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How to have more energy - Start by optimizing your sleep

Sleep is so incredibly important - essential to every process in the body. It affects our physical and mental functioning the next day, our ability to fight disease, our metabolism,and our chronic disease risk. So why aren't we getting enough of it, and why isn't the sleep that we're getting good enough?

We know from decades of research that humans NEED 7-9 hours of sleep per night. I remember when I was a yound adult wearing a lack of sleep like a badge of honor - I was proud when I would stay up for 24-30 hours becuase I was troubleshooting something. Or when I went for a week straight with just four hours a night. Many of you will argue and claim that the 5 or 6 hours you get during the week is enough but it’s not: For me, those weeks at a time of only getting four hours a night would often weaken my immune sytem and leave me with a cold.

For adults, getting less than seven hours of sleep a night on a regular basis has been linked with weight gain, having a body mass index of 30 or higher, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and depression. “Not getting enough sleep can weaken the immune system,” says Rafael Pelayo, MD, a sleep specialist and clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University. One of the reasons I got into health coaching, was because after making dramatic improvements to my own health, I wanted to help people overcome those lifestyle diseases and learn how to feel good, and one of the best ways we can feel good is by getting quality sleep.

Is sleep in your schedule?

The most obvious thing here is schedule - you really have to carve time out of your schedule for sleep. Have you heard the adage that when budgeting you should pay yourself first? In other words, when you get paid, put at least SOME money into savings before you even start divvying up the paycheck to all of the bills and needs. "But, I'm already getting 8 hours a night, and I'm still tired…" Some people need more than 8, but it might also be time to look at your sleep hygiene.

How good is your sleep?

Once you have scheduled enough time for sleep, you have to take a look at the quality of the 7, 8 or 9 hours you are asleep, or in bed. Many factors come into play that can affect our sleep: Our eating, drinking, light exposure before bed, exercise late in the day or evening and more. When we eat our body makes digestion a priority. When we sleep our body tries to decrease blood flow to our muscles and increase blood flow to the brain to help flush out waste from the day so that the brain can process some of the information that it took in during the day. (Sleep is when the brain converts short term memories to long term and gets rid of memories that you won't need to recall later on). So if your body is still working on that quart of ice cream that you ate 10 minutes before bed, then you may not get into your sleep rhythm as quickly as you should.

The same goes for screen time and alcohol. "Oh but they help me relax" you say.

Unfortunately, the light on your phone (or even the TV or computer screen) can negate the relaxing effects since the blue portion of that light inhibits melatonin production and disrupts your circadian rhythm by convincing your brain that it's still daylight. As far as alcohol: It is a depressant, so it may seem like it makes it easier to fall asleep; but like eating, your body needs to metabolize that alcohol, so it diverts blood and energy to do that instead of what it should be doing while you're sleeping. So while you fall asleep easier, your sleep rythms will be off & your quality of sleep will be much lower.

Breathing - AKA Snoring

A word about snoring: According to the Mayo clinic, there are a lot of causes for the horrible noises some of us make while we are blissfully unaware of the disturbance we are causing our spouses or partners. Snoring can be caused by a number of factors, such as the anatomy of your mouth and sinuses, alcohol consumption, allergies, a cold, and your weight. When you doze off and progress from a light sleep to a deep sleep, the muscles in the roof of your mouth (soft palate), tongue and throat relax. When they relax, if you are breathing through your mouth, snoring happens. That's not great, not just for your partner, but also for you, because humans are supposed to breathe through our noses. I wont get into the anatomy of it - but if you can learn to breath through your nose while you sleep, you will wake up less often in the middle of the night. I personally no longer hacve to get up in the middle of the night - and that's great! The other problem with snoring is that, for many people it also means they are stopping breathing without even knowing it. If any one has ever told you that you stop breathing while you sleep; you NEED to talk to a doctor about it.

So what to do?

Getting the best sleep means being proactive about it just as with any other area of your health. According to consumer reports, meditating, whatching what you eat and drink before bed and avoiding screen time all will help you get the best sleep.

Consider this as a basic guideline - 3-2-1. Stop eating three hours before bed; avoid alcohol for at least two hours before bed and put down your phone or tablet at least an hour before bed (or at the very least get some blue light blocking glasses and wear them). Finally, get an app or device that will help you track your sleep - you can't improve what you don't measure.

In summary

To be the healthiest you can be, you need to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Some people may fall a little outside of that - but the VAST majority of people (more than 95%) fall in that range. You also need to make sure that the quality of the sleep you are getting is as good as it can be. Be careful with what you eat, drink, and watch in the last few hours before bed time. Consider investing in a smart watch, fitness tracker, or wearable fitness device that can help you monitor your sleep so that you can take the right steps to improve.

Want more, or want some support optimizing your health? Reach out for a free consultation where we can help you have some amazing breakthroughs and help you start on improving your health or life.

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