Wake Up to the Best You
When I was a kid, there was no better feeling than falling asleep in the car after visiting my grandparents. I’d be completely tuckered out—so much so that my father would have to unbuckle me from the back seat and carry me inside the house. I was exhausted but felt safe and loved as my papa tucked me into bed.
This would never happen today—I weigh over 200 pounds and my father is almost 80 years old—and yet, I’ve been chasing that kind of sleep all my adult life. I’ll never forget the sense of sleepiness and the deep rest on nights like those.
So, what’s changed? In a word, life.
We live in an increasingly complicated and busy world. We’re bombarded with information, distractions, and a constant need to connect. Smartphones are wonderful pieces of technology, but we’re perpetually tethered to them. Chances are you’re even reading this blog on your phone. We’re addicted to the instant gratification of texts messages and online shopping—and so, we’re always logged on.
Between multiple jobs, our family’s needs, and making time for ourselves, it doesn’t seem like the world will slow down any time soon. But we also know we need to stop and smell the proverbial roses to be at our best. It’s not enough to turn off the phone mis webmail It takes smart, deliberate choices to get the rest our bodies need.
One Third of Your Life
Numbers vary, but most sleep experts recommend eight hours or more of sleep per night. This might be easier said than done, but the more quality sleep you can get on a regular basis, the better your health. Sleep gives your body and mind an opportunity to power down to rest, repair, and recharge.
When you’re sleeping, your breathing slows, your heart rate drops, and your brain transforms information into memories. Also while you’re asleep, hormones release to heal your body—cortisol aids stress responses and leptin and ghrelin help control your appetite.
Instead of waking up groggy and sluggish, you feel better in the morning after a healthy, healing night’s sleep. Your ability to focus increases when you’re rested, and you have the energy to perform at your best—whether at work or play, you’ll feel good as you power through your day.
To learn the exact science of sleep, check out this article “The Science of Slumber: Sleep and Health”.
Reset Your Day to Get Rested
Your body is ruled by an internal clock called the circadian rhythm. It cycles approximately every 24 hours to match up nicely with your day. From the Latin circa (meaning “around”) and diem (meaning “day”), the natural cycle of your body’s circadian tells you when to rest and when to move. And humans aren’t the only ones with this rhythm—flowers open and close based on their circadian cycle, and nocturnal animals leave their shelters at night.
Become best friends with your circadian rhythm and you’ll start to appreciate your sleep cycle. Commit to a regular bedtime (preferably one eight hours before your wake time), set your alarm for the same time each morning, and stick to it—even on the weekends.
When it’s time to sleep, take a moment to wind down. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Quit drinking caffeine and alcohol at least three hours before your bedtime, and put your phone to bed approximately 30 minutes before your head hits the pillow. Make sure your bedroom is cool, clean, and quiet. And if you find counting sheep doesn’t help you doze, try a melatonin supplement to support the body’s natural ability to drift off to sleep.
When morning comes, don’t hit the snooze button. A solid morning can give you a jump on your day. It may be tough to crawl out of bed at the same time every morning, but it gets easier the longer you commit. Plus, it’s a great time for yoga and meditation, reading, or exercise. And as you build these healthy routines, you may find the hours after you wake up are your most alert of the day.
Thankfully, once you’re committed to your new routine, your circadian rhythm will help you stick to it.
The Mellow Tone for Rest
Melatonin is a hormone released by the pineal gland to help with the sleep-wake cycle. Though it’s found naturally in the body, it’s also been used in supplement form since 1958 to help the body synchronize circadian rhythms for sleep.
A fast-acting melatonin supplement supports your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle by aiding natural melatonin production at night. It’s non-habit forming and the perfect addition to your nighttime routine.
Healthy sleep is the key to an active, healthy life. Take the steps in your life to prioritize the rest your body needs to heal itself every day.
Ben Raskin is a writer and photographer. He enjoys whitewater rafting, tacos, and Russian literature. Follow his adventures @USANABen.