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Want More Sleep?

By: Coach Ryan

We see friends, family, Facebook friends that we kind of know but not really, and F.O.F.F.T.W.K.O.K.B.N.R (obviously Friends of Facebook Friends That We Kind Of Know But Not Really) post tons about sleep. Sleep memes. Pictures of hilariously oversize coffee mugs on Monday morning, and just general posts asking for help with sleep. If this is you, good news, we think we can help and you certainly aren't alone.

In a 2013 Gallop Poll, 14% of adults polled reported getting 5 or less hours of sleep on average, 26% between 5-6 hours, and 25% between 6-7 hours of sleep per night. That's 65% of US adults reporting that they get less than 7 hours of sleep per night. And this doesn't even factor in sleep quality.

Ok, so if I am making it a big deal that MOST people don't sleep 7 hours, what am I saying is a good number to shoot for. I think a good range to shoot for is 7-9 hours a night (depending on lifestyle factors). Like 1/3 of the hours you are alive everyday should be with you asleep. 

"Why do I need to sleep that much, Ryan?" Awesome question generic internet person! Medical research has shown that not getting enough sleep leads to (or is at least correlated with) health issues and cognitive functioning impairments. You get less healthy and think less gooder. If you didn't catch that, you probably need more sleep.

Here's a brief list of things research shows get worse when you don't sleep enough:

  • Lack of sleep is linked with obesity.
  • Increased cortisol levels.
  • Decreased levels of leptin.
  • Increased levels of ghrelin.
  • Correlations with Type 2 Diabetes.
  • Correlations with heart disease.
  • Increased hypertension.
  • Increases in mood disorders.
  • Seems like enough to get the point across, right?

I won't nerd out on the "why" behind all of those (but would be happy to in another blog if there is interest) but we can all agree that if that list IS true, then we need to make sleep a bigger priority. So how do we go about doing that? 

First thing, you need to stop staring at the glowing screen that is 9 inches from your face directly before trying to sleep. Phones, TVs, computers, and tablets all emit "blue light." Blue light is a part of the spectrum that acts a signal to your brain that it is time to be awake. The sun emits blue light. See how those coincide? Neat. So when the sun is down, if there wasn't a bunch of blue light waves jamming into your eyeballs, your brain would recognize it is sleepy time and start bringing you in for a bed landing. Habit Change: At least 1 hour before you plan to get ready for bed, turn off blue light devices. Read a book, meditate (if that word is too out there for you, think about your day), journal, talk with your spouse/friend/kids, or anything else that allows you to calm down and stay away from those light sources. If you have to watch TV, look at your phone, or be on your laptop leading up to bed, buy a pair of blue light blocking glasses. You'll be a nerd like me but I sleep like a bear in the winter.

OK, so we are staying away from blue light, what's next? Get your bedroom to a cool temperature. Try to get it pitch black. Eliminate or find a soothing noise. Get everything out of the room that goes against these things. And don't do things in bed that aren't sleeping (well, I mean don't work on your laptop there or lay in bed on your phone). That is creating the optimal sleep environment for you. All of that will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep (the quality of your sleep is super important as well). Habit Change: Take the TV out of your bedroom. Treat your bedroom like your sleep palace. Your brain will trigger "Sleep!" when you walk into your bedroom if you do a good job giving it all of these cues. Brains are neat like that. But if you treat it like your home office, it's no wonder you can't fall asleep!

Now that we have the bedroom designed for sleep and we aren't watching homicide mystery shows right before trying to turn our brain off, we can introduce some things to help us get to sleep quicker and keep us asleep better. I am a big fan of a Magnesium supplement called Natural Calm (you can find it on Amazon or probably most hipster grocery stores). The short as non-nerdy as possible version of why Magnesium is good at helping you fall asleep is that it helps you calm down (hence the catchy product name). It does that a few different ways. It helps activate your parasympathetic nervous system (remember your anatomy/biology class?) which allows you to relax, it helps with melatonin (which is a hormone that kind of turns up or down the light dimmer switch in your brain), and it binds with GABA receptors (GABA is a neurotransmitter that allows you to relax and turns down your anxiety levels, sleep drugs like Ambien use this pathway to work). That was still kind of sciencey. Sorry. Another option would be to use a tea that has calming/sleepy properties. Google "Sleep Tea" and you'll find a ton. I have never gone that route myself but I think it is a good option for some people to try. Habit Change: Have a drink of Natural Calm or a sleepy tea blend before you start getting ready for bed.

Lastly, before you go get ready for bed write down everything that is on your mind. All of the things you need to get done tomorrow, stuff you don't want to forget, etc. If you are someone who has a million thoughts swimming in their dome when they get in bed, this could really help. Habit Change: Write things down to clear your brain. Just list anything that's rolling around in there, get it out, and get to sleep.

Hope that helps. Feel free to message us if you have any questions and we will do our best to help! Let's get more sleep and be #everydaybetter!