Do you struggle with getting good sleep?
According to the American Sleep Association, between 50 and 70 million Americans are affected by sleep disorders – so you’re not alone.
When my coaching clients bring up their sleep problems, they feel resigned to having to live with feeling like crap or turning to pharmaceutical sleep aids. I’m here to tell you that there are lifestyle strategies you can incorporate to help you fall asleep and stay asleep for a good nights rest.
The science is clear, when you get 7-8 hours of sleep each night your health, both mental and physical, improves. When you get 6 hours or less of sleep per night, you are sleep deprived and that has negative impacts on your cognitive function (including your ability to feel confident and have a powerful mindset), your energy, your immune system, your nervous system, your endocrine system, and your ability to manage your weight. If you want proof check out Matthew Walker’s book Why We Sleep.
Sleep is the foundation for good health and high performance.
Here are 5 sleep habits based in Ayurveda and affirmed by science that will help you get the rest your body and mind need:
Turn off your screens an hour before bedtime
The blue light given off by screens communicates to your brain that it’s still daytime. When your brain thinks it’s daytime it doesn’t release melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy and helps you fall asleep. Ideally, you want melatonin to start releasing a few hours before bedtime. So help your yourself out by turning off your screens an hour before bed. Dim your lights in your house too so that you send signals to your brain that it’s getting dark and it’s time to wind down for sleep.
Instead of looking at screens, try reading, journaling, relaxing with a cup of herbal tea or taking a short and easy night walk.
Take in early morning light
On the flip side, science shows that when you take in early morning light directly through your eyes it boosts your mood (aka boosts your confidence and mindset). And, it also helps you sleep better that night. The earlier you take in natural light through your eyes the better you’ll sleep the following night. If you want to learn more about this check out this episode of The Huberman Lab. What I think is cool is that it doesn’t work unless you actually go outside. Yay! Another reason to connect with nature. The UV filtering from windows and windshields reduces the effectiveness of this strategy.
Be consistent with your bedtime
Routines infuse the qualities of grounding and steadiness into your life, and both of these qualities help to promote sleep. Challenge yourself to go to sleep at the same time each night and wake up at the same time every morning – even on weekends.
There’s a phenomenon that sleep scientists call ‘social jetlag.’ It happens when you have a sleep routine during the week and then go to bed and wake up several hours later on the weekends. This wreaks havoc on your body and mind.
And, according to the science, the optimal times are bedtime at 10 p.m. and wake time at 6 a.m. Turns out that when you shift your sleep time later it doesn’t give the brain a full opportunity to go through both NREM and REM sleep cycles. Both are important for the rejuvenation of brain cells and tissues, and for the processing of events of the previous day.
Try setting a consistent and steady sleep routine to help you sleep better, and boost cognitive function. Check out the book Change your Schedule Change your Life to learn more.
Eat an early dinner
When you eat a late dinner your body has to digest it, and when you’re asleep your digestion slows way down. That means the food you eat doesn’t get digested as effectively as when you’re awake, and that can lead to digestive distress and sleep disruption. Ayurveda has long recommended that you leave 2-3 hours between your last meal and bedtime.
I’ve helped several clients sleep better by having them move their dinner time to before 7 p.m. Eating dinner early is an important practice if you want to sleep better, and if you want to manage or lose weight.
When you exercise you activate your body and your mind. If you get too revved up in the evening it can be difficult to fall asleep. If you want better sleep I recommend exercising in the morning or earlier in the day. Give your body and mind an opportunity to wind down in the evening and prepare for bed.
Humans think that we’re clever and able to outsmart nature with our artificial light. Unfortunately for us, the science is clear that when we try to go against the natural circadian rhythm and light/dark cycle, our health suffers. If you want a powerful and confident mindset your body and your brain need to be healthy. Sleep is the foundation for that health, and syncing up with your natural circadian rhythm is a key to good sleep.
Try these strategies and your sleep will improve. If you want to learn more and focus a full week on these strategies with guidance, check out my Master your Whitewater Mindset 8 Week Course starting January 2nd. Each week we’ll focus on a spoke of my unique methodology for cultivating a powerful mindset for paddling. Sleep is one of the spokes, and we’ll be diving deeper into strategies and benefits. Learn more about the course and register here!