Getting enough sleep is one of the most important ways to keep your mind and body health. How did you sleep last night? And did you sleep long enough?
Not surprisingly, not getting enough sleep is one of the main reasons that people get stressed out. We all know we need to sleep but when it eludes us, we can start to panic.
The average person needs about 8 hours of quality sleep per night. But of us don’t even come close to that. It’s far too easy to stay up late watching Netflix, surfing Facebook or Instagram, or catching up on emails. And then we get up early, try to fuel ourselves with caffeine to make up for feeling tired and try to tackle our to-do lists.
At the same time we’re trying to find the time to work out and spend quality time with our families. Something’s got to give that kind of schedule and all too often it’s getting enough sleep.
When we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies don’t get the chance to unwind and process everything that’s happened during the previous day. Sure, there’s going to be seasons in life where we just have to do the best we can with little sleep, like after just having a baby. But if it begins to stretch out for weeks and months, your health is going to suffer.
Lack of sleep won’t kill you, but long term stress does kill and lack of sleep contributes. Don’t be embarrassed to make sleep a priority. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much more you’ll get done during your waking hours and how unstressed you’ll feel as a result.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
Aim to get a good eight hours of sleep per night. The best way to do this is to determine when you need to get up and work backwards from there. If you need to be up at six, then it’s a good idea to start unwinding by around eight so that you’ll fall asleep by ten.
If morning exercise is important to you, and something you benefit from, schedule time for that as well. Also allow time for spiritual and meditation practices. Once you see how much you benefit from a full-night’s sleep, you’ll feel a lot better to handle your day and both your body and mind will thank you for it.
How to Cope With Insomnia
Despite our good intentions, sometimes the sleep just doesn’t come. The reasons could be as simple as being too wired to go to sleep, too much coffee during the day, chronic pain that keeps you up or medications that you might be taking during the day. Or it could simply be that you’re getting older.
Here’s a few natural ways to treat insomnia:
Increase your activity. Just add more movement to your daily schedule. This might include housework, walking, or whatever helps you feel tired by evening so that you’re ready for a good night of rest.
Get natural sunlight. A good way to kill two birds with one stone (get exercise and increase sunlight exposure) is to go out every day for a 30-minute walk over the noon hour. The blue light, emitted by the sun’s rays, helps to regulate your body’s biological clock. If you’re unable to get outside occasionally, use a bright lightbox first thing in the morning.
Be social. Be sure that you are interacting and socializing with others, as this will decrease your risk of isolation and depression, which can impact your sleep quality.
Practice good sleep hygiene. These include sticking to a regular wake up/bedtime routine, not drinking caffeine later than 1 p.m. in the afternoon (or 6 hours before bedtime), and not using blue light emitting devices such as television, smartphones, computers, tablets too close to bedtime.
Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra or body scans are a great way to relax your body when the sleep doesn’t come. You’ll get your mind off your insomnia and put your body into a state of deep relaxation, whether the sleep actually comes or not. I use and love the Calm app for body scans and progressive muscle relaxation. And if I’m still not sleeping, then I listen to a sleep story and most of the time I’m asleep by the end of the story.
How To Recover From a Bad Night’s Sleep
There’s nothing worse than having to face a full day when you’ve had only a few hours of broken up sleep. Here’s some some simple tips to get through the day after a rough night.
Start off your day right by staying hydrated. Dehydration can make your fatigue even worse. When you first wake up in the morning, it’s helpful to drink a glass of water. If you don’t love plain water, add a wedge of lemon to it. The idea behind this is that in the morning, you need to replenish fluids in your body, as you’ve probably not had anything to drink for many hours.
If you enjoy coffee, the caffeine will certainly give you a much needed boost. The effects of caffeine can last up to six hours, so if you choose to grab a cup for a mid afternoon boost, keep your bedtime in mind or you will end up with another night of insomnia.
Get moving. Taking five or ten minute movement breaks throughout the day is a wonderful way to improve your energy levels, especially if your walk is accompanied by bright sunshine. The blue rays emitted by the sun increase your alertness and overall sense of well-being.
Whatever you decide to do, just be sure that it is something that you enjoy. This will increase your motivation to do it, even when you feel sleepy.
Eat energizing foods. For mealtimes, focus on whole foods. Many people report improved sleep when following low carb or keto diets. The snacks that you choose are also very important. The worst thing you can do is head to the vending machine and grabbing junk food. Keep some high protein snacks around, such as hard boiled eggs or Greek yogurt. Have some fruit on the side.
Other healthy options include nuts, vegetables and hummus. If you’re craving something salty, low-fat popcorn can satisfy your craving, plus it fills you up with fiber. You can also find lots of recipes online for no-bake energy balls, typically made from a combination of nut butter and dates. Just be sure that you use natural peanut butter, as it does not contain sugar.
Take short rest breaks. When you’re tired, it is sometimes tempting not to want to stop for a break, because you might think that you’ll feel even more tired when you get back to work. However, it is very important to take rest breaks, which allows you to pace yourself.
For example, if you work at a desk, taking a short 2-minute break where you get up to walk around your office, can be helpful before you get back to work. You’ll also want to take a 15-minute coffee break when you can. This is the perfect time to eat a nutritious snack (such as those mentioned above), which will help maintain healthy blood sugars and give you the energy you need to keep going.
Take a short nap. If you are having a difficult time concentrating, a cat nap that is no more than 20 minutes can improve your alertness.