Have you ever had to set your alarm REALLY early (like, 4am) because you had to catch an early flight or do something out of the ordinary, and got a sick feeling in your stomach? Maybe your tummy felt squeamish or you didn’t go to the bathroom the way you normally do that day?
That funky feeling was because of your gut.
The last organ to get some love? The gut/digestive tract. If you cut your shut eye short by an hour or two, your gut doesn’t get the time it needs to detox and it can leave you feeling sick. It can even change up the way your body digests for a day or two.
We have all been told that sleep is important, but how important is it really? For many of us that have hectic schedules, sleep is often the first thing we skimp on. But sleep is one of the most important pillars to health, beauty, weight loss, sustained energy, and supporting a healthy gut.
A good night sleep is restorative for your body. It is a time for your body to rid itself of the toxins it was exposed to throughout the day. Your skin repairs and cleanses itself. As I mentioned above, your gut has time to digest and rebalance. And your brain is busy filing away all of the information you took in for the day so it can make room for new information in the morning. Additionally, it is a time for our body to release hormones that help regulate our appetite, stress, and metabolism.
All of these processes are imperative for your body and something that needs to happen every day.
If you forgo a quality night of shut eye, your brain won’t have time to process the information it received, creating brain fog. Your skin won’t get the break it needs from everyday toxins, which start to build up, leading to blemishes.
And the gut. When you skip sleep, your gut doesn’t get the time it needs to absorb the nutrients from your food, let alone actually digest your food, creating an imbalanced gut. This has a catastrophic affect on our energy levels throughout the day, as well as a negative impact on our weight loss goals, backs up your digestion, and makes you feel sick.
Many of my clients tell me that they just aren’t people that get good sleep. They think it just is what it is. I’m here to tell you that isn’t the case.
Good sleep can happen for anyone, you just need to set yourself up for sleeping success.
Create a sleep ritual–
The best starting place- start a sleep ritual at least 30 minutes before bed. The ritual signals to your brain that you are winding down and preparing for sleep. This could include washing your face, brushing your teeth, taking a bath, reading a calming book, meditating, ,soft yoga poses (try these), or anything that is relaxing and soothing to your mind and body. Do NOT include anything that stimulates your brain or gets you anxious. No emails, work reading, intense shows, or books that keep you up at night.
Make a checklist-
This can go along with your sleep ritual. If you struggle with falling asleep because of busy brain, start a checklist. Keep a notepad next to your bed. When you crawl into bed for the night, write down all of tomorrow’s to-dos or anything that is on your brain you don’t want to forget. Spend about 3-5 minutes working on this and when you are done, put it to bed. Your to-do list will be there in the morning, you know what’s to come, and now it is time for your brain to quiet down and sleep.
If checklists aren’t your thing, you can try the same process with a journal. Write out how you are feeling and things coming up for tomorrow, and again, put the thoughts to bed.
No electronics in your bedroom, especially your bed–
You’ve heard it before but the blue light transmitted from phones, tvs, computers, and tablets mess up our circadian rhythms, signaling to our brain that it is daytime. Your body and mind then work to keep you awake. Once you start your sleep ritual, all electronics should be put away. Under no circumstances should you be doing work in bed. It heightens stress levels, making quality sleep an even bigger hurdle.
Blue light glasses help minimize blue light exposure but can still keep you stimulated if you are stressing over work to-dos, watching an intense show, or comparing yourself to the filtered lives of your friends on social media. Look at your bedroom as a sanctuary for rest, relaxation, and free of stimuli. Keep screens out of there!
The circadian rhythm is the natural rhythm your body goes through throughout the day and year as it is in-sync with the environment. It affects everything from our hormones to our sleep patterns. The idea is that when it’s light out, your body and brain want to be awake, energized, and working. When it’s dark out, your body and brain want to slow down, relax, and recoup. If we are doing things that are counter to our natural rhythms, it will be harder on our body and will disrupt things like sleep and hormones.
A couple of basic tips to stay in alignment with these rhythms? Do your best to wake up with the light and get your body and brain going. Expose yourself to natural light first thing in the morning with a walk outside, opening the blinds, or at least turning on your lights. Exposure to natural sunlight is so good for your body and brain in the morning. Then, when the sun sets and it becomes dark outside, darken your home. Dim the lights, turn off the screens, and do more relaxing activities. Have a social media cut off time of 8pm or turn off the tv and read a book.
Consistent bed and wake time-
If you do only one thing to improve your sleep, let it be this. Stay consistent with your bedtime and the time you wake up every morning. This includes weekends. Sleeping in on weekends doesn’t necessarily add points back to your sleep bank account. Instead, it messes up your regular sleep schedule and confuses your body. Be sure to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time so that your body naturally starts to crave both of those things, making both easier.
If you stay up late on a weekend, stick with your normal wake up time in the morning, but then take a nap in the late morning or early afternoon. That is the best way to keep your sleep schedule consistent but catch up on the missed z’s.