(Excerpt from my best-selling book “NEXT LEVEL YOU”, available on Amazon)
As busy professionals, sometimes we tend to neglect the basics of our human body. Sleep is one of the things we cut down when on deadline, stressed, and overwhelmed. Or we can’t have a good night’s sleep when the mind is racing, and the “to-do” list never ends.
I, too, have struggled to find restful sleep, and the following principals have become a game-changer.
1) First, when it comes to sleep, start thinking like a caveman and cavewoman. As an animal species, we still follow circadian cycles from millions of years ago. Biologically, nothing has changed. It boils down to following a few simple morning, day, and night routines.
2) In the morning, follow the sun. That means get up before or around sunrise. Expose yourself to natural light (best if direct sunlight) for at least 15-to-20 minutes a day. Your relationship with light directs the cycles of energy and rest modes, regulated through a series of hormones.
3) In the afternoon, add regular stretching and body movement throughout the day. When the body gets tired from long hours of sitting, the brain gets foggy and fatigued. As the saying goes: “Your brain can endure only how much your butt can endure.” Take a call standing or go for a walk during a meeting. It is best to carve out time to exercise in the morning, during lunch, or before 5 pm. Late evening exercise may excite the nervous system and disrupt sleep.
4) Choose caffeine for the morning fuel only. Caffeine after 2 pm may disrupt sleep, as it is a stimulant that takes about 6-to-8 hours to exit the body. So does alcohol. Science shows that drinking before bedtime may help you fall asleep faster, but it also impacts the quality of sleep. We wake less rested.
5) At night, especially after 8 pm, dim bright lights in the house and eliminate technology. Darkness activates natural melatonin secretion, which is the hormone that makes us fall and stay asleep. If you can – turn off all LEDs and blue light, they are the worst light for our circadian cycles. Several apps automatically eliminate blue light from cell phones and desktops after the sunset.
6) Doing a technology detox about 1-to-2 hours before bed is a fantastic way to improve sleep (yes, that includes not watching TV). Replace technology with reading an easy book, doing a puzzle, playing a musical instrument, or having a heartfelt conversation.
7) To fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer, tap into the melatonin wave by going to bed between 9 pm and 11 pm when its production is naturally the strongest. If you wake up at night, mainly before 3 am, it is a clear sign of too much stress during the day. In such a case, it is paramount to add Mindfulness to your work schedule.
8) At night, help your body relax by taking a warm bath (with Epsom salt for muscle relaxation) or a long warm shower. If you have access to the sauna, it is a fantastic way to detox and activate anti-inflammatory responses and stimulate sleep.
9) What blew my mind and increased my success rate in waking up restful, was understanding sleep cycles. We sleep in about 90-minute increments. For a full restoration, our body requires a minimum of 4 sleep cycles or 6 hours per night. Getting less than 6 hours of sleep, over time, leads to sleep deprivation. For some people, 6 hours of sleep is perfect. For me, I discovered that I function and feel best with 5-6 cycles or 7.5 hours of sleep.
When you force yourself to wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle – as you would set the alarm to wake up after 8 hours, as most of us learned – you feel drowsy and irritable. To feel good, we must finish the sleep cycle. The only way to find your ideal number is by experimenting. Try 6, 7.5 or 9 hours of sleep and see what feels best for you.
And most important, learn not to feel guilty that you need so much sleep, especially if you hear someone feels rested after 6 hours. Take sleep time as an investment in your productivity, health, and wellbeing.
10) Meditate. Meditation activates the relaxation response. Whether you do it in the morning or at any other time of the day, you are teaching your mind and the body to stay in-tune and relax when it’s time. (Download my Restful Sleep Meditation in the book section at www.Sattva.Me) Practice online at www.SattvaMeOnline.com
By returning to your “cave time” nature, you improve your sleep, energy levels, and performance, guaranteed. It may take a couple of weeks to several months to readjust and get to know yourself. Invest the time, be patient, and create conditions for your body to restore the natural rhythm.
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