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Sleep.

It’s not a particularly exciting topic and it’s not definitely not "sexy" but it IS vitally important.
We're not getting enough and what we are getting isn't quality and today I share how to improve both.

I've had my struggles with sleep over the last 25 years starting with a home invasion that changed my sleeping habits from good to bad overnight (I share this story on the show). That coupled with a daughter that didn't like to sleep has created a number of poor habits many of which I still carry to this day.

So I've had to try different things over the years to help me get more sleep and definitely a deeper sleep and there are few things that I've had tremendous success with.

Before I get into what I've learned, I need to share exactly WHY we need more sleep. When we sleep we’re in a heightened anabolic state, meaning our body and its systems are repairing and growing. Sleeping also improves our immune system, boosts our metabolisms, increases our energy, improves brain function, and balances our hormones.

It’s also monumentally important for those looking to lose weight and studies have shown that sleep deprivation is directly related to an inability to lose weight. This isn't great given that there are tens of millions of Americans alone suffering from insomnia and sleep apnea.

Lacking enough sleep can lead to a host of serious illnesses and diseases including Diabetes, cancer, obesity, depression, and Alzheimer's, just to name a few. Studies have shown that just one night of being sleep deprived can make you as insulin resistant as a type-2 diabetic which directly translates to faster aging and storing excess body fat.

A few months back I read a book called Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson and it had some great insights into getting more sleep and why it's soooo important. Definitely worth a read if you're struggling with your sleep habits as it's far more comprehensive than what I get into in this show.

So the big question is...how do we get more sleep?

Here are 10 things that have been researched and are proven to help and I've used almost all of them to personally help me get more and better sleep:

1. Establish a consistent bed/wake time

This will help regulate your circadian rhythm (your body's internal clock) and an irregular sleep schedule can lead to drowsiness, mood swings, memory problems, and headaches. This is easier said than done and often our busy schedules don't allow for it. Just do the best you and and try to at least be sleeping between 10pm and 2am, which has been shown that we get the most significant hormonal benefits and recovery by sleeping during those hours.

2. Less screen time at night

Blue light, which comes from our phones, tv’s, computers, and tablets can not only permanently damage our eyes, but can trigger the release of the catabolic hormone cortisol. Power down at least an hour before sleep. Use night shift on your device if you have an iPhone or iPad. Apps like Twilight, Iris, or F.lux work too. Or you could always do that thing we used to do before cell phones…read a book!

3. No caffeine 5+ hours before bed

It's a stimulant and it's just fine to consume, but have your last cup of coffee (or Monster Zero) in the late afternoon or earlier. Even if you have a very high tolerance for caffeine like i do and can drink a cup of coffee and go right to bed, it can still disrupt the quality of your sleep, which is equally important. Recently, something called a coffee nap has become sort of a "thing" with the basic premise being to take a nap right after drinking coffee as a way to boost energy. Seems a bit odd to me but people are doing it.

4. Sleep in a cool room

There is a lot to be said for sleeping in a cool environment and it's one of the few things that has made the most difference in how much and how well I sleep. We keep our house at 66-67 degrees and while it’s a little more expensive on the energy bill, it's soooo worth it. For some reason, most people I know like to keep their homes at 72-74 degrees and the idea generally is to save money. Makes sense and that's fine but I'd still strongly recommend cranking down the thermostat before bed.

5. Sleep darker

The body can detect traces of light while you’re sleeping and can cause disruptions and one of the best things I've done for my sleep is invest in blackout shades. These paper ones work very well and are pretty inexpensive.

6. Use white noise

A fan or two can drown out all the little noises that tend to wake us up and this is especially important for light sleepers like me. I'm so envious of people who can crash as soon as their head hits the pillow. Not me. We use two Vornado fans that are really loud and tbh if someone broke into my house, I probably wouldn't even hear it.

7. Get more sunlight

The production of melatonin, which is a natural hormone that helps us sleep, is affected by direct sunlight and a good place to start is getting 20 minutes a day.

8. Don’t eat before bedtime

This isn't related to weight loss where it’s been proven to be a myth that you will store food eaten late at night as fat. I’m talking about the effect is has on our sleep. Don’t eat at least 90 minutes before bed especially if you’re eating carbs. It’s said that the blood sugar spike from the carbs will cause a sharp drop in blood sugar later when you’re asleep and can disturb your sleep and even cause a difficulty in falling back asleep. Instead, if you need to eat, go high protein. I personally don't have an issue with this (as far as I can tell) and haven't noticed any disturbances after eating a bowl of Raisin Bran or a few crackers and cheese.

9. Stay away from alcohol

I won't win any friends with this, but drinking those evening beers will likely help you fall asleep faster, but it messes with your REM sleep cycle (which is the deep sleep), where your body and mind regenerate the most.

10. Calm your mind

Turn off the internal chatter, which if you're like me, is very difficult. For people like us, our minds never seem to shut off which makes it difficult to unwind and relax. Try to meditate, practice breathing techniques, or use an app like headspace or Calm to help you chill out.

Hopefully these ideas and tips help you get your sleep in check and please leave a 5 star review/rating on iTunes if you like the show and want to support the Fit Dad Nation.

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