Sunday morning I tossed up a post about not sleeping.
Specifically, I wrote about whether or not ignoring your sleep habits could be one of the key missing components in your effort to lose weight and get yourself and your body back in whack. (It stands to reason that if you're out of whack, then whack is where you'd like to be.)
The short answer is yes, sleep is crucial for health and fitness. But it's one thing to know you have trouble sleeping and another thing to figure out what to do about it.
I often have trouble falling asleep at night. Knowing this, I put off getting into bed. Because my first two hours in bed are usually a party for one on the hamster wheel of life. But the cycle continues, as I go to bed later and later because I hope that by getting in bed later, I'll fall asleep sooner.
And also I want to poke people who just fall asleep when their heads hit the pillow. Or who nap on airplanes.
There's a good chance these are morning people. In theory, sleep should be pretty straight forward. When it gets dark outside, we observe the rules of our circadian rhythm, and go to bed. Then we wake up when it's light out.
But that's only theory.
The reality is that most of us get in bed when it's dark out and then spend another 30 minutes or more on our phones or other electronic device.
Replacing my books with the kindle app on my iPad was likely the worst decision I made since frosting my hair.
And I think we can all agree, looking at the picture off to the right, that was a bad idea. Because, you know, blonde on me is actually orange.
1. Put the screen away two hours before you go to bed.
Do yourself a favor, and as hard as this is, try to eliminate screen time for an actual two hours before you go to bed. Because I currently spend a lot of time in the car, I have an Audible subscription and listen to a lot of books on tape (because I can't stop calling them books on tape even though we passed tape in 1994.)
The small amounts of light from these devices pass through the retina into a part of the hypothalamus, the area of the brain that controls several sleep activities, and delay the release of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin.
And let's face it, sending work emails or worse yet, reading work emails in the last few minutes before bed does little to soothe the mind. A stressful email read can elevate your cortisol levels at the exact time when you need them to be lower.
2. Make the room as dark as possible.
And speaking of melatonin levels, one sure-fire way to suppress them is to let a bunch of artificial light in. Aside from the occasional hotel room, I don't ever remember sleeping in total darkness. Whether it was from a street light outside or a digital clock, there was always some type of light in my room.
Since I've started sleeping with a mask over my eyes, I've slept a little bit better. Not a lot, but a little.
3. Kick the cats off the bed. Seriously. Do it.
We have two cats. I don't really talk about it because dogs. Specifically, Rooney. But Rooney sleeps in his own bed in his own room downstairs, because he would take up the entire bed and also dog fur.
The cats however, are a different story. And I don't know about you, but like any ridiculous pet owner, I don't feel like I can disturb the cats when they take up all of my foot space and I end up chewing on my knee caps to sleep around them.
Do yourself a favor and kick them off. They will move, and if you're lucky, they will re-locate to their own beds.
BECAUSE THEY HAVE SEVENTEEN OF THEM.
4. Get nine hours of sleep
Hahahahaha...oh wait, you're not kidding?
That's about how I feel when someone suggests nine hours of sleep to me. And I don't even have kids. On days when I have to be at the facility by 5:30 a.m. and I'm an hour away, I'm getting up before 4:00 in the morning. Nine hours of sleep would require me getting into bed at 7:00 p.m.
And on those nights, even if I did get in bed at something reasonable like 9:00, I still wouldn't fall asleep. So I know that at least twice a week, I can't get nine hours of sleep. But I can work towards that average on the other days.
5. Limit caffeine intake
Hahahahaha! Oh wait, this one too?
Part of my current cycle is lacking sleep and using caffeine to fuel myself throughout the morning, and sometimes into the afternoon. The reality is you should cut off the caffeine in the morning, and worst case scenario, nine hours before you go to sleep.
Swap that 2:00 diet coke out for a nap.
Oh right, you probably can't do that at your desk. Instead, swap the mid-afternoon caffeine out for a short walk, outside, around the hallways, or what-have you.
I realize that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of dealing with the maddening struggles of sleep quantity and quality. For a more in depth look at sleep, check out this article by the maker of Athletic Greens on sleep and cortisol levels.