I have had a love/hate relationship with sleep my whole life. As a “doer” I don’t like the idea of being still or spending time not creating or getting things done. Because sleep is essential to life, it will always be necessary. It wasn’t until this year that I realized sleep and I were actually on the same team. Between my personal experience and learning more about what our bodies do when we sleep I finally realized I could use sleep to my advantage. Here’s the thing, its not complicated and when we are well rested there really isn’t a better way to start the day.
I had the idea that I was always running out of time. Everyday the clock felt like it was counting down before I knew I had to go to sleep or I wouldn’t be able to function the next day. There was never enough time in a day to get my to do list accomplished. Getting the minimum amount of sleep was always the goal. My problem was I was focusing on how sleep was “taking away” from my to do time rather than focusing on how much more efficient I could be if I was well rested, rejuvenated and feeling at peace about my schedule. I decided to spend more time researching sleep, human growth hormone and how sleep could become my companion in life. Here are some things I learned this year about sleep:
1- Cell repair and the brain. Your brain is cleared of toxins, and your body works on repairing organs, muscle tissue and all of this is essential to health. It is kind of like a reset button and it goes without saying though sleep is essential for healthy cognitive and psychological function. Our body thrives when we get proper rest because it increases our human growth hormone. This part of sleep happens shortly after falling asleep and lasts approximately 90 minutes. Also it is important it happens before midnight. I don’t know about you but I will say if I can feel optimum after a nights sleep that is for sure how I want to start my day.
Here is a good explanation/opinion HERE
For a brief explanation on human growth hormone, what it does, when our body releases it I found this article simple and helpful HERE
2- Rhythm is important for a human to feel well rested. Making it habit to follow routine Sunday- Monday allows your body to wake on its own at the same time everyday rather than being woken abruptly by an alarm, kids or any other outside force. When you get into a rhythm and your body wakes on its own you avoid disruption of your brains chemicals and feel more rested. Again there are a lot of articles about this however I find Jay Shetty’s book “Think Like A Monk” to be really good and insightful about sleep. He talks about how when we wake from an alarm when we aren’t ready to wake naturally we cut our body short of its natural cycle which will leave us feeling tired all day. Most of us wake from an alarm on our phone and then we go directly into social media which another very disruptive exposure to what our natural bodies rhythm would be after waking. Our brain is not supposed to wake with such chaos and anxiety and we need to take some serious consideration into what we actually NEED to start our day with.
3- Intention and mindset matter, both before sleep and after waking. The tone of your thoughts and energy will be reflected in your rest and the rest of our day. Visualization is a great way to focus your brain and set the right tone. Imagine what a good rest looks and feels like, how much energy you will have in the morning and how lighthearted and peaceful you will feel. Avoid screen time before bed and when you wake. Remember your peace and thoughts need to be protected. When we expose ourselves to external forces we cannot control what we see or hear. Often it creates chaos in our head that we don’t even realize. Make this time sacred for your health and wellbeing. Clear your head my journaling anything you can’t release from your day or worries you want to set aside before starting your day.
It goes without saying that not enough sleep is detrimental to our wellbeing as humans. We need sleep and we need to make it a priority in a big way. I am still working on my sleep schedule and it varies from night to night as to when I get to sleep. I find it helpful to set a time in my mind that I start to gear down my day and no matter where I am or what I am doing I make note of that time and start to wrap up everything. Being well rested always increases my productivity and I am happy to say I have never regretted going to bed early! For those who struggle with healthy sleep, shift workers, parents of young kids and anyone whose schedule don’t allow them to go to sleep between 8am and 10pm be gracious with yourself and consult a professional if you are struggling to get the rest you need. Increase your physical activity during the day so you are boosting your body with further healthy brain chemicals and feeling more tired at night. You can do this, I believe in you.