Written by Carolyn Coffin
Imagine a drug that could help you burn fat, boost immunity, regulate blood glucose, end sugar cravings, brighten your mood, think clearly, and prevent chronic disease.
That drug exists. It’s called a good night’s sleep.
If sleep were made into pill form and marketed to us, we’d realize that it improves all markers of health, finances, happiness, and relationships ... without side effects. No doubt, it would fly off the shelves regardless of cost. So why aren’t we addicted to this drug?
Over the past two hundred years – first with the industrial revolution and then with the invention of the light bulb – time became money. Some speculate that our quest to become more productive has caused us to become blind to the fact that we can’t work around the clock. When our natural circadian rhythms – which used to be governed by the rising and setting of the sun – are disrupted by artificial light and digital stimulation after dark, it comes at a cost.
The stats don’t lie:
Forty percent of Canadians suffer from some form of sleep disorder, and sleep deprivation is estimated to cost $21.4 billion a year due to decreased productivity in our country alone. When combined with other developed economies like the United States, Japan, and the U.K., the losses skyrocket to a whopping $680 billion per year.
Perhaps the most troubling part is that we don’t believe we are suffering from lack of sleep because we “feel fine,” which is why it’s said to be a silent killer. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are simple steps you can take right now to sleep more soundly tonight.
Five Tips to Engineer a Perfect Night’s Sleep
1. Catch some rays in the days – Get outdoors in the morning sunlight for about 15 minutes (e.g. walk, bike, yard work) to anchor your circadian rhythm and let your body know it’s daytime.
2. Give yourself a tech curfew – Blue light from screens interferes with our body’s natural production of melatonin, the sleepy hormone. This can lead to the familiar “tired but wired” feeling that makes it so difficult to wind down. Consider setting a tech curfew about 2 hrs before bed. If a screen curfew is not an option, consider installing Flux (justgetflux.com) on your computer, a free software program to pull the hormone disrupting blue light out of your screens.
3. Set a bedtime alarm – We usually set an alarm to wake up, so why not use one to get to bed? Program your phone to go off about half an hour before you want to fall asleep to remind you to start the bedtime process. For example, if you normally wake up at 6:30a.m. and you want eight hours of shut-eye, set your bedtime alarm for 10 p.m. for a 10:30 p.m. lights out. It’s also important to have relatively consistent bed and wake times.
4. Mellow out in the evenings – Trade in the screens for reading, socializing, or enjoying an evening stroll. A cup of herbal tea is also a great pre-sleep ritual.
5. Create a sleep sanctuary – Sleep in a quiet, tidy, cool (16 to 20 degrees Celsius), dark room. Remove all electronics, including computers and televisions, as well as work materials and excess clutter. Consider adding a houseplant, which naturally purifies the air by removing toxins.
Bottom line: Do whatever you can do to live in closer alignment with your natural circadian rhythm each day and you will find yourself sleeping like a baby again.
Carolyn can be reached at eatrealfoodacademy.com
Originally Published: August 21, 2017