Priming Your Brain for Success Through Sleep
It’s time to dive deep, to bring your body and mind into alignment with that unstoppable version of yourself. To achieve this blissful alignment, the first step involves sleeping for consolidation, rest and rejuvenation.
Lack of sleep causes a number of health issues that can compound over time and impact our mood. Too little sleep upsets our emotions and our ability to make rational decisions. Likewise, excess fatigue can cause stress and irritability and engage “decision fatigue” well before it would normally be triggered.
We each have a unique circadian rhythm. It is an approximately 24-hour rhythm that ticks away in the background of our daily life, setting the pace for our minds and bodies. By following our natural patterns as much as possible, we feel more rested and experience greater mental clarity.
So how can you improve the quality of your sleep and recharge your battery so you’re ready for the day ahead? The following list provides suggestions for getting a good night’s sleep (without the use of drugs):
1. Block junk light.
Avoid using your electronic devices before bed, as they emit blue light that inhibits the production of the melatonin hormone, which regulates your sleep/wake cycle. This reduction makes it more difficult to fall asleep. Every time you look at the blue light from a screen, you’re sending a signal to your brain that the sun is up. Most new phones now come with a built in “blue light filter.” Have this set to automatically come on around the same time the sun sets. Second, be sure to get plenty of natural light during the day -- it will help you produce more melatonin at night to help you sleep.
2. Block social media.
You knew this one was coming! Social media’s addictive nature can pull us into a news feed and not let us out for hours. Your social media use may be causing you stress before bed. Allow at least one to two hours before sleep for your mind to wind down. Social media app blockers are available for both Android and iOS. After a week, you’ll realize how many times a day you check your phone and how much better you feel once the pattern is interrupted. Social media can lead to decision fatigue as well. Reduce it and feel your mindset clear.
3. Reduce stimulants.
Many people consume caffeinated drinks like coffee, sodas or tea late in the day, leading to disrupted sleeping patterns. Caffeine has a long half-life, meaning your body will still be processing it hours later. Some of us metabolize caffeine slower, which could result in side effects much later in the day. Also speak to your doctor to see if any medications you’re on could be disrupting your sleep or having a stimulant effect, such as asthma medication. This could be corrected by taking the medication in the morning instead of later in the day. A doctor will advise you as to your specific needs.
4. Stick to a routine.
Prioritize your sleep. It’s life giving and crucial to optimal cognitive functions that allow you to focus for lengthy periods of time. There isn’t any specific time that you should go to bed; that is up to you and your unique circadian rhythm. If you’ve ever wondered why you get tired or hungry at the same time each day, that’s your circadian rhythm at work. It’s best that we follow these internal clocks and do what is right for us. Just because the habits of the ultra-successful include getting up at 5 a.m. doesn’t mean you should, too. In fact, that could completely disrupt your natural rhythm and throw your life into disarray.
5. Drop the temperature and increase your deep sleep.
Research has found the optimal room temperature for sleep is a cool 60ºF to 68ºF. My initial increase in deep sleep correlated with getting stranded at the peak of winter in Canada. It began to decrease again after I returned home to Florida, which doesn’t experience much of a winter at all.
6. Supplement with melatonin (sparingly).
Melatonin, an increasingly popular sleep-inducing supplement, comes with a warning. Taken by millions of Americans every year, it’s only recommended for short-term use (a few months or less). Melatonin may also increase blood sugar, so anyone with diabetes or pre-diabetes should avoid its use. It should only be taken sparingly, as more research needs to be done. I use it rarely, such as when I’m trying to recover from jet lag and resetting my circadian rhythm to a different time zone. For this reason, I would suggest not going with the cheapest brand.
7. Address vitamin deficiencies.
Three key vitamins are vitamins A, B6 and D. Vitamin D3 deficiencies are associated with sleep disorders, B6 deficiency has been linked to sleep disturbances, and Vitamin A is a vital contributor to setting and maintaining our circadian rhythm.
Without quality sleep, remembering key facts, staying focused and regulating your emotions becomes nearly impossible. Sleep plays a profound role in ensuring our brain can perform at its absolute best. Quality sleep is vital for our brain’s ability to remember and learn so we can adapt to the changing world around us.
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