Sleep deprivation can cause brain damage. Also, going 24 hours without sleep can make you as insulin resistant as a type II diabetic. I know sleep is a boring topic, but did this get your attention?
I never knew how serious sleep was until I listened to this podcast with Chalene Johnson and nutrition expert Shawn Stevenson. Chalene did a sleep study at The Amen Clinic, only to find that she had severely damaged her brain through chronic sleep deprivation (don’t worry, this can be reversed). I’ll never forget this image of her brain scan showing the damage that she did with 20+ years of sleeping five hours per night.
For more info on the science behind this, check out Shawn’s book, Sleep Smarter, which goes into more detail on why sleep is critical to our health, along with 21 tips on how to get a better night’s sleep.
As far as my personal journey goes, I used to be a prime example of what not to do. Although chronic anxiety and stress likely played a role in this for me, I was burning the candle at both ends for a good portion of my life. Even as a child, I had trouble falling asleep and would lay in bed wide awake until 2 or 3 a.m. most nights. I continued poor sleep patterns well into my 20’s, while I worked full time, went to school full time and maintained a busy social life. My sleep schedule was inconsistent, and I wasn’t getting enough sleep in general – usually four to seven hours, with a nine or 10 hour crash on the weekends. I was even guilty of pulling all-nighters on occasion when I was playing catch up on homework, writing a paper or cramming for a test while I was in college.
When I had my thyroid removed, I had no choice but to get enough sleep so my body could heal. Also, getting on a regular sleep schedule has been a total game-changer for my health. Sleep has become so critical to my health and routine now, that I feel like a zombie if I don’t get enough.
I did my own research, as I was trying to master the art of a good night’s sleep. Here are a few tricks I’ve found:
1- As a general rule of thumb, you should try to go to bed and wake up at the same times everyday. Make it a goal to be asleep during the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m., as your body is better optimized for hormone secretion and recovery during this window of time.
2 – Try to get seven to eight hours of quality sleep every night. Every person is a little different, you may need a little more or can get away with a little less, but most people should be in the seven to eight hour range.
3 – Don’t watch TV or work on your laptop in bed, and avoid scrolling through your phone two to three hours before you go to sleep. There’s been a lot of research done that the blue light emitted from electronic screens can really mess with our sleep patterns. If you must feed your screen addiction before bed, you should consider getting some blue light blocking glasses.
4 – Get enough magnesium. About 80% of people have a magnesium deficiency. The mineral is critical to not only a good night’s sleep, but it helps balance blood sugar and blood pressure, optimize circulation, relax tense muscles and calms the nervous system. Try taking a magnesium supplement and see if it makes a difference for you. Personally, I try to take an Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) bath one to two nights per week, as the magnesium is easily absorbed through your skin.
5 – Track your sleep to establish good habits. My husband got me a Fitbit Alta for Christmas, and the Auto Sleep Tracking is one of my favorite features. I also like this model in particular because you can dress it up by snapping off the athletic band and replacing it with a nice bangle so it looks more like jewelry during the day or for nice events.
6 – Sleep at cooler temperatures, as a drop in body temperature will help you sleep better and even help trigger sleep. The Epsom salt bath will help with this as well, as your body will cool naturally after being in a warm bath.
I hope one or more of these tips will help you to maximize your sleep time, so you can setup a productive day and path toward healing.