Although often neglected, sleep is perhaps one of the most fundamental aspects of health. Without a sound night of sleep, it is near to impossible to have the day that you hoped for let alone accomplish the things that you had planned to at the same rigor as you would with a full 6-9 hours of sleep. Sleep is something that we brush aside when talking about health. Truth is, if we're not sleeping through a full night of sleep our body and mind does not reach the appropriate amount of REM sleep where our body resets and performs in-depth cell repair across several body systems. For a person getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night, about 90 mins of that 7-8 hours is REM sleep. REM sleep, or Rapid Eye Movement sleep, is where the brain exercises specific neural connections that are essential in our mental and overall well-being. REM sleep is also our dream state, and while it is still unclear why exactly why we dream, it can be hypothesized that dreaming helps us process emotions. Keeping a "dream journal," or journal to record dreams that you remember, has been something that I have loved to do and has helped me uncover the subconscious beliefs and emotions that my conscious or wakeful state cannot yet conceptualize.
Whether through personal experimentation or through helping others uncover how from the very start of their day they are preventing themselves from achieving an optimal state of well-being, I have compiled a list of things to check in on when you are not getting a full 6-9 hours of sleep. While it may be something unable to prevent, there are many opportunities to improve your nights sleep. Sleep is the very first thing that starts your day and with a full night of 6-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep, you can perform at your very highest!
1. Significantly reducing and/or eliminating alcohol intake before bed. While alcohol does help you fall asleep deeper and faster, once it leaves the body, the body rebounds even faster in the other direction (this explains why you might be wide awake at 2 am after a night of drinking). Even low to moderate alcohol consumption before bed negatively impacts the highly restorative processes of sleep. If one is to consume alcohol, it is best to have a drink in the afternoon or with dinner so there is food to help metabolize the alcohol.
2. Significantly reducing and/or eliminating processed foods and sugar intake before bed. When we eat foods and drinks high in sugar right before bed it causes blood sugar levels to rise and stimulates the pancreas to release insulin. This process helps bring the sugar back to the cells to be taken back in and gives them fuel to run on. Sugar and processed foods directly increase inflammation in the body negatively affecting most body systems. inflammation also increases stiffness and irritability in the body making it difficult to relax, fall asleep, and stay asleep.
3. Adding 1 Tbsp of Organic Tart Cherry Juice to an 8oz glass of warm water. Tart cherries flood the body with potent antioxidants and aid in the repair of cells while allowing for more restful sleep. My favorite brand of organic tart cherry juice is Purium's "Apothe-Cherry," because it is certified organic and non-GMO and because of the companies mission to give back to local farmers and families! (Use code: connectedperspectives for $50 off or a 25% discount)
4. Significantly reducing and/or eliminating blue light exposure before bed. Put a maximum on the amount of time you want to spent staring at screens right before going to bed. Since there are at times unavoidable instances of looking at screens, purchasing blue light glasses may help to minimize the blue light strain that you're placing on your eyes! Checking the blue light levels on your computer can also minimize exposure! I have enjoyed using the software f.lux which can take up to all of the blue light away from computer and phone screens.
5. Moving through gentle yoga movements and stretches before bed. Moving the body in relaxing and restorative poses can help give the mind and body time to calm down. Practicing a few gentle yoga movements before bed helps to ease the muscles, increases circulation and releases toxins in the organs and tissues further contributing to quality sleep.
6. Working through some calming breathing exercises or a meditation before before bed. Similar to adding in some light restorative yoga poses, breathing exercises and meditating gives your body and mind that time in between the fast-paced day schedule and winding down before resting fully and deeply. One app I love to use is called Insight Timer, and another I hear great things about is Headspace, they are both free in the app store.
7. What does your Human Design say about sleep? See Human Design for more insight about this system of knowing and understanding yourself! The meaning of sleep changed drastically for me after receiving my beautiful Human Design Soul Dictionary that a friend made me, check out her page for more insight! Generators must listen to their gut response and be 100% lit up by what they do. They are designed to let the world move towards them, and in knowing this, when they aren't in alignment or excited about the work they do, they can get very frustrated. This frustration prevents them from using up all the energy their design creates and prevents them from being able to fully sleep at night. Knowing this helped me understand and realize that as a generator it is most helpful for me to use up all the energy that I create in a day, and to be nearly exhausted at the end of the day, so I can reach a night of deeply restful sleep.