Good morning! In last week’s blog we started talking about getting a good night’s sleep, which is, in my opinion, the first item that needs to be checked off your wellness routine list if you want to be prepared to make any real transformations or changes to your life. If you are not prepared with a good night’s sleep these simple tasks will seem like chores, your mindset will suffer, and eventually the goals or commitments you have made to and for yourself will become less of a priority. Like me, you may feel guilty, like you’ve failed. I failed a lot. However, everything changed when I decided on a sleep schedule that I stuck to every single day. By doing this I developed healthy sleep patterns, had regular sleep cycles, and woke up feeling rested, energized and motivated to get things done. I had the energy and time to show up and be committed to making beneficial changes to my daily routines for ME. Sleeping well was the first step to putting myself first.
When it comes to sleep, both quantity and quality matter. In regards to quantity most adults feel and function best with 7-9 hours per night. When we talk about quality of sleep we are referring to sleep cycles, the stages of sleep, and the time we spend in each of these stages. “Humans have four distinct stages of sleep: 1, 2, 3, and REM (rapid eye movement). We pass through this cycle four or five times a night, typically in a 1, 2, 3, 2, REM pattern. The whole cycle takes a total of about 90 minutes, at which point it starts over.”
Let’s take a deeper look into the 4 stages of sleep:
- Stage 1 is the lightest phase, a transition zone between fully conscious and sleeping (you’re easily awakened during this stage, and will swear that you never fell asleep—but you did).
- In stage 2, brain waves slow and body temperature drops to prepare for deeper sleep.
- Stage 3, “deep sleep,” is characterized by very slow brain waves (so slow that if you wake during this stage—which is hard to do—you’ll feel groggy and disoriented). This stage is when most tissue growth/repair and hormone secretion occurs. About 75% of sleep time is spent in stages 1-3.
- During the final stage, REM sleep, you experience most of the night’s dreaming, the result of increased brain activity as your brain interprets and organizes information and memories. It’s called REM because your eyes move randomly and rapidly, watching what you’re dreaming (but total muscle relaxation—paralysis, really—keeps you from acting out your dream physically).
Sleep disturbances or an irregular sleep schedule can result in a redistribution of sleep stages, which doesn’t have the same restorative benefits, because your sleep pattern gets skewed to more REM or more non-REM than a healthy cycle.
First things first, If you happen to need to be somewhere at a particular time in the morning (like many of us), part of ensuring you get enough sleep is counting backward from your wake-up time, setting an appropriate bedtime, and then respecting that bedtime. For example, I feel the best after 7-8 hours of sleep and I wanted to wake up at 5:30 a.m. So, I decided on a bedtime of 10:30 p.m.
Second, plan to have a nightly routine that helps you wind down and prepare for sleep. It’s hard to go from fully functioning to sleeping in a moments notice. Plan to start this activity at least half an hour before lights-out. I set a bedtime reminder on my phone at 9:45 p.m.
To prepare myself for bed I wash my face, brush my teeth, massage my feet with sesame oil, do a few calming, sleep inducing yoga poses, and practice pranayama or fall asleep to a guided meditation. Some other options to substitute for any of these would be to read a book or write in a journal to reflect on your day.
Next week we will be talking about ways to wake up smarter. If you can work through the somewhat painful moments of waking up earlier than you’d like, once you get moving and get started on your positive morning routine, you’ll feel great. Until next week!