Life Coaching Blog Series – Sleep is a powerful medicine

Some people view sleep as a bonus, something to give into once the to-do list is done. However, sleep is a crucial activity that your body requires. It’s a time for the body systems to recover from the demands of the day, it’s when your brain integrates information it’s taken in, and the chemical messengers that help your body function efficiently get replenished; not to mention, it feels so good to wake up after a full night’s sleep. However, many of us don’t get enough sleep to wake up feeling rested. If we don’t get enough sleep, our performance – at work, at life, at play, all suffer. In many ways, trying to function on lack of sleep is similar to trying to function while under the influence of alcohol. Try these tips from Shawn Stevenson’s new book Sleep Smarter to give sleep it’s proper place in the rhythm of your day.

  • Stand in the Light: You support the natural circadian rhythm of your body when you get sunlight during the day, especially first thing in the morning. This signals your body to shut down chemicals in your body that make you sleepy (think melatonin), and ramp up those wakeful hormones like cortisol. Consider starting your morning routine in the sun, (yes, you can take your coffee with you!)
  • Banish the Blue: Artificial blue light, the kind emitted by screens of all types, television, smart phones, ipads mess with your bodies production of key hormones for sleep. Turn off all screens at least 60 minutes (preferably 90) before going to bed. What to do instead? Snuggle with a loved one, curl up with an actual book, take a bath, play some mellow music and do some stretches on the floor.
  • Keep it Cool and Dark: When possible, keep the temperature in your room around 68 degrees F. Open windows, turn on fans, do whatever you need to find a nice cool temperature to sleep in. And while you’re creating that cool environment, make sure there are no glowing lights in your bedroom, and exterior light is blocked.
  • Move your Body: As if you needed another reason to exercise, here it is: consistent exercise will help you sleep better. The key is to find something you like to do, ideally in the morning hours, although afternoon workouts also do the trick, and do it on a consistent basis. If you aren’t already including weights in your routine, lifting heavy weights 2 days per week has shown beneficial results in terms of hormonal response.
  • Don’t let Monkeys in your Bed: Starting a meditation practice can actually help you sleep better. Many first time meditators complain that they always fall asleep in meditation. This could actually benefit you when you wake in the night. If you’re anything like me, night time waking usually comes with a whole lot of brain chatter – meditators call it ‘Monkey Mind’. Learning how to not engage with that chatter, but rather to breath and let it pass by will let you fall back asleep faster, minus to scary scenarios that seem to accompany nocturnal musings.

Our bodies have evolved over the years, and yet, we still need our sleep, so there must be some really good reasons for it. Give sleep the respect it deserves, and you will find your health will be better, your brain brighter, and your outlook on life, perhaps a little bit rosier.

Kalia Kelmenson, Certified Wellness Coach :: mauimindandbody.com