Sleep. Zzzzz’s. Snooze. That beautiful time when we rest our bodies, restore our minds and reset for a new day. Thinking back to when I was younger, all I wanted to do was stay up late like the adults but as I got older, an earlier bedtime was the goal. It is funny because when I was in my early twenties I was working three jobs, going out 4 nights a week, had an average of 5 hours of sleep/night and felt fine, or so I thought. If I try and pull that combo these days, I am one hurting unit! Over the years, I have learned to respect and appreciate the beauty of rest, something that our bodies require and savour.
Then there is always that question of quality vs. quantity… We have all heard the standard that an average of 8 hours of sleep is ideal BUT what about the quality of those 8 hours. There was a part of my life where I was waking up at least 3 times during the night and as much as I was getting “8 hours” I waking up in the morning feeling blah and not rested at all. So what is the happy medium?? Well, that really depends on the person but ideally we should be striving for enough hours of sleep AND enough quality sleep. Quality sleep takes a number of factors into consideration but simply put, it is deep, restful, uninterrupted sleep.
Why is sleep so important? Well, our bodies get to work during this period of rest. Brain is fed, immune system is recharged, muscles and tissue relax and repair, essential hormones are released…this list goes on. There is A LOT of critical things happening in our bodies during this time but if we are not getting enough sleep and/or it is constantly interrupted, we are robbing our bodies of these benefits.
In February 2015, the National Sleep Foundation updated their guidelines for recommended sleep times at each life stage, which was published in Sleep Health: The Journal of the National Sleep Foundation. The results were as follows:
Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)
You can read more about this study and the new recommendations here: http://sleepfoundation.org/media-center/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times
So how many of you are meeting the requirements? Trust me, this is not me wagging my finger of shame at any of you because I am definitely guilty of not getting enough zzzz’s from time to time. There was a time in my life where I swore I was a borderline insomniac, which was 1000% due to stress and putting too much of the wrong things in my body. Getting asleep was a challenge and staying asleep was an even bigger challenge! Nightly, I would wake every 2 – 3 hours with my mind racing with about 100 thoughts and worries; it was dreadful and incredibly exhausting. I was probably getting a total of 4 hours of actually sleep and when it came time to wake up in the morning, geez, I was a super grouchy and reluctant gremlin! Lol
Needless to say, as I started to change different aspect of my lifestyle, I started to change my sleep habits as well. I knew that my lack of deep restful sleep was taking a toll on my energy, immunity, stamina, strength, mental focus, mood and a plethora of other essentials. I began to respect sleep and its significant benefits on my mind and body.
Now, sleep is my bestie! Yes, there are periods of time when I do not get the ideal amount but I have learned to observe how my body feels and what it requires, then make necessary adjustments. I look forward to getting my zzz’s and love waking up rested and ready for what a new day brings.
If you are having some challenges with getting enough quality sleep, there are many routes you can take. Seeking guidance from your medical professional and/or holistic practitioner i.e. naturopathic doctor, is always a great option, especially if your lack of sleep increasingly becomes worse.
If you are getting decent sleep but are are just looking for a few helpful tips that can help you fall into a deep and restorative slumber, here are some of my top picks:
Avoid exposure to TV, cell phone, computers etc.: Try and eliminate exposure to these devices, at least 1 -2 hours or so before bed. Also be mindful of where you are keeping your cell phones/tablets at night. EMF’s from electronic devices can interrupt your pineal gland and the melatonin it produces, so no phones under the pillow.
Keep it cool: We don’t want to sleep in arctic-like conditions, but try keeping it below 21 degrees Celsius (70 Fahrenheit), with “ideal” sleep temperatures between 15 – 20 degrees Celsius (60 – 69 Fahrenheit).
The darker the room, the sweeter the sleep: Even the smallest bit of light in your bedroom can interrupt your slumber. Turn the lights down low in the evening and then try and make your bedroom as dark as possible by covering clocks, closing the doors and using black out window coverings. Using an eye mask is another great alternative if you have challenges making your space completely dark.
Create a bedtime ritual: We are all different and every day brings different challenges. Setting some time for yourself before bed to really unwind and clear your mind can have profound affects on your sleep. Some of my favourite bedtime rituals include:
Enjoying a nice bath: I LOOOOOOVE taking baths and have at least 3 a week! Soaking away the daily stresses of the day pre bed with a nice hot bath could be just what the doctor ordered. Elevate that bath by adding a nice bath soak, bath salts and/or essential oils. Here is a lovely DIY recipe for a luxurious bath soak. If you feel like splurging, try adding the Dr. Hauschka Bath Essence to your bath. I have recently fallen in love with this line and O.M.G is all I can say!
Incorporating essential oils: Many of you already know that I have had a long love affair with pure, therapeutic grade essential oils, so it is no surprise that I love incorporating them in my bedtime routine. Using essential oils or oil blends that encourage relaxation and quiet the mind are a great way to get your zzz’s naturally. Some stress busting, sleep-enhancing essential oils include Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Jasmine, Rose, Sweet Marjoram and Ylang Ylang.
Add them to your bath, on pulse points, in body lotions/oils, a few drops on your pillow or in a diffuser – the options are endless! If you have never used essential oils before, it is always best to consult a professional first, who can provide some guidance. Keep in mind, that it is key to use pure, high quality, essential oils. I buy my essential oils and diffusers from Kolya Naturals and/or Saje Natural Wellness
Flower essence: Similar to essential oils, flower essence has long been used to enhance mood and treat a number of mood related conditions. I was introduced to what I now call “flower power”, last year by one of my holistic dream team members and it really is a beautiful thing.
If you cannot find a practitioner who can guide you with flower essences, look for flower essence based product lines. One of my faves is Lotus Wei and their Quiet Mind and Inner Peace are great pre-bed picks!
Meditation/prayer: Often times by the end of the day, our mind is jam packed with a million thoughts, to-do lists and “did I remember to..?” moments! Taking some time before bed to clear the mind, be still, observe your breathe and give thanks is an amazing way to fall into a sweet sleep without any clutter on the mind. Just 5 minutes of this can make a profound difference on how you sleep tonight.
Write in a journal: I like to write in my gratitude journal every night, as it is a guaranteed way to put a smile on my face and in my heart. You can journal about just about anything and use this as a way to clean the slate and just empty it all out on paper.
Read: A timeless classic and it still works! Reading from an actual book and not a tablet/e-reader/smartphone, is best and a great way to relax and unwind in the evening. Spiritual and/or inspiring text are my go-to’s for bed literature.
Soothing music: Sounds of the nature, Beethoven or just good ole’ chilling music is a great way to melt into bed. Make the playlist ahead of time, set a timer if possible, press play and let go.
Do it! If you are not sure what I mean, I am talking about having sex! ☺ What better way to fall into a deep restful sleep then making sweet love to your dream lover?!?! Sex and intimacy with your partner is the ultimate stress reliever that makes you feel oh- so-GOOD all over. According to Web MD,
“After orgasm, the hormone prolactin is released, which is responsible for the feelings of relaxation and sleepiness”
See! You can never go wrong with a little bit of loving before bed, you will sleep like a baby 😉
So there you have it, some of my faves for sweet slumber. If good sleep is not on your priority list yet, add it to the list asap! Our bodies do so much on a daily basis, so respect and thank it by giving it the rest it needs and deserves.
* More tips on sleep can be found on the National Sleep Foundation website: