When we are asleep our body temperature drops and many biological systems slow down. Even though we are in a more relaxed state our body is still working hard to carry out a whole array of extremely important functions that benefit us while we are awake. These functions include: repair, detoxification, healing, storage of energy, and fights off infection.
During sleep, important hormones such as growth hormone are released. Growth hormone is important for cell growth and repair and for muscle development. Also, when we are getting enough sleep the hormones that control our appetite are regulated. When we are sleep deprived these hormones are out of balance which causes us to eat more and feel hungrier. Not getting enough sleep during the night or being stressed right before you go to bed can cause elevated cortisol secretion from the adrenal glands. High cortisol is known to contribute to excess body fat suppressed immune systems and poor cognitive function.
Our circadian rhythmic patterns (in other words, our biological clock) also regulates endocrine function in our bodies so going to bed when the sun goes down and waking up when the sun comes back up is important for hormone balance. Melatonin which is responsible for helping us fall asleep rises when the sun goes down.
Here are some tips to help you fall asleep fast, stay asleep long enough for proper endocrine function and wake up refreshed:
1. Make it dark!
Sleep in a completely dark room with absolutely no light. Blocking out all sources of light sends a signal to your body to go into sleep mode. Get yourself some blackout curtains or wear a sleep mask.
2. Prime your bedtime.
Dim the lights in your bedroom at least an hour before bedtime. If you use a white noise machine (this is the one I use), make sure to use the same sound every night and turn it on as soon as you step foot into your bedroom. Having these triggers lets your brain know it’s time to wind down and that a good slumber is on it’s way.
3. Eliminate blue light.
If you can, try to avoid blue light by not looking at any electronic screens. Blue light from mobile devices, tablets and televisions can keep your brain wired which affects your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. If you’re like me and you can’t avoid the screen before bed (I use my iPad to read myself to sleep), then consider investing in a pair of blue-light blocking glasses like these ones.
4. Avoid exercise, food and drink.
Avoid eating, drinking and working out within 2 hours of bedtime and caffeine within 8 hours of bedtime. Ideally, stop consuming caffeine by noon every day. Eating chocolate and/or sugary treats before bed can also disrupt sleep patterns.
These things can cause interruptions in sleep which disrupts the healing and recovery process. And on that note, I’m off to unplug so that I can manufacture some growth hormone.