We spend about one-third of our lives in bed! So needless to say, sleep is important. In fact, it is much more important than we probably realize. The quality and duration of our sleep schedules affect how we live out the other two-thirds of our day. Quality of sleep translates to quality of life. And in order to live our lives to the healthiest and fullest, we need good, deep sleep every single night.
I’m sure some of you are laughing now. Especially all the parents out there. Deep sleep every night? Yeah right. Well, it’s not as hard as you think if you’re willing to take a few simple steps to be more intentional about the way you sleep. And trust us… you should. Sleep is foundational to health.
Why Sleep Is So Important
Sleep is the time for our bodies to rest, restore, and rejuvenate. While we sleep, our brains process and store memories, our blood pressure drops, blood supply to muscles increases, tissue growth and repair occurs, and our immune systems fight off harmful substances. Lack of sleep, especially consistent lack of sleep, can lead to detrimental health effects. Inadequate sleep can result in the the following health issues:
- Weight gain and obesity: Sleep helps regulate two hormones related to hunger: ghrelin, which makes you feel hungry, and leptin, which makes you feel full. Sleep deprivation can lead to increased hunger, which is one of the strong links between obesity and poor sleep habits.
- Increased risk for metabolic disorders: Inadequate sleep can lead to reduced insulin sensitivity and high blood sugar, putting you at risk for diabetes.
- Adverse effects on mental health: This is one of the more obvious ones, because we’ve likely all felt the emotional drain of exhaustion – crankiness, mood swings, etc. But inadequate sleep can also lead to more serious mental health issues such as impaired ability for social interaction, heightened emotions and even depression.
- Serious impact on cognitive abilities: While we sleep, our brain forms new pathways to learn and store information. When we don’t get enough sleep, or don’t get good enough sleep, it negatively impacts our ability to problem solve, concentrate, and be productive. It takes us longer to complete tasks and we make more mistakes. This can be dangerous and unsafe, especially while driving, as lack of sleep results in slower reaction time.
- Decreased immune function: Sleep is one of the most important factors in immune function. It is the body’s designated time to fight foreign or harmful substances. Lack of sleep will leave you less able to fight common infections, such as a cold.
- Chronic illness: During sleep, the body repairs the heart and blood vessels. Over time, inadequate sleep quality and duration can lead to chronic disease, including an increased risk for heart disease and strokes.
How much sleep should we be getting?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should get anywhere from 7 to 9 hours of sleep. They recently completed a comprehensive study and suggest the following sleep times per age group:
- Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours each day
- Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
- Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
- Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours
- School age children (6-13): 9-11 hours
- Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours
- Younger adults (18-25): 7-9 hours
- Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours
- Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours
Why we aren’t sleeping today
In 2016, the CDC reported that over a third of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep on a regular basis. Statistics reflect that 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep deprivation and approximately 9 million take prescription sleeping pills. The impacts of inadequate sleep can be felt all around us. So why aren’t we sleeping today?
Habits that have become so normalized in our society are seriously throwing off our sleep schedules. One of the worst offenders is the artificial blue light that comes from the technology we utilize for hours and hours every day. This blue light comes from phones, TVs, computers, iPads… you name it-any lighted screen. It suppresses the production of melatonin which is the very hormone that supports your sleep cycle. Many people fall asleep, or try to fall asleep, while watching TV, playing on their phones or surfing the internet. On top of suppressing melatonin production, engaging with technology before bed keeps your brain alert instead of winding down and preparing to rest. Watching a TV show or scrolling through Instagram can trick your brain into thinking it needs to stay awake.
No wonder so many Americans struggle to sleep well.
Tips for better sleep
We always talk about getting back to basics by removing products with harmful chemicals that undermine our health and replacing them with healthy ones. Eliminating excess artificial blue light is key to deep sleep so we can thrive and function. Then making sure that we do expose ourselves to the beneficial natural blue light from the sun especially in the morning sets our body clocks and stabilizes our circadian rhythm.
REDUCE Your Exposure to Artificial Blue Light
Light needs to be treated like nutrition! Our eyes and skin need the nourishing full spectrum of light wavelengths (including beneficial blue light) from the sun. Artificial blue light is junk light and exposure has been linked to eye strain, stress and anxiety (cortisol production), depression, sleep disturbance, macular degeneration, and cataracts. People are overdosing on artificial light just like they are on trans fats and high fructose corn syrup.
- Consider a filter screen for your computer, phone, and even TVs to reduce your exposure to artificial blue light!
- Wear daytime blue blockers especially if you experience eye strain, eye irritation, or headaches.
- Wear blue blocking glasses during the day that specifically help to reduce anxiety (cortisol levels), depression, and even SAD (seasonal affective disorder).
- For maximum melatonin production wear nighttime blue blocking glasses 2 hours before you plan to go to bed to block artificial blue light exposure from artificial lighting – lamps, overhead lighting, and devices. You can use code BLUBLOX10 for 10% off your first order.
- Exchange your night lights for blue blocking night lights. These are great especially in children’s rooms where they are afraid of the dark and want a light on.
- Turn on the “night shift” app on Apple devices 24/7 or two hours before bed to decrease the amount of blue light emitted by the screen. This is better than nothing, but we don’t recommend fully depending on this because of studies done and because of exposure at night to other artificial light.
- Download one of these free apps that reduces the blue light emitted from your screen at a designated time of your choice. Like the Apple app, the efficacy of these programs has been questioned (but is free and better than nothing).
- Keep electronics out of the bedroom altogether. If you use your bedroom for sleeping only, it helps to train the body to associate the bedroom with sleeping, which makes it easier to fall asleep. Leave the TV in the living room and the computer at your desk.
Get Natural Sunlight
Set and Maintain Your Master Clock: Maintaining a natural rhythm of exposure to bright sunlight during the day and darkness at night is a crucial foundational component of sleeping well. This dark/light cycle is the primary driver of your circadian rhythm.
Anchor your circadian rhythm – Scientists have found that blue wavelengths of light from the sun are the most important wavelengths for entraining the circadian rhythm. Get 30 minutes minimum of bright sunlight without sunglasses during the day – within 45 minutes of getting up is optimal – but anytime of day has some effect. A strong outdoor light signal helps set your master clock. If you don’t get that bright sunlight anchor, then your circadian rhythm is much more vulnerable to artificial night light.
- Exercise outside in the morning if possible to get sunshine. Exercise has added benefits when done outside.
- Get enough blue light from the sun during the day. Take every opportunity that you can to get out in the sun. If you work in an office eat lunch outside, take breaks and go outside if even for 5 – 10 minutes, go for a walk outside, and exercise outdoors when you can.
- If impossible to get out in bright natural light here is an unexpected tip– get on your computer within 45 minutes of waking to get exposure to the blue light spectrum to set cortisol levels and start your day.
One of the most important things we can do to sleep better is to be consistent about all things sleep related. That includes how long we sleep, when we sleep, and how we get to sleep. Here are a few tips that will help you get deep, restful sleep. Always remember, how you sleep affects how you live every day of your life, so it’s worth it taking some time to examine your habits.
- Bedtime routines: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Try to stick to the same routine on weekends, only varying sleep times by about one hour. Consistency is crucial.
- Create a relaxing bedroom environment: Make sure your room is pitch black and cool.Cooler temperatures are ideal for a deep sleep. Wear a cotton eye mask if room isn’t dark enough.
- Avoid eating large meals or drinking alcohol right before bedtime.
- Incorporate exercise into your daily routine (outside is optimal), as it leads to more consistent, deep sleep.
- Avoid any form of caffeine 8 hours before bed: An afternoon cup of coffee can throw off your sleep schedule more than you would imagine. Its effects can be felt for up to eight hours.
- Soak your feet in warm water and wear socks to bed. Studies have shown that warming the feet before going to sleep promotes vasodilation, which in turn lowers the body’s core temperature faster than going to sleep with cold, bare feet. Read about why.
- Do something relaxing before bed: Instead of relying on electronics to lull you to sleep, take a hot bath, incorporate lavender essential oils into your bedtime routine, or listen to calming music. Do all of these things in low light as it prepares the body for sleep. Also, yoga and meditation can be instrumental in bedtime relaxation. There are even certain yoga poses that promote sleep and relaxation.
Create a safe haven
Remove harmful chemicals throughout your home and garage: Make creating a safe bedroom priority.
- See our New Year Home Cleanse
- Pay special attention to bathrooms connected to bedrooms. Make sure to remove products with synthetic fragrances like body and skin care products, scented soaps, cleaners, etc. These products especially impact the air quality of the bedroom
- Make sure your laundry products are non-toxic and fragrance free. If you are breathing in toxic chemicals in your home as well as in your pajamas and bedding all night long your body won’t go into deep restorative sleep because of the priority to detoxify harmful chemicals.
- Detoxify bedding and pajamas that have been washed in toxic detergents and fabric softeners.
- Wear organic cotton pajamas. Natural fibers allow the body to breathe.
- Buy organic cotton sheets, pillowcases, and blankets when you are able.
- Your bed is the most important piece of furniture in the home. It should be chemical free and comfortable to give you the deepest sleep. Organic cotton, wool, latex are great options. We love Lifekind, Naturepedic, OMI and Avocado for mattress options.
- Encapsulate your current bed if needed to contain harmful chemicals.
- Vacuum your bedroom and bed with a sealed HEPA vacuum cleaner at least once a week to reduce SVOCs (semi-volatile organic chemicals that ride on dust).
- Get an air purifier: Congestion can interfere with sleep. Air purifiers remove harmful chemicals, VOCs and SVOC’s, allergens and irritants from the air such as pollen, mold, dust and danger. It also functions as a sound machine which can block out any distracting noises.
Reduce electromagnetic field exposures
- Turn off WiFi at night when sleeping or better yet hardwire your home.
- Put your cell phone in airplane mode for the night.
- Unplug all cordless phones before bed, take out the batteries in the cordless phone itself, and remove the battery from the base. These phones emit harmful pulsed frequencies throughout the night when the sleeping environment should be as field free as possible.
- Unplug all lamps, clocks, and other electronics in the bedroom to reduce AC electric fields. Electric fields affect the nervous system, inhibit melatonin production, and are said to inhibit deep sleep.
We hope these tips will help you get more consistent, restful nights of sleep. You and your body deserve it!