End of the year festivities always wreak havoc on my sleep schedule, especially the days leading up to Christmas. Struggling with the stress of last minute offerings and suffering through early morning panic attacks when I realize that our Elf on the Shelf may not have moved.
For many, sleep is a real and constant struggle. Most entrepreneurs have the mentality that sleep is the enemy of productivity and should not be wasted while alive.
Over the past few years, there has been continued research and growing consensus about the importance of sleep. Some important business leaders, including the founder of Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington, have been vocal advocates of sleep.
In light of all the research and studies, however, we still know very little about sleep or why we need it. Danish researchers, however, in 2013 perhaps found the most compelling reason we should not neglect it -- our mortality.
Basically, our bodies have natural methods of removing dangerous toxins from our bodies, which is mostly done through blood. Unfortunately, our brains do not share the same detox mechanisms as the rest of our body. In fact, how toxins were removed from our head has mostly been speculative.
The Danish researchers, however, found that when we sleep, our brains shrink slightly, allowing the fluid that surrounds our brain to move in and out and between our brain cells. The scientists hypothesis that this mechanism is a cleansing routine, essentially flushing out dangerous toxins built up during a day of use.
It is analogous of using "mouthwash" during our teeth cleaning routine.
When we do not sleep, we do not allow this detoxification in our brains to occur -- we do not use our "mouthwash" to cleanse our brains. And, like the teeth analogy, if we deprive our bodies and minds of sleep over a long period of time, the toxins can build and have a very negative impact, much like plaque on our teeth.
Research is consistent when it comes to the amount of sleep we need, with adults needing between seven and nine hours per night. The quality of your sleep, however, is just as important as the duration. For this reason, check out these simple tips to get your started with a great sleep routine.
1. Use the bed for sleep -- only
Remove the television, phone and other distractions from your room and only use your bed when you are ready to sleep. This trains your body to relate the bed with sleep, which will signal it to do so when you use it. Want to get a little frisky with a special someone? Take it to the couch.
2. Invest in a mattress
If the recommended amount of sleep for adults is seven to nine hours, why would you not invest in something that you spend one-third of our life using? Research and find a bed that fits your sleeping type.
3. Install dark curtains
Sleep is regulated by the brain through the release of hormones. This process, our circadian clock, is susceptible to light, which is why it is better to make your sleeping quarters as dark as possible? Want to have the greatest experience? Get yourself a sleeping mask.
4. Remove the phone
There are so many reasons to remove your phone from your room while you sleep. The stress from unread notifications and the bright screen are just a start. And to those who use it as an alarm -- you are not fooling anyone. Get yourself a reliable alarm clock instead.
5. Rethink your diet
Your sleep routine does not start ten minutes before bed -- it is affected by everything you do throughout the day. Food, for instance, can have a significant affect on your ability to find and have a quality night of sleep. Find the best foods for sleep that fit into your preferences and budget and cut out all caffeine after noon.
6. Exercise every day
While sleep is important for your brain, it is also a time to allow your body to rest. If your body is not tired, however, it can be difficult for it to catch up to your brain. You don't need to become a cross-fit pro -- a simple, brisk 30 minutes walk during the day will do.
7. Decompress and relax
Much like an airplane that requires a long landing strip to land, your brain and body should not be expected to simply shut down in an instant. It is important to give yourself a "runway" of your own before you go to bed, which includes a routine of decompressing and relaxation. Take fifteen minutes to allow yourself to sit in quiet, removed from your phone and other distractions, and simply breathe.
8. Start a morning routine
Part of your sleep routine includes the act of waking up. If you wake up poorly, you can wreck all of the benefits of a decent night of sleep. Allow yourself time to get up slowly and develop a morning routine that will get your day started right.
Do you have other tips to get a better night sleep? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.