When it comes to living a happy and balanced life, there are a number of good reasons you may want to start going to bed early.
One is rather obvious — we need the rest. What happens when we don’t get enough sleep? Our brain only has a limited amount of energy at its disposal – it can either be awake and aware of what’s going on around us or asleep and cleaning up.
In the United States, women in particular wear their sleep deprivation like a badge of honor. It’s almost like we’re all competing to see who can get the most burned out. When did it become the social norm to drown in overwhelm?
The hormone cortisol may partially be to blame. Cortisol is a stress hormone secreted by the adrenal glands. It’s involved with the whole “fight or flight” response. When it’s functioning normally, cortisol has a cycle. It’s higher in the morning (helps us get out of bed and moving), and tends to wane as the day goes on in preparation for sleep at the end of the day.
If you’re still going strong after 9:00 at night (catching up on work, watching TV, getting things ready for the next day, etc.), cortisol kicks in and you get the inevitable “second wind.” Elevated cortisol levels impacts hormonal balance and can cause symptoms like anxiety, depression, hot flashes, insomnia and mood swings to name a few.
And according to the National Sleep Foundation, “Exposure to light stimulates a nerve pathway from the retina in the eye to an area in the brain called the hypothalamus.” So if you’re watching TV, reading a book or using an e-book device like an iPad or Kindle, the light has a stimulating effect on us and we’re less likely to release melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep.
Now that you’ve got the scoop on sleep, here’s a few tips to help you get your zzzz’s:
- Try winding down a little earlier each night. If you’re accustomed to staying up until 11:00, go to bed at 10:45 for a week. Then try 10:30 for a week or so. It will be easier to acclimate if you do it in stages.
- Shut off anything with a back light 30 minutes or more before bed to avoid overstimulating yourself.
- Keep caffeine to a minimum and limit afternoon or evening consumption.
- Try a mindfulness practice like meditation or prayer as you’re readying yourself for sleep.
Thanks for checking in. Stay tuned for more helpful tips on stress management and creating a healthy balance!