Pillow talk: how sleep affects everything

How do you get good sleep in an era of Leaning In and Netflix binging? Sleep is not so easy to come by these days. And being tired all the time affects your work, your home life, your social life, and everyone around you.

Not sleeping enough is like driving your car on fumes all the time: it eventually wears out your engine. Losing a couple of hours of sleep every night is linked to chronic illnesses like diabetes, obesity, heart problems, stroke, and more.

Besides real health risks, being continually exhausted puts a damper on the amazing badass you were put on this planet to be. Let’s get you some Z’s so you can fulfill your amazingness!

 

Take a minute to think about your sleep quality – do you find any of these to be true?

  • Hard to fall asleep (takes more than 30 minutes)
  • Can’t turn off your mind when it’s time to go to sleep
  • Wake easily throughout the night (more than twice)
  • Waking to pee multiple times
  • Trouble falling back to sleep once awakened
  • Vivid, disturbing dreams
  • Difficulty breathing at night (snoring, apnea, etc.)
  • Drenching the sheets in sweat
  • Hard to get out of bed in the morning
  • Feeling excessively groggy and foggy in the morning

So what is a good night’s sleep supposed to look like? A solid 8 hours of rest, preferably in the 11 p.m.-7 a.m. time frame, is the ideal. Not waking too many times, and if you do wake, falling back to sleep easily. Not having too many busy dreams or feeling like you were working in your sleep. Waking rested. Ahhh, sounds nice, right?

But why bother trying to get more sleep when you can have more fun and get more done at night? Because here’s a snapshot of what happens to your body overnight:

  • Your blood has a chance to recycle. According to Chinese Medicine, your Liver is crucial in filtering and cleaning your blood while you are horizontal.
  • Your brain gets a chance to process all the ideas and information you encountered, instead of react to them in a knee-jerk fashion.
  • Your immune system has a chance to rest, away from germs on dirty keyboards and bathroom sinks.
  • Your digestive system gets a break from all the snacking and eating and drinking and peeing and pooping that happened – or didn’t happen – all day. Your metabolism also gets a break, so more sleep helps you lose weight.
  • All your cells have a chance to recuperate from adjusting to the constant changes in light, sound, temperature, weather, thoughts and emotions you encountered during the day.

Now how do you get better sleep? It takes a little bit of dedication. Try these tips:

  • Take a cue from the sunset: Start lowering the lights in your space the later it gets into the evening.
  • Power down: one hour before bedtime (say 10 p.m.), shut off all screens (phone too – eek!).
  • If sleeping 8 hours at night isn’t feasible, practice napping during the day, and spending more down time.
  • Get an acupuncture treatment: getting acupuncture can help turn off your body’s ‘fight-or-flight’ mode so you can find some calm.
  • Eat dinner early: eating late (past 7 p.m.) keeps your digestive system busy, can make it hard to fall asleep, can give you crazy dreams, and can make you feel groggy when you wake.
  • Cool down: keep your room around 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Your body temp needs to drop slightly in order to fall asleep; as long as you stay up and active, your circulation will keep trying to pump at full speed.
  • Direct air vents and fans away from you: dealing with “wind” takes work for your skin and sinus passageways to moderate overnight.
  • Relax on purpose: Take a few minutes before bedtime to do a couple gentle stretches or yoga poses, sit in silence, and do a few deep breaths to loosen up any pent-up tension.
  • Lavender oil/spray has a calming effect; you can spray it in the bedroom or put a single tiny dab on your pillow. Karmalades sells a great Lavender room refresher spray.
  • Give yourself a little pep talk: we all have an inner toddler who has the FOMO (fear of missing out). Tell yourself you were perfect today and in order to be amazing for the world tomorrow, it’s best to tuck yourself in for tonight.

And finally, when you do happen to be up with the owls, be at peace with the tiredness. Stressing out about not getting sleep doesn’t help. Sometimes you just go through periods of not getting enough rest (babies, anyone?). It’s okay. Scribble down on paper everything running through your mind, sip on some chamomile tea, and make friends with the heaviness of tired limbs and beauty of the moon.

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