Ahh, sleep. I’ll admit, usually when I think about it, I’m not conjuring up positive aspects of sleeping. I think about being so bored you fall asleep. How contagious yawning is. How busy I am and I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR SLEEPING!!!
But we all need sleep. Without it, our bodies and our minds are significantly weaker. Our response time is slower. We aren’t as sharp, focused, or energetic without proper rest. In fact, studies show going even one night without proper sleep produces the same impairment as being intoxicated.
The amount of sleep necessary can vary from person to person. Most experts agree the magic number is around 8 hours. For me, that number is close to the suggested time. If I get less than 6 1/2 hours of sleep, I am cranky, irritable, and lethargic most of the day. My workouts suck. I tend to overeat. I tend to make poor impulsive decisions. Strangely, I also wake up the same if I get more than 8.5 hours of sleep. It’s like my body crosses over the Goldilocks Zone and goes right back to Crappy Pattie mode.
Sleep is more than just getting ENOUGH rest, it’s about quality rest, too. Some people need soothing sounds, or pitch black conditions in order to fall asleep. Some people need cool air, even in the dead of winter. If these aspects help give you at least 6 hours of undisturbed, RESTFUL sleep, then I am all for it.
I personally have a sleep routine which if disturbed in the slightest, kills my entire night. I can get up in the middle of the night if I have to go to the bathroom. I can make it down the ladder from our loft, go to the bathroom, and climb back up. But that is IT. If I do even one other thing, I’m done. My sleep cycle is disrupted and I am wide awake.
The other night, our cat Sully sounded like he was licking plastic (it’s a weird habit he has, I’m not sure the vets have figured out what exactly is wrong with him). So I got up and checked on him. I could almost feel the damn timer ticking down until suddenly, crap. I was awake for two hours tossing and turning in bed before falling back to restless sleep.
There are great ways to ensure your sleep routine works best in your favor, whatever your sleep needs may be. These tips also just happen to be environmentally friendly as well.
1: Digital Sunset
Turn off, and even unplug electronics at least two hours before going to bed. I’m not the best at this, but I am trying to practice what I preach. Key things which take up the most energy are our computers, television, and kitchen appliances. Of course, don’t unplug your refrigerator every night, but do you really need the toaster and microwave plugged in? And I know I’m guilty of leaving my laptop plugged into my computer at night to get charged, but it is a waste.
But even turning off electronics without unplugging is a huge help to getting to sleep at night. Surfing the internet late at night wreaks havoc on our sleep patterns. It stimulates the brain too much and makes it very difficult to get to sleep. I try to practice a digital sunset, as Brian Johnson calls it, turning off Facebook, Twitter, and currently started cutting off Netflix (oh, a cliff-hanger episode was in no way shape or form stimulating my brain to stay alert, noooooo).
Try it. If your sleep doesn’t improve within a week, you can always go back to mind-wandering at 2 in the morning.
2: A Calming Beverage
Drink chamomile or lavender tea a couple hours before bedtime. Both of these herbs are renowned for helping even the most avid night owls get some shut-eye. Keep in mind though, some herbs are better than others as far as quality and environmental impact, so choose your tea wisely. I go for loose leaf teas myself, as it cuts out the tea bag. I recently discovered, to my horror, tea bags have plastic components in them, and can’t be composted. Also, see if you can determine where the tea was sourced. Some plantations in South America and Asia are wiping out old growth forests for farmland to grow tea. Find out where your tea comes from and get it as locally and sustainably sourced as possible.
3: Soothing Sounds
If you like a little bit of white noise, download some nature sound apps to help soothe you to sleep. This is another example of what I like to call “conservation through osmosis.” It’s an addiction I can get behind. If your mind starts to crave natural sounds, it gives an appreciation for the source of those beautiful sounds. In fact, if you are able to, do one better than a nature app. If you can, open a window and let natural sounds of frogs, wind, rain, and other sounds help you sleep.
This is a natural state for humans. Our ancestors lived and slept outdoors. Our minds and bodies are accustomed and even adapted to let night time noises be soothing and relaxing.
4: Your Favorite Book
Read before going to sleep. Sometimes a good book is just the thing I need to get a wonderful night’s rest. It fills my dreams and helps improve the quality of my sleep. My husband listens to books and sets a timer to have the book shut off automatically so he doesn’t have to turn it off. I only really like this idea because if you have earphones, you don’t have to disturb anyone else in the room. If I try reading a book in bed, it disturbs my husband with my light. But if you don’t like the idea of using an electronic to read before going to bed, an actual page-turner is a great way to catch some zzzz.
5: Timely Eating
Have your last meal at least two hours before bedtime. And by “last meal”, I mean late night snack, dessert, or any food you tend to eat before bed. Of the macronutrients, the best ones to consume later are fat and proteins. Carbs give us a boost in energy. Some carbs aren’t too bad, like green veggies. Starchy carbs, fruits, sugary substances, and processed foods tend to keep us awake longer than we would like, so try to plan your meals accordingly.
This tip doesn’t just help your sleep routine, it will help you lose weight, too, if you are looking to drop some pounds. Fasting a couple hours before going to bed keeps you from sleeping on a full stomach, which can have undesirable effects on the scale in the morning.
Get a workout in, even earlier in the day. Exercise is one of the best ways to get your body onto a schedule. Exercise will first exhaust you, then pump you up and energize you, but as the day goes on, your body will crave the rest it needs to get back the energy it used. Exercise gets our body into a rhythm which balances out almost all parts of our lives.
ZooFit is remarkable at finding the little ways to improve our own health and the health of the planet. Even small actions can have a huge impact, and when it works to get you in better shape, it inspires others to take care of themselves while saving the earth.
Now, go to sleep, and dream big!