Between kayaking on a bio-luminescent river and hiking through a rain forest on my recent trip to Puerto Rico, I read Dr. David Agus’ book, The End of Illness (if you haven’t taken a look at my post about his interview with Connie Chung at the 92nd Street Y back in January, here it is). For those of you who haven’t read The End of Illness, or heard of it, and are interested in the next step in western disease prevention, I recommend reading my post from January and picking up a copy of the book.
Chapter 11 in The End of Illness focuses on sleep. Coincidentally, sleep has been a topic of discussion among my group of friends lately. And for some reason, people keep asking me if I’m one of those people that can function on 5 hours of sleep. HA! I wish. The truth is, sometimes I find myself getting agitated over the fact that at 11PM, my body and mind begin to shut down. Sound familiar? It seems that a good chunk of us wish that we didn’t need as much sleep, so there could be more time to be productive. On the other hand, I keep reminding myself that the body and mind shutting down is it’s way of saying, “recharge me! Go to sleep!” In a way, the body is like a rechargeable battery. After 16 or so hours of use, it needs to recharge itself from the use and stresses that get thrown at it during the day.
As you will learn in Dr. Agus’s book, but already subconsciously know, sleep is not something that should be fought late at night. It’s actually healthy to go to sleep at a set time every night and wake up at a set time every morning. As children we have bed time but when we gain the freedom to sleep and wake as we choose (usually around high school – ironically when we need the most sleep), a strict “bed time” is lost because we think there are more important things to accomplish, or catch that late late talk show. The rhythm our parents provide us with as children is something we should continue to practice in our adult years. Yes, easier said than done, for sure. Perhaps baby steps are the answer?
I’ve done a small amount of research and here are a few “baby steps” for a good, healthy night of sleep:
- Maintain a very regular sleeping pattern (even on the weekends);
- Skip the afternoon caffeine kick and supplement with some fruit or whole wheat crackers and peanut butter (try to avoid caffeine after 12PM);
- Schedule a half-hour of time to unwind before bed (this means turn off the TV, put away the cell phone, computers, etc.). Move your thoughts away from the craziness of the day and focus on going to sleep;
- Do something(s) that put you in a relaxed, ready for bed mood. This could be making a cup of your favorite herbal tea, taking a bath, doing some light yoga stretches and meditation, or something as simple as washing your face, and brushing your teeth;
- Create a bedroom that is for sleeping only:
- Leave out the television, but if you need it, use the sleep timer so there is silence when you sleep;
- Put your cell phone in another room, again, promoting silence;
- Remove anything that has to do with work, this creates anxiety, even if it is under your bed and hidden;
- When painting your walls, stay away from loud colors;
- If you are really beyond baby steps, try removing the alarm clock. Yes, if you are on a regular sleep pattern your body should wake itself up near the same time every day; and
- Invest in a great mattress. You spend 30% of your life there and it lasts for 10+ years. In my opinion, this is most important;
- Lastly, be mindful and thankful for all the good stuff that happened during your day. Toss off the negativity.
For more information on the body as a whole, check out The End of Illness, and for more information on a great night of sleep, check out Dr. Michael Breus, aka The Sleep Doctor.
Try some of this out before bed tonight. Let me know what you think. Happy sleeping.