Sleep smarter. Improve your health and optimize your life.

Health

For most of us, sleep is something that we take for granted and know very little about. Today, it is viewed as a crutch. We place stock in being active and doing work when we should be sleeping because we feel it to be the most productive. You can sleep when you die; how many times have we heard someone say this? On the contrary, the lack of sleep may actually be killing you.

Every part of the body is affected by sleep. Without it, the mind is slow and the body is hungover. But to dig a little deeper, sleep affects much more than that. It can be the number one contributor to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, anxiety, and stress. All of this combined can lead to a number of health related problems.

I thought that if I got at least 7 hours a night, I was good to go. I was wrong.

It’s not the quantity of sleep. It’s the quality.

We have lost connection with the earth. Nothing is natural anymore. The television is on, the laptop is out, and the cellphone is in our hands. All of this is happening at night when we should be preparing for sleep. I have been guilty of watching television at night,  never realizing that it was affecting me so much. Sometimes the answers to so many of our problems are so simple. All we have to do is think about how our ancestors lived; how humans relate to the earth.

The world has a natural cycle. When the sun goes down, serotonin goes down and melatonin goes up, (when one is up, the other is down, and vice versa). Serotonin is the good mood hormone that we want up during the day. Melatonin is the hormone that prepares our bodies for sleep. When we wind down for the day, we are given a window. Our bodies release hormones that repair the body as we sleep during our anabolic state. If we miss this window by staying awake, those hormones are effectively keeping us awake – leading to restless nights and sleep deprivation.

Our best sleep comes in the REM phase. Rapid Eye Movement is the phase where we dream and the brain undergoes the most repair. It is also the phase where the brain does the most growth in terms of memory and cognitive connections. As a rule of thumb, REM takes place between 10PM and 2AM.

So how do we prioritize and sleep and optimize our lives?

  • Turn the electronics off at least an hour before you close your eyes. LED blue light is stimulating.
  • Read for 30 minutes before closing your eyes.
  • Darken the room as much as possible by using black out curtains, etc.
  • Maintain a cool core body temperature. Keep the room cool.
  • Ditch the pajamas. Your body needs to breath by releasing toxins through your skin. It’s best to sleep in the nude.
  • Avoid exercise or anything that elevates the core temperature 3 hours before bed, or lower it by taking a cold shower.
  • Get more sun – Vitamin D is essential for the body.
  • Magnesium – This is probably one of the most important minerals that the body needs and is widely overlooked. Many of us are deficient.
  • Limit stimulants such as coffee.
  • Exercise in the morning to increase serotonin and regulate the body for sleep at night. Even 5 minutes of push-ups or body squats is extremely beneficial. “A good night of sleep starts the moment you wake in the morning.” – Shawn Stevenson

From a hormonal standpoint, sleep also directly impacts mental states such as depression. It is also tied to many functions in the GI tract. There is overwhelming research in confirming that every symptom can be traced back to the gut. Lifestyle is the number one contributor to health related problems.

There is much more to be learned, and I have only scratched the surface here.

Listen to the Rich Roll podcast ep. 219 with Shawn Stevenson

Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success by Shawn Stevenson

I’ve always had the TV on at night. I never knew how much it affected me. What are some things that you do that prevent you from getting quality sleep? Got any tips that you use in getting a good night’s rest? Let me know in the comments.

If this helped you optimize your life like it helped me, share it with others.