How-To: Take Charge of Your Sleep Patterns
by: Sherika Tenaya
Last week I discussed the importance of prioritizing sleep in relation to bodily health and wellness. This week I have comprised a list of specific to-do items to recalibrate your sleep cycle and alter or interrupt unhelpful sleep habits.
Find the Magic Number
Just as our optimal eating habits are individual to us, so also is the amount of sleep we need. There is no one-number-suits-all when it comes to a set number of hours needed to maximize health.
The way to determine what YOUR body needs is to decide on an optimal time that you wish to wake up. For one week straight, go to bed 8 - 9 hours before your chosen time until you wake up before your alarm goes off. Be consistent and devoted to going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time, 365 days a year.
Unwind with Deliberate Awareness
One of my teachers once said to me that the way you wake up and the way you go to sleep each day is sacred and should be treated as such. Wake up without the need to rush anywhere, she admonished gently, and go to bed with intention. Make a ritual of it. That advice has always stuck with me. Take 30 minutes before your bedtime to do the following suggestions:
- Disconnect from social media, television, video games and other stimulating media.
- Play soothing music or read calming/relaxing material such as poetry.
- Take an epsom salt bath with calming scents such as lavender or rose.
- Light some candles and do some breathing exercises.
- Drink calming tea such as chamomile tea or make turmeric golden milk.
Prioritize a Pre-Midnight Bedtime
Research has shown that slow wave sleep, the most restorative phase of the sleep cycle, predominates in the early part of the night, before midnight. Aim to be in bed ideally by 10pm.
Block Out the Light
There has been a discovery that all light, whether originating from the sun or from an artificial source such as light bulbs, TV screens, computers and cell phone screens contains a blue wavelength that is most commonly invisible to the eye. However, this light nevertheless interferes with melatonin production and stimulates the alert centers of the brain, disrupting sleep.
- Turn off your Wifi and sleep with your cellphone at least 6 feet from your bed.
- Use a face mask or blackout shades.
Be Aware of Sleep Depriving Substances
Anything from prescription drugs to caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. It goes without saying that caffeine and nicotine are stimulating drugs, do your best to avoid caffeine after 2pm and be aware that some headache OTC drugs have caffeine as a main ingredient.
Alcohol, while creating a sedative effect initially upon consumption, can actually disrupt sleep while it’s being processed by the body. Apparently, one of the enzymes used to break down alcohol has stimulating effects. Alcohol also causes the release of adrenaline and disrupts production of serotonin, an important brain chemical that helps initiate sleep.
On that same vein, be aware of consuming food too close or too far from your bedtime. Leave approximately 3 hours between dinner and bedtime.
See to the Environment
Not only should the time before bed be sacred, but also consider the bedroom itself to be a sacred space and prepare it as such.
- Keep the bedroom dark and cool.
- Try to reserve the bedroom space solely for sleep and sex.
- Invest in good quality bedding and pillows.
Life is a process of taking steps and making choices each day that actively cultivates our greatest potential and growth. While this checklist may take some time to enact in one’s life, as well as a goodly amount of determination and boundary setting, the rewards of cherishing and honoring one’s sleep time as something sacred will ripple positive effect throughout a lifetime.