Public service announcement: how much sleep are you getting?
In a culture where 12 hour-workdays are the norm and Netflix, Instagram, and Whatsapp all compete for your attention, sleep is the first thing most of us compromise on.
Sleep is crucial to everything we do.
Put down on paper, a list of sleep deprivation’s effects are sobering:
You’re more likely to fall sick: sleep deprivation compromises immune function and disrupts immune cell production.
It’s easier to gain fat: Sleep disrupts appetite regulation – you’re more likely to seek out calorie-dense foods when sleep deprived – making you more likely to put on body fat.
Reduces alertness, concentration and memory: learning, reaction times, and everything in between are affected.
Disrupts production of key hormones like testosterone and cortisol: it’s harder to gain or maintain muscle, and you produce too much cortisol later in the day, when you don’t need it.
So how much sleep do we need?
This varies for everyone, but you generally want to get between 7-8 hours of restful sleep.
This isn’t time spent in bed, but time actually sleeping.
A good rule of thumb is to note how you feel when you wake up. If you need multiple alarms, a brass band and several kicks in the rear just to get out of bed, odds are you’re not getting enough sleep OR it’s not good quality sleep.
Now here’s the part you’ve been waiting for. Some practical tips you can apply RIGHT NOW to sleep better.
Get some direct sunlight in your eyes during the morning, ideally soon after you wake up. This sets off a hormonal cascade that truly gets you awake.
Limit your caffeine intake to the morning only. Some people can tolerate caffeine late in the day just fine, but you’re probably not one of those people.
Workout in the morning, whenever possible. Training hard stimulates your sympathetic nervous system. Adrenaline flows, your blood vessels dilate and you can kick some ass.This is fine and dandy when you want to deadlit something heavy, but not so good when you just want to sleep really badly.
Limit light exposure after sunset. Put your phones on night mode, keep your lights as dim and yellow as possible, and try not to check Instagram every third minute. It also helps to keep your bedroom as dark as possible.
Do a brain-dump in the night. Sometimes it’s not even a ‘physical’ cause that prevents us from sleeping. If you have lots of thoughts bouncing around in your head, then take a piece of paper, write down everything that’s on your mind, and leave it for the next morning. The world will still be there when you wake up.
Consider using a mindfulness meditation app like Headspace or Waking Up. Again, it’s helpful to spend some time away from the constant churn of our thoughts.
Consider supplementing with Magnesium: Magnesium regulates our parasympathetic nervous system (which is crucial for actually falling asleep). Odds are, you’re not getting enough Magnesium from your regular food sources. A teaspoon of Magnesium citrate powder mixed with a glass of water before you sleep is a good place to start.
Try some (or all) of the above, and your body will thank you!