The M.A.G.I.C. Pill Part 1: Optimize Sleep
Happy 2018 everybody! It would be nice if the MAGIC Pill to health, wellness and looking good naked existed but ... it doesn’t.
But would you be interested if I told you that there is a M.A.G.I.C. (Manage Areas Generally in Your Control) Pill that is natural, inexpensive and one that YOU have complete control over?
Sound too good to be true? Maybe. Is it revolutionary? Not at all, there are plenty of people who are A LOT smarter than me that have been preaching this for years. Is it sexy? Hell No. Will you get instant results? Don’t get me started.
But isn’t it empowering to know that there are plenty of actionable items that you can take? For sure. After all, you are the sum of your parts, so take action and start making gains.
In this article, I discuss the importance and role that sleep plays in your overall health and well-being and more importantly, what you can do to improve it.
Sleep is one of the ultimate things that gets your mind and body right. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (www.CDC.gov), adults (18-60 y/o) should sleep for 7 hours or more per night. Yes, this is not a typo, I said at least 7 hours of sleep per night. However, only 65% of adults in the United States meet that recommendation. As a business owner, parent to 3 kids and husband to a wife that still likes me (who also works), it is easy to understand how challenging it can be to get the zzz’s you need. I used to say all the time, “I can sleep when I’m dead” but that is the exact thinking that will send you to your grave sooner. Fact is, those who sleep less than 7 hours per 24 hour period are more likely to be obese, are at a higher risk to develop type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and be more physically inactive than those that get the recommended amount of sleep. It’s a vicious cycle. Not to mention the other obvious things, such as a decrease in focus, creativity and attentiveness, lack of sleep just makes us cranky.
But before you get on the phone to ask your doctor to write you a prescription for Ambien, the reason why I’m writing this is to share some natural steps that you can take to ensure that you will fall asleep and stay asleep without the aid of medication so that you are ready to take on tomorrow.
Hack #1: Create a Screen Curfew/ Turn On Nightshift Mode On Your Smartphone
Did you know that the screens on our smartphones, tablets, laptops and televisions emit blue light that is harmful to sleep? Blue light prevents our nervous system from relaxing and knowing that it’s time to downregulate. Blue light also inhibits our body’s Melatonin production.
Melatonin is a natural sleep hormone that doesn’t help you fall asleep - it is the hormone that helps you stay asleep. Some things that you can do to promote normal Melatonin production are to: 1) set a screen curfew 1.5 hours before you plan to go to bed. Instead of looking at a screen, you can read a real book. Let’s face it though, a majority of us are guilty of staring at a screen to read up on news feeds, send out one last email or check our social media accounts until we shut our eyes to fall asleep. So if this sounds more like you, turn Night Shift mode on your phone on or program it to automatically turn on. The warmer tones reduce blue light exposure. There is also an app for your laptop/computer called f.lux. that filters out the blue light (https://justgetflux.com/ ). But what if you’re a TV watcher or someone who falls asleep with the TV on. Then I would recommend getting a pair of blue light blocking glasses. Click here for link.
Hack #2: Do Some Mobility and Self-Massage Work Prior to Bed
Our nervous system is made up of 2 pathways that set off a cascade of responses that are appropriate to the stimuli we face. This is known as our “Fight or Flight” response. The sympathetic nervous system is the “fight” response that we rely on to provide a jumpstart and produce physiological responses such as increase in heart rate, tension, strength and adrenaline. The parasympathetic nervous system is the opposite.
Undoing some of the “damage” that you’ve done to your body throughout the day by way of mobility work, stretching and self-massage for 5-10 mins before bedtime stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. One of my SHE-roes, Jill Miller, creator of YogaTuneUp (www.tuneupfitness.com), said it best by saying that pressure based rolling and soft-tissue work “turns ON your OFF switch”. So, unlike the tips provided in Hack #1, any practice that stimulates the parasympathetic system such as massage, mobility, stretching, BREATHING (more to come on breathing in a future blog) and intimate moments with your partner, help you fall asleep quicker with much less effort. Here are a few quick videos of self-massage techniques.
Interested in YogaTuneUp balls? Click here
Hack #3: Create an Environment That Promotes Sleep
This may also be obvious but, you can set up your environment to set the mood. It’s like using candles, music by Sade and rose petals sprinkled on your bed to set the stage for a romantic evening with your significant other. And if you don’t like candles, Sade and are allergic to flowers I think you get what I’m saying. Here are some ways to set the stage for successful sleep.
1) The Darker the Better:
Turn off the lights in your bedroom and you may be surprised to see how many little lights remain on. You want to eliminate as much unnatural light as you can. Using electrical tape to cover up all sources of little light around your outlets, power strips, cable box, smoke detector and TV can help create a blacked out environment. Use your phone as an alarm clock? Me too. That’s fine, turn the phone face down so that the flash and flicker of the screen from messages that you may get overnight don’t wake you. Sleep experts also recommend putting your phone on Airplane mode. Admittedly, I’m not there yet but I do agree that it is another useful strategy to eliminate another distraction.
2) Sleep Cool/ Sleep Naked:
If you tend to sleep hot, then this is for you. According to sleep experts, the optimal temperature range to maximize sleep is 60-68 degrees. This is because, as you fall asleep, your body temperature drops, and this drop in core temperature helps you stay asleep easier. In contrast, your body temperature rises as you wake, and this is why it’s harder to fall and say asleep when you’re hot.
Also, according to a study conducted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, keeping yourself cool during sleep speeds up the body’s metabolism. This is because your body activates brown fat. Brown fat produces heat by burning calories to keep you warm. So, not only does lowering the temperature help you sleep better, research supports that sleeping cool may help you manage your weight and control your insulin levels.
If you’re not a fan of sleeping with the thermostat set to 60 degrees … sleep naked. Sleeping naked allows you to lower core temperature more readily. Also, skin to skin contact between you and your partner stimulates the “bonding” hormone, oxytocin, which promotes feelings of physical and emotional closeness.
While I am by no means, an expert on the science of sleep, I wanted to share with you the whats, hows and whys of sleep and what you can do to set yourself up for a consistent good nights rest. Because a good nights rest sets the stage for physical, mental and emotional success.