As the days grow darker and colder, many of us have a more difficult time waking up in the morning or staying awake at night. What should we do about it? Drink more coffee, soda or energy drinks to help us wake up? Push ourselves at night until we get our second wind? No, not really.
Research has shown that there is a strong relationship between sleep quality and many different physiological responses:
- Immune function is impaired with inadequate sleep1
- Poor sleep can precedes weight gain2, 3
- Memory is improved with sleep4
- An increase in sleep deprivation correlates with an increase in experienced stress and vice versa5, 6, 7
So, what should you do? For starters, go to bed when you feel tired. Sleep comes to us in the form of waves. Have you ever been surfing or boogie boarding? You’re out in the water, waiting to catch a big wave… it’s coming, it’s coming… but you missed it and now your just waiting out in the still water for the next one to come. That’s like sleep. You have to catch the wave when it comes or you’ll never make it to shore. Many people will watch TV and fall asleep briefly in a chair or on the couch, only to wake up from a loud noise on the TV or from the fact that they’re uncomfortable. Then they stagger up to bed, brush their teeth, maybe take a shower or wash their face, then lay down… and bam… they’re awake. They lost their wave.
The best way to make sure you catch your wave is by preparing for it to come.
Get yourself into a nightly routine, which should initially start by shutting off your TV once it gets dark outside. Cop shows, murder mysteries, love triangles, etc. are very exciting and that’s why we watch them. Unfortunately, our brain doesn’t recognize fact from fiction. If you’re getting nervous because your favorite character is about to be hunted down by the villain of the show, chances are your brain is sending signals to your adrenals to start pumping out cortisol to help you run away from that villain as well. Why? Cortisol is our stress hormone, and unfortunately for your nighttime TV watching, it’s also our “wake-up” hormone. By shutting off the nightly dramas, you’re helping yourself catch your wave better.
Next, get ready for bed by following a routine, like parents create for children (after dinner we give them baths, we put them in their pajamas, we read them a nice story, etc.). All adults are merely grown up children. Why do we not treat ourselves the same way? By creating a routine you are consciously beginning to look for that wave, instead of ignoring the fact that your even in the water. Take a warm bath or shower, get into non-restrictive clothing, lay in bed and read a book that will not cause you to become emotionally excited in any way… start to become still so that you can begin to feel your wave build up behind you.
Typically, a person should fall asleep within 10-15 minutes of putting their head down on their pillow. If you have created a nightly routine for yourself and find that this is not true for you, maybe it’s time to speak with your doctor. Sleep is extremely important to our health and there are many ways to help you get to shore faster and stay there longer.
By Lisa Gallagher, N.D.