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.