The benefits of sleep are numerous and a recent article on NPR provided just another huge reason to get a good nights rest. To summarize:
During sleep, the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain increases dramatically, washing away harmful waste proteins that build up between brain cells during waking hours, a study of mice found… The team discovered that this increased flow was possible in part because when mice went to sleep, their brain cells actually shrank, making it easier for fluid to circulate. When an animal woke up, the brain cells enlarged again and the flow between cells slowed to a trickle. “It’s almost like opening and closing a faucet,” Nedergaard says. “It’s that dramatic.”
Fascinating stuff. Sleeping better is critical to health, energy, productivity and, with no exaggeration, happiness. It’s something that I’ve been spending more and more time working on lately as I take a more focused approach on my day to day habits and behaviors. Here are some of the things I’m trying, have tried and continue to do that help me both get to sleep faster, sleep deeper and wake up refreshed:
- No screens or food after 1-2 hours before bed – there is so much information out there about blue light and its impact on sleep. It’s all true. Being on your computer, tablet or phone before bed screws you up and makes it super hard to fall asleep. It tricks your body into thinking it’s daytime and generally creates mental anxiety and stress. It’s so hard, but put that stuff away. Exception granted for e-ink devices like Kindles, which don’t have blue light.
- Exercise – If you’ve ever exercised or played sports, you’ll know that getting to sleep after a day that included some amount of exercise is much easier. Try to do something every day.
- Drink a glass of water before bed – nothing gets me out of bed smoother than needing to relieve myself upon waking. It’s also important to be hydrated so your body can repair itself while you rest.
- Memory foam – my memory foam mattress was amazingly cheap and has lasted years. The feeling of sleeping on memory foam is really fantastic and I feel like I toss and turn much less in the night.
- Meditation – This is a tough one to make time for, but it’s really a key for anyone dealing with anxiety, stress or mental exhaustion (so everyone). I use the Headspace app and try to do 10 minutes just before bed. It has an amazing calming effect that really cuts down on the “mind running wild can’t sleep even though I want to” feeling.
- Stretching/foam rolling – A quick massage for the muscles can really make a big difference in the quality of sleep and wakeup. I find that even just a minute or two of arm swings, leg swings or foam rolling of whatever happens to be tight in my body can save me from soreness for the next day or two.
- An eye mask – I haven’t been great about using this, but shutting out light can really help with sleep.
- Earplugs – Same as eye mask. Really great for getting sleep on planes or in loud cities.
What are your bedtime rules? Have you mastered the art of sleeping? SHARE YOUR TIPS WITH THE REST OF US!