The importance of quality sleep isn't a new concept. More than 2,000 years ago, Greek physician Hippocrates wrote, "Disease exists if either sleep or watchfulness be excessive."
The truth is the same now as it was then. If you eat well and exercise regularly but don't get at least seven hours of sleep every night, you may be undermining all of your other efforts. Sleep deprivation is all too common in today's culture, with people working longer hours, college students pulling all-nighters, and stressful thoughts about the pandemic keeping us up at night. Research shows that sleep deprivation harms a body's metabolism and endocrine functions, which mirrors what is seen in advanced aging.
Enhance Your Sleep Environment
It's important to make sleep a priority and realize its' important role in healthy living. Set yourself up for success by optimizing your environment so you can get the most out of every night's rest. Here are some suggestions to enhance your sleeping space:
Make your bed as inviting and comfortable as possible. Take pride in your space with comfortable bedding, pillows, sheets, and blankets.
Tell your body it's bedtime by shutting off all of the lights. The presence of light tells your body to stop producing melatonin—the chemical that helps you sleep—so it's vital to keep any light to a minimum.
Turn down the sound. Put your phone on silent or do not disturb, turn off the TV, close the bedroom door, and using heavy curtains if traffic noise is an issue. Implementing wind-down time 15 to 20 minutes before bedtime can help your body and mind relax and help you fall asleep faster.
Adjust the thermostat to a temperature at which you are most comfortable sleeping or utilize fans for optimal airflow.
Protect your bed as a safe space. Use your bed only for sleep and intimacy with your partner, not as a dining room, office, or family recreation space.
Rise and Shine
It may seem counterintuitive, but learning to become a morning person can actually help you sleep better and improve your emotional and physical wellbeing. If mornings are especially rough for you, here are a few suggestions to teach yourself to be a morning person.
Listen to Your Body
If tomorrow is your first day of shifting to an earlier start time, don't try to go to bed early tonight. Just go to bed when you usually do. If you are tired the next day, that is okay! Natural fatigue will eventually help get you to fall asleep at an earlier time and establish a healthier routine.
Start A Morning Exercise Routine
Take advantage of the mood-boosting effect of exercise. Research shows that as little as 20 minutes of moderate exercise boosts your mood for up to 12 hours. Moving your body and elevating your heart rate will produce endorphins and increase cortisol levels, increasing your energy for the day ahead. Plus, it will aid in weight loss efforts because you'll burn more fat since your body will still be in a fasting state. So, if the thought of waking up early and having to exercise seems dreadful, remember that It will make the rest of your day a lot better!
Fuel Your Body and Mind
Everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If mornings are especially tough for you, try having a higher protein breakfast and skip the cereal. Protein naturally increases dopamine levels. While most people think dopamine regulates pleasure, research shows dopamine regulates motivation, which is exactly what you'll need if you aren't already a morning person.
Embrace the Sunshine
Just as we need a dark environment to sleep better, we also need the light to wake up. When you wake up, open the curtains and allow the natural light to enhance your mood and get you moving. Exposure to bright light first thing in the morning helps you feel more alert and helps shift your internal rhythm toward an earlier wake time.
Ben Franklin once famously said that people who are early to bed and early to rise are healthy, wealthy, and wise. Studies have also shown they are happier too. Waking up earlier after a restful night of sleep will allow you to be more productive, patient, and optimistic. You owe it to yourself to become a morning person. You'll feel better and get more done.