Your healthy habit challenge for Week 6 is to Sleep at least 7 hours on at least 3 nights this week.
Why is it important to get at least 7 hours of sleep?
As the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School suggests, sleeping is a “life-sustaining activity,” like eating. While scientists cannot all agree on the exact reason of why we sleep, it is well-known that sleep is very important for repairing and rebuilding the body’s cells as well as a time to rejuvenate oneself. Sleep is promoted by the body’s hormones like melatonin and its internal circadian clock. Just the appearance of night and dark can trigger your body to start powering down. However, with artificial light from lamps and screen time as well as stimulants such as caffeine, we can actually override our body’s natural cues to sleep. And, while the most immediate outcomes of lack of sleep are the feeling of sluggishness and dark under-eye circles, lack of sleep has also been associated with increased disease risk and accidental death from driving while tired.
How to add more sleep to your day?
You may be wondering how to add more sleep to your busy schedule but hold that thought. It may be beneficial to adopt habits that improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep first. Remember, the key is to make “small changes” to improve the quality of your sleep.
Choose from any of the following strategies to get started.
- Limit screen time before bed. Did you know that looking at a screen can change your body’s sleep/wake cycle? The blue light mimics sunlight, triggering your brain to wake up. Plus, reading the news or work emails can add stress that makes you more alert. Set an electronics curfew (phone, television, etc.) an hour before bedtime.
- Create a regular, relaxing bedtime routine. Use this time to prepare your body for rest. Avoid stimulating activities. Take a bath, read a book, or try a gentle yoga sequence. Start with 30 minutes and add to it if you need more time to wind down.
- Avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime. You may be aware that coffee close to bedtime can disrupt sleep but keep in mind that soda, tea, and chocolate have caffeine too. Limit or avoid caffeine and nicotine for 4-6 hours before you plan to sleep.
- Also avoid too much alcohol! Alcohol may make you drowsy and drift off to sleep easily, it can disrupt later, essential REM and deep sleep. Limit alcohol to a moderate amount (1 drink a day for women, and 2 drinks a day for men) and avoid it right before bed time.
- Eat well-balanced healthy meals and exercise regularly. Nourishing foods and regular exercise can actually help with falling asleep and achieving good quality sleep.
Are you already doing all of these things? Then, let’s move on to making this a priority. Think of when you have to wake up in the morning and work backwards at least 7 hours. For instance, if you have to get up at 6 am to get the kids ready for school and have enough time for you to get ready for work, then you should aim for a bedtime of 11 pm. Then, with the tips above in mind, turn off the tv by 10:00 and start a routine of calming down - you could wash your face, brush your teeth, massage your feet, and move toward the bed. Remember, don’t look at your phone during this time as that light can stimulate your brain and make you more alert. Your overall health is important, so planning out your steps might be necessary in order for you to be successful in getting from A to B.
Review of the Tips:
- Set an electronic curfew
- Establish a bedtime routine
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime
- Make healthy meals and exercise priority!
Check out The Benefits of Sleep handout to learn more benefits and strategies to meet your sleep goals.