I am going to start with a bold statement: sleep is more important than exercise and nutrition combined. Whether or not you are one of the 50 to 70 million Americans that suffer from some type of sleep disorder, snoring, waking up feeling not well-rested, trouble falling asleep, or staying asleep, then this is definitely for you.
What are some indications that you may not be getting the most optimal sleep that you can? You could have memory issues, mood changes, yawning during the day, irritability, heart disease, or high blood pressure. All of these can be associated with poor sleep, both quality and/or quantity.
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Sleep is a naturally reoccurring state of the mind and body. We have decreased use of our voluntary muscles, inhibition of sensory activity, and ultimately reduced interactions with our surroundings.
Here’s the take-home – sleep is one of the most overlooked and undervalued methods to recovery, overall health, and well-being.
We want to think about sleep as our time to rest, restore, and recover. If we are not doing those things, how could we possibly have a great workout? How can we have the energy to go work out? How can we have the desire to want to eat healthily and not crave carbohydrates or sugar-rich foods?
We have to sleep well in order to make optimal health decisions. Additionally, all of our systems are restored when we sleep. Our immune system, skeletal system, and hormonal system are all affected. If you’re dealing with chronic pain, memory and mood issues, depression, and/or anxiety then sleep is imperative. This is when all of our tanks are filled. While your REM sleep is helping with your brain, think of your deep sleep as helping with your body.
Now let’s talk about six of my favorite sleep hacks.
1. Blue Light Blockers
Put these on at seven o’clock if you are using any type of electronics: TV, phone, or iPad. Make sure to turn your electronics off at a minimum of 30 minutes before you go to bed if not an hour. Also, when you go to bed if your phone is in your room, put it on airplane mode, Wi-Fi off, and place it at least eight feet from you. Here’s a link to my favorite blue light blocker.
2. Foot Recovery
Check out Naboso technology for their splays or socks to stimulate and help recover your feet. These will stimulate the small nerves in the feet and optimize circulation, which is a great way to restore and recover before bed.
3. Develop a Routine
You’ll want to focus on downregulating the nervous system and preparing for sleep. If you’re not doing anything, start with five minutes of a pre-bed routine. Diaphragmatic breathing is a great start. If you’re already meditating, that’s fantastic. If you’re not meditating, try breathwork. Start at one minute and then gradually move up until a longer period of time. You could also try taking a bath or reading a book. There are lots of ways that you can begin to downregulate your nervous system and prepare for sleep.
4. Optimize Your Airway
Whether you snore, wake up with your mouth open, or have a dry mouth in the morning, then you can consider nasal dilators. You can use Mute nasal dilators which is one of my favorite brands. This will help to open up your airway and makes it easier to breathe diaphragmatically. Additionally, if this is appropriate for you and if you are a mouth breather, you could consider mouth taping. There are lots of different tape brands that you could use, I like the Nexcare tape because it is gentle. Mouth taping forces you to breathe in through your nose. If you have some type of structural airway dysfunction, then you might want to start during the day just for a short amount of time such as 30 minutes to test it before you try to go sleep with it.
5. Not Eating Three Hours Before Bed
Think of digestion as a very complex metabolic reaction. Think of sleep as our time to restore and recover. We can’t do both of those well at the same time, so you want to stop eating and drinking alcohol within that three-hour window. Alcohol is something that destroys the quality of your sleep. You will sleep through the night for sure, but the quality will definitely be affected. This is one of the biggest things to consider if you’re trying to optimize your sleep.
6. Setting up Your Environment
We want to think about your sleep environment as clean, without distractions, electronics, a dark room, black shades if possible, and hypoallergenic sheets. Make sure that everything is set up to provide a nice environment for you to rest and restore.
Although there are many different sleep hacks, I would suggest just picking one of these things that might be appropriate for you that you could work on. If you don’t have a routine, start there. If you are not wearing blue light blockers, start there. Find out what resonates with you and give it a shot. Then week after week as your sleep hopefully continues to improve, you can begin to add another layer to your sleep regime.
We want to try to optimize everything about sleep so that we can heal, recover, and perform at our best. If this was helpful, please give it share with a friend or family member. As always make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel The Movement Paradigm for weekly tips on mindset, nutrition, and movement. Sleep well!