Last month I sent out a list of mental hygiene habits. In order to support good mental and physical health, there are foundational habits that are required. Basically, these are the daily habits that define your relationship with your body and mind.
So first things first. We'll start with the most basic, but often the most neglected. That would be, (drumroll please!), SLEEP.
What's the definition of good quality sleep? 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep is ideal. Why? During the different phases of sleep, while you're off in dream land, your body is taking care of some very important processes. It is while we sleep that our body completes the repair of our muscles and tissues, memory consolidation takes place, hormones are regulated, and our brain is cleaned of the beta-amyloid proteins which accumulate during the day. (Those toxic proteins are the same as the ones present in excess amounts in people with Alzheimers. For a great sleep-study read check out this study from Berkeley)
Vanity could also be a good motivator for sleep. Dr. Elma Baron and her team of researchers presented the effects of sleep on skin aging at a dermatological conference in Scotland.
As Dr. Baron stated, "Our study is the first to conclusively demonstrate that inadequate sleep is correlated with reduced skin health and accelerates skin aging. Sleep-deprived women show signs of premature aging and a decrease in the skin's ability to recover after sun exposure."
I always love it when science comes in and proves what common sense has told us- good sleep is good for us.
Here are a few tips to increase your Zzzzz's:
1. Turn on lower lighting about two hours before bed. This will help to stimulate the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, and will signal your body that it is time to wind down.
2. Turn off cellular devices and electronics one to two hours before bed time.
3. Lower the temperature of the room where you sleep. A cool room promotes better quality sleep.
4. Create a bedtime ritual. Just treat yourself like a toddler and read a book or listen to some relaxing music before bed. Give your mind and body the time and environment to wind down and relax.
5. Listen to a sleep meditation if insomnia keeps you from relaxing. It will calm the mind and awaken the parasympathetic nervous system. I enjoy the podcast from Meditation Oasis called "Relax into Sleep." Also great if you want to take a quick catnap during the day.
6. Make sleep a priority. Sleep is sometimes treated as a negotiable. It seems like an hour here or there won't make a big difference. However, as those hours accumulate, they effect your mental and physical health. Sometimes, you will have to push bedtime later, but make that an exception to the rule, and work to structure your schedule in a way that ensures you can still get adequate sleep the majority of the time.
Hope these were helpful tips. On my next post I'll be discussing the next foundational topic of good mental and physical health: good food. Now, it's time for my nap:)