Get Your SLEEP!!!

Note from Sarah: Please welcome Allison Golden of PaleoNonPaleo as she gives us all some wonderful advice as to how to get our important sleep!!  Often, lack of sleep is what derails us from reaching our health goals and Allison outlines how to make sleep a priority in our busy lives.  

So, let me guess.

You know lack of sleep leads to hormone disregulation and increased cortisol. You’ve read that Robb Wolf says “Just one night of missed or inadequate sleep is sufficient to make you as insulin resistant as a type 2 diabetic.” You know it leads to possible weight-gain plus you just feel plain crappy.

But you’re still sleep deprived.

You delay bedtime by procrastinating, fall asleep early in the evening then wake up, and maintain habits that are the antithesis to a good night’s sleep. And then you feel awful in the morning.

That’s not paleo, you know. We need to get a restful night’s sleep. It is essential for our health, our thinking, our weight-loss.

But what to do? How do you shove yourself off the sofa and get yourself off to bed on time? Try these 15 tips:

1. Set yourself a bedtime. Seems simple but so many people don’t give themselves a deadline. They spin it out for as long as they can. It’s so easy now that we have light and distractions twenty-four hours a day. But instead, tell yourself you will go to bed at a certain hour and plan backwards from there. And keep the same bedtime night after night.

2. Stop lights and major action one hour before bedtime. Dim the lights, slow your activity. Don’t watch TV. I read by torchlight – this way I’m winding down towards sleep and my body is mostly in darkness, making the melatonin that will send me to sleep.

3. Get ready for bed early. We often stay up because we’re too tired to go to bed! We often snack for that reason too – we eat to give us the energy to stay up. Perverse when you think about it. Get into your bedclothes, clean your teeth, take out your contacts. Whatever you do before bed, do it well before bedtime so you’re ready to just fall into it when the time comes.

4. Know your caffeine limit. When I drank caffeine, I couldn’t drink it past 4pm or it would keep me awake. Chocolate in the evening also did the same thing. If you are a person kept awake by caffeine, know your limit and keep to it. Same goes for alcohol.

5. Think ahead to the next morning. Remind yourself how it will feel to wake up refreshed, without an alarm, getting ready for work without a rush, with time to make breakfast and keep a calm family. The benefits of a good night’s sleep are enormous and the avoidance of early morning stress is huge for the family unity.

6. Create a bedtime ritual. Make it the same every night. It can be a ten-minute getting the house ready for the next morning, setting breakfast, a hot drink, a book, dim lights, bed. Whatever works for you but keep it the same night after night.

7. Get up at the same time each day. No matter what time you go to bed, get your day started on the same schedule every day. Routine, routine, routine. Plus, your wake-up time determines your bedtime sleepiness. Don’t put it off.

8. To adjust to daylight savings, alter your bedtime by 15 minutes each day for four days. Too often we are discombobulated by daylight savings. This is what I did with my kids when they were little and it works great for adults too!

9. If you get sluggish after dinner, do something slightly stimulating. It will keep you awake – try picking up toys or washing dishes. Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep early in the evening only to wake later shortly before your bedtime. If you tend to fall asleep with your kids, keep yourself upright and leave them if you notice yourself getting sleepy (or simply sleep on their schedule, if that works for you. :-))

10. Exercise (or not.) For some it helps to exercise before bed, for others it keeps them awake. It doesn’t make any difference to me but if I struggle to get to sleep, this exercise helps me every time. I’m asleep in minutes.

11. Blackout the room. Melatonin, the hormone that induces drowsiness, is produced on darkness. Blue light inhibits production of the hormone so no strong light bulbs, TV, laptops in bed – that kind of thing. Cover the windows to prevent light pollution from outside. And if you use an electronic reader make sure it doesn’t use light that will disrupt your sleep.

12. Take melatonin as a supplement for jetlag. I often travel to Europe and the time change can be a bear. My trips are often short and I can be jet-lagged the whole time I am there so I take 3mg of melatonin before bedtime. It is pretty quick acting and makes me feel drowsy enough to sleep. That way, I offset some of the effects of the 8-hour time difference and can hit the ground running.

13. Use an alarm! I hate alarms to wake me up and haven’t used one in years but I do use an alarm to tell me to go to sleep. I have a timer I carry around and when it goes off (in a non-startling way,) it triggers me to pack up what I’m doing and head off to bed.

14. Use an app. There’s an app for everything including getting yourself to sleep. Guided meditations, soundtracks, breathing cues – there’s something for everyone. If you are a smartphone junkie, this may be just your thing. 

15. Give sleep priority in your life. Some people think sleep is a waste of time. There’s also a thought process in our society that being able to live with less sleep is a noble endeavor enabling you to do more, (and therefore be more.) I argue against that. If you can somehow truly thrive on just a few hours sleep, well, I guess that’s great. But if you can’t and you need more, then make it a priority. It serves no-one to skimp on sleep. Studies have shown over and over how important sleep is for our health. It’s more important than your Facebook friends, cleaning up,  and your favorite TV. So make a date with yourself. In bed.

Is lack of sleep a problem for you? What have you done to combat it? Let us know in the comments!

Alison Golden has two kids, two cats, but only one husband who thankfully agrees with her on everything, eventually. ;-) She likes to get lots of sleep and blogs about living paleo in a non-paleo world over at PaleoNonPaleo.

Comments

  1. trish says

    Love this article most of the tips I already use. I cannot abide being jarred awake by an alarm clock. I have not needed on for twenty years. Unless I have an event or am travelling I stick to a set bedtime. Great post!

  2. Jenni says

    I agree that sleep is SO important.
    I RARELY get anywhere near enough sleep.
    I work nights from 11pm – 7am five nights a week.
    Does anyone have any suggestions to help me get more than my usual 5 – 6 hours per night? I really do feel that I need 8 hours. That is NOT going to happen every night, but getting more rather than less would be terrific. I am going to use these tips to at least be in bed and getting sleep on my nights off (I am guilty of falling asleep on the lounge and then going to bed really late)

    Lack of sleep is inhibiting my weight loss on Paleo, and stopping me from always controlling my carb and sugar urges..

    Thanks,

    Jenni

    • says

      Oof, shift work is tough. I’m not clear from your comment when it is you sleep – when you come back home at 7am or later? Have you tried biphasic sleep – when you sleep in two shifts? On the nights you don’t work, definitely get as much sleep as you can. Keep the house dark after sunset to help you do that, keep it quiet and avoid stimulating activities. It is amazing how early you can go to sleep if you don’t turn on the lights and avoid computers and the TV.

  3. Kimberly says

    Alison, what a great article! You are dead on. I am recovering from an autoimmune disorder and keeping closely to Paleo diet and guidelines, along with a supportive treatment plan from a standout naturopath. One of the first lifestyle changes I made was to reduce adrenal stress and getting to bed by 8 p.m. at least four days a week has been key (I’m up no later than 5 a.m. weekday mornings). I remember when reading Robb’s book how adamant he was about it and it really stuck in my head. It’s so easy to skimp on sleep and expect yourself to push harder and do more, day by day. What a mistake that has been!

  4. Erin says

    I have young children and we cosleep/breastfeed through the night for many months before moving baby to a separate sleeping space. Even then, my kids always go through periods where they need a fair bit of help getting back to sleep. All of these means my best laid plans for my sleep are sometimes foiled! Any advice for recovering from short term sleep deprivation with little kids?

    • says

      Hi Erin:

      As a mother of twins, I’m am *very* familiar with that issue and while I didn’t know about this back when my now-12 year-olds were babies, I would have to say now that if I had my time over, I would do the same for me as I did for them – blackout my room and avoid lights, TV (and computer) in the evenings and include a soothing bedtime routine even if that meant going to bed at an unseasonably early hour. Back then, I was *obsessed* with the twins sleep but would, the moment they went to sleep, start doing ‘adult’ things and that inevitably meant more stimulation and disturbed sleep. Then when they’d waken in the early hours, I’d hardly had any sleep at all so I ended up short-changed and short-tempered. It takes discipline and sometimes forgoing some adult activities but getting decent sleep is one of the most important things we can do for our relationships, our family unit and our health.

  5. says

    How wonderful, Kimberly, that you are able to go to bed that early. I am usually in bed by 9:30pm and lights out (or flashlights out :-)) by 10pm. When I did an experiment living without electric light in January, I was in bed by 7:30-ish (I didn’t have clocks either) and asleep by 9pm-ish. It was heavenly and by the end of the week, I was soooo relaxed.

  6. Shan says

    I’ve had a lot of sleep problems over the years, primarily waking up in the middle of the night and having a hard time getting back to sleep. I’ve tried most of the things in this list – avoiding caffeine, pitch black room, avoid alcohol (or at least too much), melatonin, no large meals at night, etc. My brain likes to latch onto a problem in the middle of the night and solve the issue. Nevermind that I can never remember the solution in the morning. What’s finally worked for me in the last several weeks is to continue doing all of the above, but to also do some positive sleep affirmations at bed time and give myself permission to sleep the whole night. I still wake in the middle of the night at times, but knowing it’s OK to go back to sleep and that I can’t solve any problems in the middle of the night has helped a ton! I’ve woken up several mornings refreshed and amazed that I slept the whole night.

    • says

      Hi Shan: I think positive affirmations work tremendously well, I even have my non-paleo version – I imagine a *huge* pile of candy. That always worked for me pre-paleo and I still use it occasionally even now. :-) Thanks for your input!

      • Shan says

        I forgot to add that I take my vitamin d and natural calm right before bed. I don’t think any one thing is the magic bullet, but the combination of them all seems to do the trick.

  7. Suze says

    Thanks so much for this post! I have had varying degrees of insomnia for years. I tried the total blackout in the bedroom, which my hubby tolerated, but wasn’t real crazy about. I do quickmelt melatonin. And Ambien when it looks like one of those nights and I really need sleep for work the next day. I can’t believe I never heard of T-Tapping, since it looks like it’s been out there at least 10 years. I am going to try it. I am looking for the other benefits, but if it helps with sleeping I will be ecstatic! :D

  8. says

    Great article! I think there’s a lot to be said for winding things down a bit before you head to bed. Our bodies don’t start produce melatonin until it gets dark so all this artificial light is wreaking havoc on our sleep cycles.

    • says

      Nate, when I did an experiment of not turning on the lights after dark, it was truly amazing the difference it made to my sleepiness and the time I went to bed – this was in January so dark at 6pm. It certainly taught me how we not only have total control over our hours of light, but that we fill it with activity in a way we are not designed to do. We’ve added several hours of activity (stress) to our body’s burden.

  9. Guy says

    Thank you for the article. This couldn’t be more timely as my sleep has suffered tremendously of late. The suggestions in the article are very doable and they will hopefully get me to the slumber I so need. I really want ancestoral sleep without having to be an ancestor.

  10. Erin says

    Really helpful tips! Thank you. I will definately check out the apps. A few times a month I will experience some nights that sleep is just plain elusive. Certainly there are some obvious culprits, but those same buggers won’t affect my sleep on other nights. Still trying to nail down a consistant pattern. What do you know or think about L-Tryptophan (500mg) supplements? I’m a 70’s baby, so I remember all the hoopla in the 80’s about L-T. I guess they are not as much of a risk now…
    My husband has, in my opinion, terrible sleeping habits. I will be employing these methods!
    Thanks for the great post!

  11. Shannon says

    Every time I read posts on sleep I feel awful. I have a toddler with a nighttime seizure disorder, so there are several things on that list I can’t do–his video monitor emits light, his seizures/false alarms wake us up, he frequently needs help getting back to sleep multiple times a night, I need the evenings to keep on top of household stuff so I’m lucky to get to bed by 11. If you are in a position like me where you -can’t- get a decent night sleep, what do you suggest? I try to limit caffeine, but many days I really do need it to function after a night of 4 hours of sleep in 30-60 min. chunks. Strict paleo seems to help, but I don’t see me being able to get a solid night’s sleep for many more years.

    • says

      Shannon, I had a preemie baby on a monitor for breathing issues and heartbeat irregularities for months so I can empathize a little. I get what it’s like with all the lights, sounds, noises, wakings and just plain anxiety. I also understand the need for caffeine. And you need to do what you need to do. Apart from doing everything from this list that could be workable for you, I would do a few things. One is to get people to spell you with your child . Either to babysit during the day so you can get a few extra hours sleep or monitor your child during the night so that you can sleep in another room (or even in another house.) Do you have access to respite care? I would focus with a laser-like intensity on what needs to be done and delegate or drop the rest so you have more time to sleep. Make your chores as few and as routine as possible. Use whatever resources you have to relieve yourself of other burdens so that you have free time to sleep. There really is no substitute so as in point #15 make it as high priority as possible and shift other things further down the list if necessary or buy, beg, borrow people’s services to help you. You are in a majorly stressful situation and you need support. Another thing you can do is to look into polyphasic sleep, Dave Asprey over at the Bulletproof Executive is into bodyhacking and exists on just a few hours sleep a night. He is also a parent of two young children and his wife is a doctor. They’ve looked into this a lot. http://bulletproofexecutive.com.

  12. says

    Getting up at the same time every day is the best advice that you could have given. Nothing puts you in a routine more than repeating it. After a while, you won’t even need to set that nasty alarm clock – I know I don’t!

  13. Allison says

    Thank you for this article. I will try these techniques. I am a trauma nurse and I flip flop my days and nights. Often times multiple times a week. I just can’t seem to get on any sleep schedule that works. I work 7a-7p and get home around 8 and asleep by 8:45pm. In the mornings when I come home I struggle not to fall asleep while driving home and again fall asleep around 8:45am only to wake at 430 pm to get ready for work :(. I feel the unhealthiest I’ve ever been bc of my sleep “schedule” and the eating schedule I’m on.

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