer or drinks two hours before set sleep time. Alcohol helps you fall asleep, but it can interfere with the restorative depth of sleep.
5. Finish last coffee before 2 p.m.
Caffeine can stay in your system for at least six hours after your last cup. Keep coffee intake to under 300 milligrams daily and avoid it after 2 p.m.
6. Give yourself an hour to wind down
Set your alarm clock twice: one to start your sleep routine; one to wake up. A sleep alarm reminds to you to slow down an hour before bed. Put away work, shut off television, turn off the phone, do not engage in stimulating conversation, listen to calming music, tuck yourself in and read a book.
7. When all else fails, nap and speak to your doctor
If filling your sleep quotient in one night is still a challenge, naps can support learning, memory and improved brain functioning. A twenty minute nap has its benefits; but speaking to your doctor to rule out sleep disorders is probably your wisest move.
If your partner says you gasp in your sleep, a sleep apnea treatment strategy may be what you need. Even if you don’t feel sleepy, every human brain requires consecutive hours of quality sleep to be fully functional.