Sleep less” and “do more” is a common philosophy shared by many Americans.
In fact, approximately one-third of all Americans get about six hours of sleep (or less per night) —resulting in cognitive brain function similar to being “legally drunk” according to a breath-alcohol test.
Additionally, about one-third of all Americans fall asleep during the day, and six hour (or less) sleepers are also more likely to be involved in a car accident due to “drowsy driving” or falling asleep at the wheel.
For some of these folks, many of them want to sleep, but some of them simply can’t sleep:
Approximately one in three people have “insomnia”—a sleep disorder that prevents them from sleeping completely throughout the night at all.
- Low energy
- Emotional distress
- Chronic disease and inflammation
- Metabolism imbalances
- Appetite disturbances
- Skin breakouts
- Poor workout recovery or “gains”
—Essentially: Inflammation…Nothing “good.”
Even though we all KNOW sleep is good for us, many people maintain the mentality that “I will sleep when I am dead,” continuing to burn a candle at both ends, push through and wonder why their weight, skin, gut or metabolism aren’t “working” right.
Why sleeping less than six hours per night impact so many things?!
One word: Stress.
Here’s what you need to know about how stress impacts your sleep, PLUS 5 “sleep hacks” to improve sleep (especially when you sleep less than 6 hours per night).
STRESS VS. SLEEP
Most people associate “stress” with mental and emotional stress (like work deadlines or an argument with your significant other).
However, stress includes emotional and mental AND physical stress—all of which play critical roles in our ability to sleep.
Examples of each type of stress include:
Emotional & Mental
- Emotional energy used in your break up, job loss or
- Feeling down
- Low self-esteem
- Facebook arguments
- Watching, reading or listening to negative news, stories, articles, podcasts, etc.
- Perfectionistic tendencies
- People who stress you out
- Saying “yes” to everything
- Endless to-do lists
- Inner critic
- Traffic frustrations
- Trying to “be all things to all people” or “do it all”
- Circadian Rhythm Disruption (shift work, all-nighters, light exposure at night, travel time change)
- Increased or depressed cortisol
- Gut dysfunction, leaky gut, eating foods you are intolerant to
- Overtraining or sedentary lifestyle
- Sitting all day
- High caffeine or coffee consumption
- Sugar, artificial sweeteners and processed/packaged foods
- Forcing yourself to stay up and work, or keep going
- Toxin exposure (in skin care products, beauty products)
Tons of stressors hurled your way every day! And, there’s no doubt that, if you are human, you do have stress to some degree (it IS inevitable).
The secret sauce to not letting stress get the best of you (and your sleep)—even if you do happen to sleep less than six hours per night on occasion?
Beat stress keeping you from fully energizing, restoring and getting your best sleep possible with these 7 (Sleep Less) Energy Boosters:
- Night Shift It.
Turn the blaring blur screens on your computer and iPhone off, avoiding or minimizing using computers and tablets within two to three hours of bedtime. Blue light exposure makes your body think it’s time to rise and shine, sending signals to your melatonin (sleep inducing hormone) to wake up! If you need to use your computer closer to bedtime, consider using software such as f.lux or “Night Shift” to minimize the sleep-disrupting effect. Orange-tinted, blue blocking glasses are also an excellent fashion statement for any electronic use. Check out the BluBlocker Viper wraparounds or Jimmy Orange spectacles. In addition, “candling down” is encouraged. Back in the “good ol’ days,” before artificial light, humans went to sleep in accordance with the sun, sleeping more in the fall and winter, and less in the warm summer months. Now we don’t have that “luxury,” we must make an extra effort to simulate an ambiance of sleep. Turn down lights in your home at night and leave a lamp or two on, or burn a candle instead.
- Be a Kid Again.
As a kid, what was your bedtime routine? Most kids don’t just go right to bed—they take a bath, maybe eat a nourishing snack or drink warm milk, listen to bed time stories, rock or snuggle. Fast forward to adult hood, and we tend to go from 60 miles per hour to 0 when it’s time to sleep—and expect to sleep. Get back to being a kid again by creating a bed time routine that jives with you. Drink warm herbal ginger tea, get cozy in your PJ’s, read a book or journal, do some yoga or meditation—prepare for quality sleep. While you’re at it, release your worries to the world. Like a kid that is scared of monsters and tells mommy all about it, pray, or write down your top concerns or to-dos on a piece of paper, then tuck it away. It’s out there. Now let it go.
- Nourishing Nutrition.
When it comes to food before bed, you want the Goldilock’s approach—not too full and not too hungry either…just right. Some people are able to eat within an hour or so of sleep, but generally, most people seem to sleep better when digestion has been given at least two to three hours of time to get started before hitting the sack. Listen to your body here. Foods that support healthy sleep, particularly in the evening include:
- Proteins from animal meats and eggs with tryptophan—an amino acid associated with sleep (i.e. chicken, turkey, grass-fed cottage cheese, fermented yogurt, fish, eggs)
- Leafy greens with relaxing magnesium
- Starchy tubers or veggies that support healthy serotonin levels (feel good brain chemicals)
- And medium-chain fatty acids, like coconut oil, coconut butter or ghee can also support healthy sleep hormones.
Eat a balanced meal of protein, some starchy veggie like a sweet potato or squash, and greens in coconut oil or ghee, for dinner. Also, if hunger strikes before bed for a bed time snack, keep bed time snacks simple and easy-to-digest, such as: a tablespoon or two of coconut butter, kefir, a couple scrambled eggs, some grass-fed yogurt or cottage cheese, or a small piece of dark chocolate (yes, magnesium also does a body good). As for caffeine, limit your caffeine intake to one cup of quality coffee or caffeinated tea per day—preferably in mornings (fact: 90 percent of Americans drink caffeine in the afternoon, and 69 percent drink it after 6 p.m.).
- Warm Up then Cool Down.
Body temperature starts to fall as bedtime approaches, paving the way for a good night’s sleep. However, by warming up your body prior to bed time, you actually supercharge it to go into “cool” mode during actual sleep-time. Take a warm shower to relax muscles and release thoughts in your head, then get prepared to cool down…Ideal sleep happens in a room that is 60 to 68 degrees cool, allowing your body to do some deep restorative work (on the inside) as you slumber and supporting your body’s natural internal body temperature drop during sleep (fact: You experience a decrease in core body temperature of 2 degrees Fahrenheit during sleep).
- Use an Eye Mask.
Similar to how light exposure doesn’t do a body good prior to bed, light exposure during sleep disrupts Circadian Rhythms too. Red lights on our alarm clocks, phone screens and outdoor light seeping in through the windows all wreak havoc on your body’s ability to “shut off” from the outside world. Exposure to light of any sort works against melatonin (your sleep inducing hormone). Boost rest and sleep quality with blackout curtains and/or an eye mask/pillow to experience the magic of complete darkness for sleep restoration.
- Use an Eye Mask.
- Rise with the Sun.
Similar to how our ancestors slept with the patterns of the sun, they also rose with the same patterns. There’s a big difference in your cortisol (stress) response alone to waking up naturally vs. waking up to a buzzing alarm (STRESS, hello). In fact, the “cortisol awakening response” (how stressed you are from the beginning of the day) is a key influencer over your total cortisol (stress hormone) production for the entire day. Support a healthy “natural waking with a Sun Alarm—an alarm that mimics waking you up like a rising sun (in your room). I adore my Sun Alarm by Phillips! It is literally like having “natural sunlight” in your room come morning, and helps wake you up more gently (and naturally) to be kind to your circadian rhythms as your rise (unfortunately, no roosters included).
- Rise with the Sun.
- Hit the Nap Sack.
Don’t have time to sleep?! At least try a nap! All you need is… 10.
Seriously, a 10-minute power nap is all you need. According to a study reported by Forbes, researchers tested and compared the effects of 5, 10, 20 and 30-minute naps, and found:
- The 5-minute nap produced few benefits in comparison with the no-nap control.
- The 10-minute nap produced immediate improvements in all outcome measures (including sleep latency, subjective sleepiness, fatigue, vigor, and cognitive performance), with some of these benefits maintained for as long as 155 minutes.
- The 20-minute nap was associated with improvements emerging 35 minutes after napping and lasting up to 125 minutes after napping.
- The 30-minute nap produced a period of impaired alertness and performance immediately after napping, indicative of sleep inertia, followed by improvements lasting up to 155 minutes after the nap.
Amazingness! Close your eyes and re-charge…like a battery.
- Nourishing Nutrition.