Sleepy September: 3 Tips for Restful Sleep


Too long since you’ve slept like a baby?

I’m going to start off this blog and blog series with a very blunt observation:  Not enough people (even me, sometimes!) prioritize routinely getting a good night’s rest.  Everyone is busy, and sleep seems to be the thing that is often compromised.

Did you know that being sleep-deprived can decrease your insulin sensitivity?  If you’re trying to lose weight, you could be eating the perfect diet and exercising the right way for your fitness level and goals, but if you’re sleep-deprived, hitting or maintaining your weight loss target will be difficult.  Not only does sleep mess with your insulin sensitivity, but it also increases cortisol production. Cortisol is the “stress hormone” that, when produced in excess, leads to weight gain around the hips and belly.  And for the athletes out there… sleep is when your body releases growth hormone to repair and rebuild your body.  If you’re not getting enough sleep when piling on the training, or you aren’t getting enough good quality sleep, you could be compromising your performance.
Here are my top 3 tips for improving sleep:
  • Avoid the blue light of computers, TVs, iPads, and smartphones for at least an hour before going to bed.  The blue light from these devices is the same blue light spectrum of the morning sky: it invokes the cortisol response.  (Crash course in cortisol, until I blog more about it in October:  In the morning, this is ok to have this response to using computers/phones, since our cortisol levels should be highest in the morning to wake us up and prepare us for the day ahead.)  But cortisol and melatonin- the sleep hormone-  are counter-regulatory hormones, meaning that when one is high, the other must be low.  So if you’re snuggling under the covers before bed with the iPad, the increased cortisol levels from the blue light will suppress melatonin, making it difficult to get a quality night of sleep.  Even if you feel like you don’t have issues falling asleep or staying asleep despite screen time prior to bed, you may not be getting the most deep and restful sleep as possible.  If you’re waking up and not feeling rested, try turning off devices a little earlier and see if you notice a difference. If you must be on your computer/phone prior to bed time, consider using the NightTime settings (Apple products) or downloading f.lux to adjust screen settings in the evening to decrease the blue light.
  • Make your bedroom is as dark as possible.  If there’s any light coming in from the outside – or if you’ve got lights glowing from various devices plugged in – that is enough to disrupt your body from getting optimal sleep.  Your eyes are closed so you don’t see the light, but your skin has photo-receptors that sense the light (even that little bit coming in through the slats of your blinds or from the power light on your electronics), and can prevent you from getting the most restful sleep possible.
  • Cut off the caffeine earlier.  Everybody metabolizes caffeine at a different rate.  I LOVE my morning cup of coffee… but sadly, I’m sensitive to caffeine and I’ve noticed that even a small cup after lunch leads to sleep troubles.  Just like I mentioned above with using electronic devices before bed:  you may be able to fall asleep easily enough, but your sleep may not be as restful as it could be.  Here’s a simple experiment:  Try avoiding caffeine after 12pm and see if you notice a difference in your sleep. If the idea of skipping a post-lunch or mid-afternoon coffee sounds unfathomable, then try tapering the amount; move your coffee to one hour earlier; or drink green tea instead, which will give you a gentler boost.
Give these things a try, and let me know if you notice any changes!  I’ll be continuing to talk about sleep tips and other ways to improve quality of sleep throughout September, so stay tuned.

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