Want Better Sleep? Put Away Your Cell Phone.
It may come as a surprise to you, but sleeping is actually a productive activity. (Oxymoron, I know)
As the brain gathers data throughout the day, learns new skills and forms daily events into memories, it requires time to sort and organize. This occurs while we sleep. Our brains go into organization mode where, if you will imagine, a librarian begins filing, sorting, and discarding information. If something gets in the way and doesn’t allow the librarian to do their job, we end up with a disorganized brain, full of clutter. And if anyone has tried to navigate around a teenagers room with items thrown around top to bottom, you will know it’s like walking through a cluttered maze.
This dysfunction leads to a polluted environment manifesting into health issues, hormonal imbalances, and inflammation to name a few.
Sleep allows the body to release vital hormones like cortisol and growth hormone so that our muscles can repair and recover. It allows our adrenal glands to rest, and our liver to detox. Without proper sleep, the body breaks down and we start to see a host of symptoms and health issues. Everything from hormonal imbalances, weight gain, mental confusion, kidney and liver dysfunction, adrenal fatigue, muscle aches and pains, digestion issues, low libido …. shall I go on?
So how much sleep do we need? Most of us will want to aim for 7-9 hours, but the need will depend on what is going on in your life. If you are recovering from an injury or illness, or are under increased stress, your body will need more sleep.
I know, I know! I can already see you rolling your eyes. You want to sleep, but your mind won’t let you – right? This is where lifestyle choices comes in. Everything we do from the moment we rise to the moment we crawl back into bed for the night, has an impact on our ability to sleep.
So how do we help our bodies and minds to relax and sleep longer? To answer that, we first need to understand Circadian Rhythm. Circadian Rhythm determines sleep patterns, energy levels, hormone production, body temperature, cell regeneration… basically everything your body needs to remain healthy. When we are in a balanced state (meaning we are sleeping well, hormones are in check, diet is optimal etc), the Circadian rhythm is in tune with nature. (Ever notice that when you are relaxed and on vacation that you naturally wake up with the sunrise?) Knowing we have a natural mechanism for sleep and recovery, means that we need to make sure we are doing our part for better sleep habits. Everything from exercise, proper diet, proper vitamins/supplements, meditation, deep breathing, and therapy (yes, therapy. If you are keeping everything inside and expecting that you and only you can resolve the challenges you face, you are setting yourself up for failure and a ton of sleepless nights).
There are many ways you can help improve your sleep, and one way that I know for sure – is by changing up your cell phone habits. I know that at least 70% of you reading this, are scrolling through FB and Instagram before bed. Many of you will have your cell phones on your nightstand, and at least half of you will keep your cellular and wifi turned on throughout the night! Forget the fact that wireless and cellular signals are wreaking havoc on your body, the blue light (the one emitted from your cell phone, computer or ipad) you are exposed to after sunset, messes with your Melatonin production (which is directly related to your ability to sleep). Which means, waking up in the middle of the night hoping that scrolling through Facebook and Instagram will help you get back to sleep, is actually counterproductive. We all have a “master” clock which lives in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. This area of the brain responds to dark and light so that when the sun sets, your brain produces more melatonin, which makes you sleepy. When you are exposed to blue light after sunset, you are inhibiting melatonin production, hence messing with your ability to sleep.
The best thing you can do to improve your sleep, is to turn off your cell phones at night, limit your exposure to blue light after sunset, sleep in a dark room, remove distractions, and take care of your mind and body throughout the day.