As life gets busier, it’s easy to question how much sleep we really need. Laying in bed for a third of our day seems unproductive when we could be catching up on work, organizing the house, or even relaxing in front of the TV for a bit longer. If cutting out sleep adds a few extra hours to our packed days and allows us to get more done, that can’t be such a bad thing, right?
Not quite. Sleep is one of the body’s most important functions and determines our overall health. Unfortunately, the negative effects of skimping on sleep go far beyond feeling a little tired or groggy the next day. In fact, skipping a few hours can actually make us less productive, less healthy, and more stressed in the long-run. Here we’ll learn more about sleep, why we need it, and some simple ways we can get a better night’s sleep tonight.
Why do we need sleep?
Like all animals (and even machines!), our bodies need this rest to function optimally. During sleep, the brain is active in processing information and solidifying memories. The body is busy repairing and restoring tissues back to health. We recharge our energy and store resources to take on the next day.
When we lose sleep on a regular basis, we eventually feel the consequences of missing out – both physically and mentally. The immune system becomes weak and we may become more susceptible to allergies or colds. The brain cannot process information as well and we experience poor memory, a lack of focus, and mood swings. Even the digestive system suffers, leading to digestive problems and weight gain.
The effects of not getting enough sleep are so profound that researchers even estimate that those who sleep less than seven hours per night are more likely to develop heart disease, diabetes, mental health issues like depression and anxiety, and Alzheimer’s disease.
7 Simple Changes for Better Sleep
Getting regular, quality sleep is the foundation for long-term wellness and disease prevention. Naturally, some people will need more or less sleep to feel refreshed, but aiming for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night is a great goal for most people.
While that sounds easy enough, many of us struggle to get to sleep on time, fall asleep easily, or stay asleep through the night. Establishing a good sleep routine is the first step to healthy slumber, so let’s learn a few simple habits that will have you sleeping like a pro!
#1: Live more in-tune with nature.
One of the most basic but profound ways to establish a healthier sleep routine is to get your sleep schedule on track – and that starts with living in tune with the natural light and dark cycle.
The brain receives signals from the environment to set its circadian rhythm. This then activates different hormones (such as melatonin), shifts body temperature, and regulates metabolism to either prepare your body for activity or rest.
This natural cycle, however, is often disrupted with habits and stressors that reduce the amount of melatonin our bodies produce. Less melatonin means the brain is alert and active at night – and we’re left counting sheep.
So, how can you rehab your circadian rhythm? It’s as simple as getting more sunlight during the day and keeping it darker at night. During the day, try to go outside for a walk, take your work breaks outside, or simply sit in rooms with plenty of natural light. This reinforces the fact that it is daytime to your brain.
As night approaches, keep the artificial light to a minimum. Use light bulbs with red or orange hues and avoid white or blue light whenever possible as these stimulate the brain. You may choose to use a melatonin supplement to encourage a healthy sleeping pattern, this is not a great long-term strategy. Instead, focus on tuning in with nature.
#2: Turn off the tech.
We live in a digitally overstimulated world. From the time we wake up to the time we go to bed, we are constantly in contact with phones, tablets, computers, television screens, and even screens in shops and on the street.
Screentime is known to stimulate the brain no matter the time of day. When we interact with technology right before bed, it can delay sleep or interfere with the deep, restorative sleep patterns our bodies need.
For better sleep, trade the tech at night for something a little more analog. One or two hours before bed, put away any screens and pick up a book, listen to music, tidy the house, or enjoy a relaxing nighttime self-care routine. Try swapping your phone alarm for a traditional one and leaving your phone outside the bedroom at night. This eliminates the temptation to scroll through your phone if you can’t fall asleep.
#3: Set the mood.
Healthy sleep starts with a healthy environment. If your bedroom is cluttered or full of stimulating things like work papers, your computer, game systems, or other daytime activities, it can be hard for your brain to fully relax.
Instead, make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary. Remove any work items and keep books, magazines, or activities in another room of the house. Clear away clutter and make your bed. Bring in a houseplant (such as a peace lily) to soften the atmosphere and calm the mind. Go even further with a relaxing, sleep-inducing room spray (lavender essential oil is an excellent choice for the bedroom).
#4: Exercise in the morning.
Exercise is one of the best ways to improve your sleep. Not only does it help you release any pent-up energy or stress that keeps you tossing and turning at night, but it regulates some of the key hormones that influence the sleep cycle.
Exercise naturally boosts serotonin, the “happy” hormone. While this hormone is known for improving mood and brain health, serotonin also maintains the circadian rhythm by managing sensitivity to light.
Exercise also naturally lowers cortisol, the “stress” hormone. Cortisol naturally rises in the morning to stimulate the brain and drops at night to induce rest. But high levels of cortisol wreak havoc on our sleep cycles by activating our brains long into the night. This causes fragmented sleep, reduced REM sleep, and less overall sleeping hours.
To stay on top of your sleep, make exercise a daily habit. Avoid exercising too late in the day as it can stimulate your body and have the opposite effect. Instead, plan to exercise in the morning to both get the most out of your workout. You’ll improve your energy during the day and feel relaxed and tired by night.
#5: Perfect your pillow and sleep position.
Sometimes getting a great night’s sleep is all about the bed. Sleeping on the right pillow and in the right sleeping posture can make all the difference.
Sadly, many people sleep on pillows that are not only uncomfortable but damaging to their spines. At AlignLife, our doctors recommend Proper Pillows. These pillows are strategically designed by chiropractors and researchers to fully support the neck and back for either side or back sleeping positions. Proper Pillows also help to ease the body into a more natural sleeping position, relieve pain and tension and offer a restful night’s sleep. You can stop into any AlignLife clinic to purchase a Proper Pillow for your home and ask any questions you may have.
#6: Get on top of pain and tension.
Pain and tension are often at the root of sleep issues. Through the night, aches and pains can wake us up, disturbing our sleep and preventing the restorative sleep our bodies need. Not only do we feel tired and frustrated, but our pain worsens without adequate rest to heal.
Thankfully, chiropractic care is a natural and effective way to overcome your nighttime pain and prevent pain in the future. At AlignLife, our chiropractic doctors perform adjustments based on your unique condition to treat pain at the source and establish a better connection between the brain and body. Chiropractors can also help identify and address other issues in your life that may be impacting your sleep. This includes work posture, diet, and more.
#7: Do your best to de-stress.
Stress is a normal part of life. When it becomes chronic, however, it can have devastating effects on the body – and on sleep. When we are stressed, the body releases cortisol. When there is a constant flow of cortisol or major repetitive spikes, it stimulates the brain and prevents restful sleep.
To combat stress and get the rest you deserve, it’s crucial to take up a few stress-busting hobbies and healthy habits. As mentioned above, exercise is a great way to relieve stress and improve sleep. Yoga, meditation, reading, creative hobbies, and massage are a few other ways to give your mind and body a break from stress. One of the most effective ways to keep stress at bay is with ongoing chiropractic care. Many people think chiropractic care only helps to manage pain, but it is also extremely helpful in reducing stress. Chiropractors can offer exercises to relieve stress and tension, lifestyle tips for managing your unique stressors, and even natural supplements like the Aceva Sweet Dreams Bundle that defeat stress from the inside out.
Aceva Sweet Dreams Bundle combines two powerful, natural supplements (Relax & Calm and Triple Mag) to help get the rest you deserve.
Relax & Calm is a natural, hormone-free supplement that helps lull an anxious mind to sleep. Unlike conventional sleep aids, Relax & Calm is non-addictive and causes no morning grogginess or negative side effects. Plus, studies show that its key ingredient, valerian root, may work even faster than over-the-counter sleep aids.
To complete the pair, Triple Mag offers natural stress relief and better sleep through the power of magnesium. Magnesium plays a key role in melatonin production and sleep cycles. Yet, most people don’t get enough of it through their diets. Supplementing with a quality magnesium supplement offers a simple solution for better sleep.
Better Sleep, Better Health
Although sleep is one of our most basic human functions, the breadth of its power remains a mystery. Researchers and doctors are still learning why we sleep, what happens during sleep, and the bigger impact that sleep has on our overall health.
What we do know, however, is that sleep is essential. Our daily rest gives our bodies and minds an opportunity for healing that cannot be replaced. To feel better and live better, we have to start sleeping better.
Are you ready to finally get the rest you deserve? Reach out to your local AlignLife chiropractor today to learn more about how you can take control of your sleep habits naturally!