By Shanice Sinclair
Disclaimer: I am not a health professional, and my advice is not medical advice. Please see a doctor for tailored healthcare advice.
Stressed? Go to bed. Broke? Go to bed. Can’t focus? Go to bed. Having one of those really horrible days where all you want to do is just go to sleep? Yeah…you should probably just go to bed.
Yes, I have effectively solved most of my problems with sleeping more recently, but more specifically, by getting quality sleep. Not curled-up-in-a-ball-cry-myself-to-sleep-after-eating-a-pint-of-ice-cream-sleep…or late-night-fall-asleep-watching-Netflix-sleep. No, this was intentional, planned rest, with time windows and eating restrictions and supplements. Don’t close your browser just yet though, let me explain.
If you’re like me and you’ve been down the rabbit hole of fitness, mental health, and nutrition blogs and videos online, you may have come across people casually dropping in gems like “make sure you rest so your body can recover” or “not getting enough sleep can increase stress levels” but you think to yourself, ”I get enough sleep already” as you click through to the next video and chug a Starbucks refresher at 11 pm on a Wednesday. Yes, I’m dragging you. You are not getting quality sleep. Keep reading and I’ll take you through everything I’ve been doing to become a champion sleeper (I’m not kidding — it’s on my résumé).
Do You Wanna Be Better At Sleep?
According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, “the way you feel when you’re awake depends on what happens while you’re asleep”. Your ability to learn, problem-solve, make decisions, as well as your stress (cortisol) levels are all directly linked to how much sleep you get. Sleep also balances the hormones that make you feel hungry or full (ghrelin and leptin… don’t they sound like two scary guys?), so the less sleep you get, the more hungry you feel during the day. Unsurprisingly, this means that there is a correlation between long term lack of sleep and obesity, especially in teenagers and young adults.
We all know that sleep replenishes our body’s energy for the day, but it also gives our body a chance to repair damaged blood vessels, burn fat, reduce our stress levels, and essentially press the “reset” button inside of us. And yes, I said burn fat. Most of us put in a lot of work in the gym but don’t see results because the body can’t actually burn any fat unless it’s in rest mode. That’s why your morning “just woke up” body is so much better than your just had a pint of ice cream body.
So now that we’ve uncovered why you’re not losing weight even though you workout 24/7, and why you can’t remember anything you’ve studied during your all-nighter, and why you have the munchies literally all day, let’s figure out how to actually do this thing.
How To Sleep The Right Way — Everything You Thought You Knew Is A Lie
How long should you sleep? In order to be a more fully functional human being, you need 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Unless you’re an athlete, more than 9 hours of sleep could be harmful in the long run, but less than 7 hours of sleep will not give the body enough time to do its full nightly maintenance. Studies show that the position you sleep in is important as well. Sleeping on your stomach can put stress on your internal organs, so the optimal position is to sleep on your back or side. It’s helpful to sleep with a pillow between your legs when on a side, and don’t be afraid to get sexy — sleeping naked is good for your health! Elastic waistbands can block your lymphatic system.
Substances & Supplements For Better Sleep
I take magnesium and zinc supplements before bed. Magnesium acts as a mild sedative and helps the body to fall asleep, increases deep sleep, and decreases cortisol levels throughout the night. It also provides amino acids that support liver functions at night. Zinc naturally raises testosterone levels, improving the quality of sleep. I take these particularly because I don’t get enough magnesium or zinc throughout the day, so the amount that you take may vary based on your diet.
You also want to avoid substances that will disturb your sleep or make it harder for you to fall asleep. Five to eight hours before sleep, stop consumption of caffeine, more than 2 servings of alcohol, Coke, or Pepsi. Hot chocolate and other cacao products are also no-nos. Avoid having for dinner bacon, cheese, chocolate, potato, spinach, tomato, and wine. Yep, all the good stuff. And don’t forget to stop eating at least 2 hrs before bed to ensure proper digestion. Chamomile tea will help you to fall asleep, and even though you should definitely stay hydrated throughout the day, try to stop drinking water at least 90 minutes before bed to decrease the chances of needing to get up in the middle of the night to pee.
Stop Stressing, Just Chill
In order to have restful sleep, you have to clear your mind from the day you’ve had. Try to write down things to do for the next day, just to get them out of your head. Journaling, writing down affirmations and listing the things you’re grateful for can also help to clear your mind before bed. Meditation and yoga can really help you to get better quality sleep, and help you to teach your body how to relax. Also try not to work out right before bed, because your body needs to cool down. Having a cold shower before bed is really good for this!
Sleep Better Checklist:
- 7 — 9 hours of sleep
- Stop eating 2 hrs before bed
- Chamomile tea
- Magnesium, Zinc
- No Caffeine, Coke
- Avoid at dinner: Bacon, cheese, chocolate, potato, spinach, tomato, wine
- No water 90 mins before bed
- Put down the phone; Limit exposure to blue light, moonlight, LED from devices at least 1 hr before bed
- Get sexy: sleep naked
- Chill out, de-stress