Ah, the joys of catching some good ZZZ’s!  Sleep is such a critical component to our health and well-being.  Sadly, most people do not get nearly enough.  The body requires sleep to restore and repair the brain so that we can have healthy functioning of our biological systems.  Sleep allows for brain processing and memory formation, immune system function, dreaming, tissue healing and growth, detoxification, and even managing our microbiome.  Sleep has a direct impact on our digestion, mood, and cognitive function.  Have you ever noticed that you make poorer food choices when you are sleep deprived?  There is science behind it!  Sleep also directly affects our blood sugar regulation and insulin resistance.  It can affect our other systems in the body including the Endocrine, Immune, Cardiovascular, and Brain and Nervous Systems.  Studies have also shown that obesity rates are higher in those who have decreased sleep quantity.

Knowing that sleep is so vital to one’s health, how can I get more of it?  When I think of basic physiologic needs, it is always helpful to think of how you would handle something like sleep with a child.  You want to keep things simple, safe, and familiar.  Children thrive off a routine, and so do adults!  When putting a child to bed, you would never have any luck if you plucked them from a stimulating environment and assumed that he or she would fall asleep as soon as their head hit the pillow.  So, what would you do?

  • Take some time to unwind – disengage from all stimulation and set the mood for bedtime. Put away the electronics.
  • Dim the lights and set the stage – read a story and visualize bedtime
  • Have a consistent bedtime – your body follows a circadian rhythm, which is a natural internal sleep process that regulates the sleep/wake cycle. It is your body’s internal clock and thrives off a consistent bedtime and wake time.
  • Keep your room cool and dark. You would never want your child to overheat and black out shades can make a huge difference in keeping out the light.  Adults are the same way!  A drop in body temperature at night is also important for your circadian rhythm

There are also things that you can do throughout the day that will aid with sleep.  Not surprisingly, these tactics help with children too!

  • Wake up gently – avoid jarring alarm sounds that elicit an immediate stress response first thing in the morning
  • Connect with nature – be in the natural light during the day and dim the lights in the evening. Be in tune with the seasons
  • Be on the move during the day! Wear your body out and boost your metabolism.
  • Manage stress – journal, meditate, exercise. Manage your stress during the day so you are not kept up at night worrying over your to-do list or things you cannot control.  There is a time and a place, and bedtime is not one of them!

Limiting caffeine and stopping caffeine consumption early in the day also affects when your body falls asleep and the sleep quality.  I am a big proponent of having a nice cup of calming tea an hour or so before bedtime as part of my nightly ritual.  Yogi Bedtime Tea is a staple in our house.  The following herbs have been shown to be sleep supportive: Chamomile, valerian, passionflower, lavender, skullcap, lemon balm, and hops.  If considering herbs, always consider the source and the freshness.  If you are ever in doubt, please consult a trained herbalist.

Sleep has so many health benefits, and it’s never too late to begin a daily and nightly routine.