Maximize your sleep tonight with these few simple changes. Sleep is critical for your body to repair and recover on many different levels. Your tissues use sleep to recover and rebuild from the day. Your brain uses sleep to categorize and organize everything you learned, which can help you to better recall old information and absorb new information. Without a full night’s rest, you may have difficulty tomorrow with cognition, recall and a depressed immune system. While sleep needs vary from person to person, in general, adults need at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Any less, and you may be impacting your physical and mental performance for the next day.
The first major sleep habit to change is to stop using technology at least an hour before bed. Two hours is even better, but start with one hour and go from there. Technology includes everything with a backlight (TV, cell phone, tablet, Apple Watch, etc). This can also include your e-reader, if you have one of the fancier ones that have a backlight. While the latest versions of iOS offer a feature called Night Shift that changes the color of your screen to help trick your brain into nighttime mode, it is still not the same as putting your phone away completely. (Learn how to enable Night Shift in iOS 9.3 here) The greater the gap between when you were last on technology and sleep can help you to fall asleep faster. I charge my phone, which is also my alarm clock, in another room. This removes any and all urges to check my phone after I am in bed and physically gets me out of bed when the alarm goes off in the morning!
Secondly, sleep happens best in a dark, cool room. Temperature recommendations are around 68˚, but if you fall in the No-Central-AC camp like I do, you’ll have to make due with what you have. When it is super hot outside, a cool shower before bed can help bring your body temp down to aid with falling asleep.
For darkness, keep all electronics and light emitting items out of the bedroom. This includes clocks, DVD players, TV’s etc. If there is no way to get rid of all the green and blue tiny lights in the room, the next best thing is a sleep mask (which also has benefits of it’s own!).
A sleep mask is one of the world’s greatest sleep inventions. You can get them very inexpensively on Amazon and it helps create total darkness no matter where you are. I always take my sleep mask when I travel because it guarantees a dark room even when I’m in an unfamiliar place. The pressure on your eyeballs of a sleep mask also induces a reflex called the oculocardiac reflex, which is the decrease in the pulse due to pressure on the eye. The pressure on the eye stimulates both the nerves in the eye and the vagus nerve, which governs your parasympathetic nervous system (aka “rest and digest”). The gentle pressure on your eyeballs is another mechanical signal to your brain and body to slow down and get ready for sleep.
Now, if you’ve turned of your tech devices and are still totally wound up and nowhere near ready for sleep, you might consider self-massage with therapy balls to help unwind. A mechanical stimulation (like the eye mask or pressure of the therapy balls) is a faster acting channel to relaxation than any chemical signal. Think about it – directly stimulating your nerves will always have a faster response than waiting for a chemical like a sleeping pill to get digested in your stomach, make its way across the stomach lining, across the blood-brain barrier and into your brain.
My favorite pre-bedtime routine is with a Yoga Tune Up Coregeous ball on my rib cage. The Coregeous ball is soft and air filled, and when placed directly on the sternum, you get the collective benefits of gentle pressure, soft tissue massage and deep breathing. Simply place the ball on your rib cage and breathe! For more detailed instructions, check out my video below.
Try these tips and sleep better tonight!
- August 13-14: Structurally Sound Embodied Anatomy for Every Body Workshop Series (San Francisco, CA)
- August 27: FREE Yoga Tune Up® Class at Athleta (Pasadena, CA)
- August 28: Mobility for Performance Total Body Treatment (Santa Monica, CA) just added!
- September 15: Structurally Sound Small Group Series (Valley Village, CA)
- October 2: Banish Back Pain (Brea, CA)