What if I told you there exists a magic anti-aging activity that’s also one of the most powerful tools for healing, detox, and weight loss? And that it’s FREE?! And enjoyable. You’ve been doing it your entire life (some of us more than others). The answer, of course, is SLEEP.
I spend a good deal of time with my clients discussing sleep habits and ensuring they are getting deep sleep and good rest. You need 7-9 hours of sleep per night for optimal health. Your body regenerates and removes abnormal cells while you sleep, and sleeping is the most efficient method of detoxifying the brain. While we sleep, cerebrospinal fluid floods the brain, removing cellular waste and toxins. Sleep is also vital for hormone balance.
If you need improvement in the sleep department, I got what you need to sleep like a champ. Adopt these habits to improve your sleep. Also read my top tips to get good sleep here.
8 Things Great Sleepers Do
1. They avoid caffeine after 12pm. This one is key. When I do intakes with clients who struggle with insomnia, often I discover they’re drinking too much coffee or drinking it (or other caffeine; tea counts!) too late in the day. Caffeine has a long half-life, which means it can take up to 12 hours to fully metabolize it. So yes, your 10am cup of joe can be affecting your sleep. 50% of us lack the enzyme to metabolize caffeine, and these folks are more affected. So, limit the coffee, and no caffeine of any kind in the afternoon. Keep it to herbal teas or other healthy beverages.
2. They keep a consistent bedtime, and stick to a schedule. Your body thrives on routine (just like a toddler or a puppy!). That means you’ll function best when you eat regularly, wake up and go to bed at the same time daily. We get our most healing sleep between 10pm-6am, but if that’s not realistic for you, try to be in bed by 11pm latest. To change your bedtime, start moving it up in 30 minute increments. After a few days, move it up 30 more minutes, and so on.
3. They don’t exercise in the evening. Exercise raises cortisol which can prevent you from falling asleep. High cortisol in the evening is a major cause of insomnia. Exercise during the day (or ideally, morning) can actually encourage deep sleep at night, so don’t avoid it, just make sure you try and fit it in earlier. I like to start my day with a workout because it boosts energy, growth hormone (vital for repair and anti-aging), and best of all, I get it out of the way early!
4. They avoid reading the phone, iPad, or computer before bed. These devices stimulate cortisol production and affect circadian rhythm. Studies show that iPad readers took longer to fall asleep, felt less sleepy at night, and had shorter REM sleep compared to book readers. The iPad readers also secreted less melatonin, which helps regulate sleep AND is a super important antioxidant for cancer prevention. They were also more tired than book readers the following day, even if both got a full eight hours of sleep. (source) If you must read on a device before bed, use blue blocker glasses (super sexy!). Make sure to put your phone on airplane mode at night and DON’T read it in the middle of the night if you wake up.
5. They avoid booze (or at least avoid it 3 hours before bed). There’s really no reason to drink. I know it’s fun and all, but it’s a proven carcinogen, it makes you ugly, and it ruins your sleep. Alcohol dehydrates you (hello wrinkles), wakes you up in the middle of the night, and prevents you from reaching REM sleep. My clients report much improved sleep when avoiding booze, and I’ve certainly noticed this myself.
6. They don’t eat heavy meals at night. We have it all wrong: we skip breakfast, eat a light lunch, then eat a huge dinner. We need to reverse that. There’s a saying: eat like a king at breakfast, a prince at lunch, and a pauper at dinner. Eat the majority of your calories during the day when you’re most active and need the energy. Fueling up with a big meal before sleep means your body is focused in digestion and not on deep sleep. This causes broken, restless sleep and messes with your hunger hormones, making you more likely to binge at night because you’re not hungry during the day.
7. They have good bedroom hygiene habits. Before you laugh, listen up: how you design your bedroom plays a big role in your quality of sleep. You want a dark room for ideal melatonin production. Think cavelike dark where you can’t see your hand in front of your face. Ideally keep electronics and clutter out of the bedroom. Make your bed super comfy and inviting, keep your bedroom a good temp (aim for the cooler side, 62-65 degrees), and use a noise blocking machine if you live in a city.
8. They spend time in the sun every day. Getting outside boosts dopamine production and helps regulate melatonin. Also balances your circadian rhythm, so you’ll naturally have energy during the day and get sleepy at night. Expose yourself to bright light as soon as you wake up in the morning to help regulate cortisol. Bonus; you’ll boost vitamin D production and mood. Bonus bonus: exercise outside and kill 2 birds with one stone.
Improve Your Sleep in 3 Days
You can read my tips to get better sleep here. But you can also reset your sleep clock over the weekend. Here’s how:
- On Friday, optimize your bedroom. Clear out the clutter and make it pretty and comfy. Get blackout curtains (I have them and LOVE mine). Read a book to fall asleep.
- On Saturday morning, exercise outdoors in the morning. Eat your biggest meals during the day, not at night. Drink chamomile tea or a bedtime blend instead of booze before bed.
- Meditate before bed Saturday night.
- Start your Sunday with yoga (bonus: outside!).
- Take a detox bath on Sunday and bedtime tea before bed. Avoid all electronics an hour before sleep.
- On Monday, start moving your bedtime up by 30 minutes until you get to 1030 or 11pm.
Sleep is one the most powerful healing tools we have, yet more than 30% of the current population suffers with insomnia. Maybe that’s why we’re all so damn tired. Restorative sleep means your brain is detoxing, your body is able to repair itself and eliminate abnormal cells, and your hormonal rhythm is dialed in. Good sleep supports a happy mood, hormone balance, and stable weight. Use these tips to get the most of your slumber, and watch your health and mood improve.
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.