This article is part of my 12 month new year’s health challenge. I have used one word as a catalyst for my life in the upcoming year: HEALTH. That may seem like a rather broad goal or resolution and it absolutely is. This is why I am breaking down this lofty goal…to reclaim my health, into 12 monthly challenges.
I plan to completely immerse myself in one aspect of health each month and establish new products and practices into routine before I move on to others. It is said that it takes at least 21 days before a lifestyle change becomes habit. We also know that if you bite off too much at one time you can end up losing momentum. A 12 month challenge will give me 21 days of focus and less chance I will burn out trying to do to much.
This doesn’t mean I plan to completely ignore other aspects of health I am just giving myself permission to be a bit relaxed about it while I concentrate most of my focus elsewhere. Focus on exercise for instance will not be making an appearance in this challenge for a couple of months but that does not mean though I will be a couch potato until such time. It just means exercise will be secondary and a source of no stress or guilt while I work on other parts of me and my life.
Let us begin…the first monthly challenge is all about SLEEP.
Why sleep? I believe that sleep is the secret ingredient. It is the foundation for good health or lack thereof. There is no aspect of your life…physical, mental, or emotional that is not directly impacted by the quality of your sleep. Sleep is when your body regenerates, builds, heals, grows, balances your body systems and hormones, and generally repairs all the damage you do it to it during the day. And frankly some of us do a lot of damage with bad diets, prescription drugs, sedentary jobs, high levels of stress, and so much more. When you do not get enough sleep or when the sleep you do get is low quality due to lifestyle choices and modern conveniences you are crippling your body’s ability to perform and thrive.
So what is my issue with sleep? Well, I get about eight hours a night of sleep by design and I stick to that fiercely but the quality of my sleep is not great. I often have a hard time falling to sleep. I wake multiple times each night. I toss and turn and I do not generally feel refreshed when I wake up. I know that the quality of my sleep is lacking and the first month of this challenge is all about how to change that. Here are my plans to create the ultimate sleep sanctuary:
Comfortable Relaxing Atmosphere: For awhile now I have been wanting to make my bedroom a more relaxing and appealing place to be, more like an upscale hotel. I plan to get a couple more sets of my favorite super soft bamboo sheets from Cariloha. They have deep pockets and they are the softest and most luxurious sheets I have ever felt. I also ordered a luxurious sherpa and velvet comforter. I will hang some art, clear some clutter, and generally create a room that makes me happy to walk into.
No Pets: Having my dog in my bed really impacts my sleep in a negative way. She likes to sleep right up on me and takes up half the bed until I am uncomfortable and about to fall off. I am sick of struggling for room and for covers. She has go to go! She has a dog bed but it is uncomfortable and she hates it. I plan to get a different one or perhaps even a futon or chaise since we have a big enough bedroom. Then I can reclaim my bed.
Blocking Artificial Light: Sleep quality is best when there is total darkness. Artificial light throws off our circadian clocks and throws off our natural melatonin production. This is a big problem! Not only does melatonin help with our sleep cycles it has also been shown to have a hand in improving our immune system, improving thyroid function, and balancing blood pressure. To block outside light I am replacing my curtains with blackout curtains. I have them in other areas of the home but not in the bedroom where I need them most.
Blocking Harmful Blue Light: Blue light from our TVs and devices (tablets, computers, phones) really alters sleep quality and quantity. This is why it is often recommended that you not have a TV in your bedroom and also that you not watch TV or use your devices within two hours of bedtime. In fact use within 2 hours before bedtime has been shown to significantly suppress nighttime melatonin levels.
I plan to try and reduce my nighttime use of electronics but frankly I think I may be setting myself up to fail because this is really the only time I have available to watch a little TV and catch up on shows I missed. I enjoy this time. Even so, I plan to make a couple nights a week device free and then use blue light blockers other nights. You can watch TV or use your devices with blue light blocking glasses, which I have. And you can block the light with apps such as f.lux. I have this amazing app installed on my phone, computer, and my TV. Booyah!
Protection from EMFs: All electronic devices emit electric and magnetic fields called EMFs. Eelctric fields can often be blocked by walls but magnetic fields can pass through walls and buildings with ease. This is bad because they can dissrupt communitcation between cells in our bodies which can cause big issues. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies electromagnetic fields as a Group 2B carcinogen and recommends that everyone find ways to reduce their EMF exposure.
I plan to turn off and unplug as many electronics in my home/bedroom as I can each night and this includes my sleep number bed. I plan to put my wifi router on a timer so it shuts off when everyone is alseep. I plan to use EMF protection sleeves for our phones since we use them as alarm clocks and I am going try putting my phone in the bathroom instead of right next to my head.
Beneficial Exposure to Light: Sunlight is really beneficial for our health and for our sleep. I wake up at 4AM though when it is dark, dark, dark. I am going to break out my happy light and use it while I drink my morning cup of tea and check my emails. I am also going to try a wake up light that simulates the sunrise with gradual light. It is also an alarm clock so maybe my phone could then go downstairs. I am also going to try and sit outside for 30 minutes each day when I come home. That should help with vitamin D levels too.
Magnesium Oil: I used to use magnesium oil every day and it really helped with aches and pains as well as sleep. Why I got out of the habit is beyond me but in general but I am bringing it back. Magnesium is responsible for maintaining muscle and nerve function, brain health, building bones, and immune support. This is the fuel your body needs to do its job at night and since magnesium is most readily absorbed through the skin, an oil is the best way to get more magnesium. Spray it on your body each night and let it air dry.
Exercise: Physical activity makes you happy and it ultimately helps with sleep. My goal this month is just to start to move more each morning. I plan to spend 5-10 minutes doing tabata exercises such as squats, dumbbell presses, kettlebell swings, Russian twists with a medicine ball, or wallballs.
Nightime Tea: I plan to enjoy a hot cup of Yogi Bedtime tea each evening as part of a bed time ritual. Hopefully it won’t mean I have to wake up to pee in the night!
Essential Oils: I love my essential oils and they really help with just about anything that ails you. To promote sleep I plan to diffuse chamomile, vetiver, or jasmine in my room each evening just before bed. I also have a roll-on that stays in my bedside table with lavender, cedarwood, roman chamomile and coconut oil. I may also use a spritzer for my pillow.
So this is my plan and it starts today. I plan to focus and get this sleep thing under control! Do you have any advice to offer or tricks that have worked for you?
Must Read Book List:
Sleep Smarter – I recommend the audio book version and the author’s podcast is a MUST!!!
30 Day Follow-Up!!
Okay, checking in thirty days later. How did I do?! Amazingly well!
I am not going to say that every night I slept like a baby because I have to keep it real but my sleep quantity and quality did improve by huge leaps and bounds. My journey with finding better sleep is by no means done but all the work I did and all the hacks I implemented are now habit. I feel more energized during the day, I am falling alseep faster, and I am dreaming way more.
The biggest props have to go to magnesium oil, blue light filters, EMF blockers, a bed and bedroom that now look and feel like a posh spa-like hotel, no dog in my bed, using essential oils topically and diffused each night, and also an unexpected surprise. I started taking Thyromin capsules for thyroid and adrenal support and a happy side effect is deep, deep sleep.
I am excited to tackle the next month’s challenge on the right foot!