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9 Steps To Take To Prepare Yourself For The Most Important Meeting Of Your Day: Sleep

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by Dr. Dwight Chapin, author of “Take Good Care: 7 Wellness Rituals for Health, Strength & Hope

In sleep, you unlock a powerful therapeutic force that protects the mind and body. Think of it as a daily reboot. The goal is not perfection.

Give yourself permission to rest. It will charge your performance. If sleep continues to be difficult, bring your desire to improve the quality of sleep to your next appointment with your primary healthcare practitioner. There is help available.

Getting your sleep-wake cycle regulated is essential to living up to your potential. Set your bedtime like an important business meeting. Show up to this meeting on time and prepared — lights out, TV off, and phone out of reach. If logging seven to nine hours a night is a challenge, start by going to bed twenty to thirty minutes earlier each night for a few weeks until you meet the recommendations.

Go to bed and wake-up at the same time every day. Schedule seven to nine hours of sleep every night if you are between the ages of eighteen and sixty-four, and seven to eight hours if you are aged sixty-five and over. This is the most important meeting of your day.

Take these steps to show up for this meeting prepared:

1. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine late in the day.

My rule is no caffeine after lunch. Caffeine hits the body quickly, and its impact can linger with a half-life (the time it takes your body to eliminate half of the substance) of roughly three to five hours. Consuming caffeine late in the day can cause lighter and more disturbed sleep that night. In a 2013 study, researchers found that consuming 400 mg of caffeine (a large Tim Hortons coffee has approximately 140 mg of caffeine) six hours before bed cut total sleeping time by more than one hour.

2. Avoid alcohol consumption too close to bedtime.

Alcohol may speed the onset of sleep, but it disrupts your sleep quality in later stages as the body begins to metabolize the alcohol. This process causes arousal. Alcohol will also reduce  the amount of time that you spend in deeper sleep stages, which has an adverse effect on memory, concentration, and physical coordination.

3. Exercise can promote good sleep.

Keep your vigorous exercise to the morning or late afternoon. A relaxing exercise, such as a gentle yoga class or a casual neighborhood stroll with your dog is fine and can be done before bed to help initiate a restful night’s sleep.

4. Do not consume large meals close to bedtime.

Eating can be disruptive right before sleep. Pre-bed snacks will also sabotage your efforts with Wellness Ritual #3 – Fight for Your Waistline.

5. Ensure adequate exposure to natural light.

This is particularly important for people who may not venture outside as frequently. Light exposure within the  first thirty to sixty minutes of your day will help you maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle. If you are up before the sun, turn on artificial lights and get outdoors for a few minutes once the sun rises.

6. Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine.

Prior to your committed bedtime, take twenty to thirty minutes to begin to unwind. This practice cues your mind and prepares you for sleep. Try to avoid emotionally charged conversations  and activities right before bed. A hot bath or shower, reading, or listening to a meditation app may be helpful. (I recommend the Calm App. As a side note, listen to LeBron James’ seven-minute podcast on “The Power of Sleep” featured on  this app for extra sleep motivation). Do your best to maintain a consistent sleep  schedule seven days a week.

7. Associate your bed with sleep.

If falling asleep is a challenge, avoid watching TV, surfing the web, or reading in bed. Keep your bedroom dark and at a comfortable temperature. If you are still tossing and turning after thirty minutes, get up. Listen to some relaxing music or read a book until you feel sleepy, then return to bed. Research has shown that this helps to train your mind to associate your bed with sleep instead of struggle.

8. Track sleep patterns.

Tracking the trend line of your efforts to practice this Wellness Ritual helps link the quality of your daytime performance with the quality of your sleep. Download a smartphone app or purchase a wearable smart  bracelet or watch. Smart technology can record sounds and movements during sleep, journal hours slept, and monitor heart rate and breathing patterns.

9. Ask for feedback.

Discuss your sleep patterns with your partner. If you snore  loudly, gasp, or seem to choke during sleep, you may have sleep apnea. There are treatments available, including weight-loss strategies and pressurized masks to facilitate better breathing, which can dramatically improve sleep quality.

 

*excerpted with permission from “Take Good Care: 7 Wellness Rituals for Health, Strength & Hope” by Dr. Dwight Chapin

 

In his private practice, Dr. Dwight Chapin has successfully demonstrated the role chiropractors can play in acute, chronic, and preventative care, corporate health, and sports performance. Dr. Chapin has made it his life’s mission to care for, educate, and inspire others in their journey toward optimal health. In his first book, “Take Good Care: 7 Wellness Rituals for Health, Strength & Hope“, he brings the science of preventative medicine to life.