Prior to the Covid19 invasion, appx 1/3 of adults said they’ve suffered from sleep problems.  Presently, a restful night may seem like a distant memory.   What’s sleep?  Need some tips to drift off at night and stay on during the day? 

The daytime is just as important as the nighttime for a good night’s rest.   If you’re glued to your computer screen (yes YOU!) make the effort to go outside.  It isn’t just for taking a break. It’s for getting your circadian rhythm—or your body’s internal clock—on track. Your circadian rhythm works together with melatonin (hint: the hormone that makes you tired). When it starts getting dark, that internal clock tells your body to produce more melatonin. Sunlight, on the other hand, suppresses melatonin production and tells your body it’s go time. Studies have shown that getting more sunlight during the day will help even people with insomnia shut down come bedtime. So count those steps during the day to avoid counting sheep later.

We’re all sweating the small and big stuff.  To conquer this anxiety, it’s important to get in an actual sweat.   It’s common sense to read that working out helps you sleep. But it may surprise you that the time of day can make a difference. Some studies have shown that morning workouts are best for deep sleep. One study found that exercise nearly halved the amount of time it took to fall asleep and added about 41 more minutes of sleep at night. When should you avoid a work out? Right before bed. Your increased heart rate will interfere with shut eye. Feel free to use this as an excuse to have a glass of wine instead.

What’s your diet looking like these days?  Cut your afternoon cup of coffee.  Eat some kiwi to help you sleep.  The foods you choose to eat can make a difference in your sleep. Foods that contain melatonin—including cherries, bananas, kiwis, pineapple, and orange juice—can help ease you into bed.

Despite trying all of the above, there will be some nights where you possibly can’t get to sleep quickly enough.   Your mind is on overdrive.  Here are some damage control tips to help with a night of tossing and turning and scrolling on your screens…

Just Breathe…

This comment used to upset me all the time.  What do you mean, “just breathe?!”  We’re all breathing, but are we breathing like we used to when we were babies?  Our fast-paced way of life increases stress levels, which increase our propensity to use quick, shallow, vertical breathing. Our constant connectivity and exposure to negativity via messaging apps and social media also increases stress hormones, which can cause us to breathe poorly. Poor breathing induced by stress creates a vicious circle: stress increases the propensity to breathe shallowly and quickly, but breathing shallowly and quickly also increases stress.

Well, take a deep breath right now.  Did your chest go up and down? Congratulations, you just failed at breathing.   In order to function better during the day and night, we need to learn how to breathe correctly.  Even something as supposedly instinctual as breathing can go awry.  So, how can we get that optimal breathing we did as a baby to achieve the better health that comes with it?

Poor posture. Thanks to habits we’ve picked up from years of sitting all day at school and at work, a lot of us have poor posture. When you’re slumped over, your rib cage collapses a bit, leaving less room for your lungs to open, which in turn causes inefficient breathing?

Obesity. Extra fat tissue in your stomach and torso can push on your diaphragm and chest wall, leaving less room for your lungs to fill completely with air. Excess weight is also a potential cause for sleep apnea — a serious problem where breathing stops momentarily while you’re asleep.

Smoking. Unless you just arrived in a time machine from 1942, you know smoking damages your lungs. This damage constricts the full use of these respiratory organs, which promotes more “superficial” breathing.

Luckily, changing your breathing habits isn’t all that complicated. All you have to do is adopt a four square breathing technique, and you’ll be sure to make the most out of the 25,000 breaths you take every day:

Good sleep is one of the foundations of your waking life. “Sleep on it” isn’t just an excuse to procrastinate a decision—it’s the first step to feeling refreshed and in control.