Secrets to A Blissful Sleep

August 15, 2022

Secrets to A Blissful Sleep

We know sleep is important. How important? Well for one, without it, we die. The longest recorded length of time someone has been able to live without sleep is 11 days (a Guinness World Record held by Randy Gardener). That’s because sleep affects so much of our body’s functions - including our metabolism, weight, hormones, mood, and cognitive function. And that’s just in the short-term. Not getting enough zzzz’s over the long haul puts us at a higher risk of health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancers. In this Guide, we’ll explore how sleep affect us, and what you can do to give yourself the best, most rejuvenating rest.

Why We Sleep

Let’s start with the obvious: Sleep is our daily renewal therapy. When we sleep, our brain waves become longer and our body functions slow down - helping to restore our mind and heal our body. Our immune system goes into “restore and repair” more, releasing proteins called cytokines which help to fight inflammation, while our pituitary gland releases growth hormone to help us heal and repair. 

Our pineal gland is also hard at work - releasing melatonin, a hormone which helps us fall and stay asleep, plus serves as an antioxidant that reduces stress, regulates other hormones, protects organs and lowers blood pressure. When we sleep our liver also works on getting rid of old junk. The liver does a lot of its detoxifying work in the early hours of the morning, helping to clear your body of debris that, if left unchecked, can contribute to inflammation.

Sleep also has a big impact on our brain; affecting focus, concentration, creativity, abstract thinking, and our ability to learn. A from the University of California discovered that REM sleep provides added problem-solving capability and is the best state for creative processing, boosting problem-solving ability by almost 40%. Sleep also helps us remember and retain new skills. When we sleep, our brains process information, sorting through your day and creating long-term memories. Without sleep, learning would have a 24hr expiry date.

Some studies suggest that sleep also helps to manage our weight. A study performed at Columbia University concluded that people who slept only 5 hours per night were 50% more likely to be overweight than those who slept the recommended 6 to 8 hours. Why? People with a lack of sleep have higher levels of ghrelin, (the “hunger hormone”), and lower levels of leptin, a signal that tells your brain when you’re full. 

Sleep also plays a vital role in hormone production and secretion. This includes estrogen and progesterone - two of the many hormones which are vital in maintaining our reproductive system and fertility potential. These hormones get signaled by cortisol first thing in the morning— but when we don’t sleep well, the disruption of cortisol can have a domino effect, disrupting the release of estrogen and progesterone. This can lead to further hormone imbalance and thyroid disfunction, all of which affects your ability to conceive.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of all is that sleep helps us live longer! A joined study between the University of Warwick and University Medical School in Italy reviewed a series of 16 studies from around the world, featuring a combined total of 1.3 million participants followed up for up to 25 years. They found that people who sleep for less than 6 hours per night were 12% more likely to die prematurely than those who got the recommended 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night.

woman napping

Sleep Quantity vs Quality

What do babies and cats have in common? They sleep A LOT - up to 18 hours! Moreover, more than half of those hours are in the really deep REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep (where we do all our best dreaming). As we get older, our need for sleep goes down; averaging somewhere between 4 to 9 hours per night (and we only spend 20% of that in REM). Most health practitioners will recommend that we get somewhere between 6-8 hours of sleep per night, however, exactly how much sleep we need as adults will vary and depends on a few factors.

Age, for one - as we get older we need less and less. Genetics also plays a role. (Thomas Edison only needed 3 to 4 hours a night). However, according to many sleep experts, the biggest factor is related to the type of sleep we get. The more time we spend in the deeper, more refreshing, stages of sleep and less time in the lighter early stages, the more restful we feel the next day. In other words, a good night’s rest is less about the exact number of hours and more about the QUALITY of sleep in those hours. So how can we improve sleep quality?

The following 4 Sleep Secrets will help you fall, and stay, in the most restful and blissful sleep.

woman with head on desk in front of computer

SLEEP SECRET #1: Avoid Sleep-Suppressors

The key to a better night’s sleep rests in developing the right habits. Strip out the following bad sleep-suppressing habits from your routine for a better night’s rest.

  • No Bright Light Before Bed. Light tells your body it’s daytime: time to be alert. Using smartphones, tablets, or watching TV just before bed is a very good way to extend your sleep cycle, causing you to fall asleep later and later. Avoid all these at least half an hour, (ideally a full hour) before bed for optimal sleep.
  • Reduce Spikes in Blood Sugar. A good nights sleep starts with a balanced day: specifically, balanced blood sugar. Eating fewer refined and processed foods while adding more whole foods (full of blood-sugar-balancing fibre) to your diet can improve sleep. Make sure you’re getting some protein and/or healthy fat every time you eat and don’t skip meals.
  • Remove Stimulants: Stimulates like sugar, caffeine, nicotine can keep your mind more active than you want it to become evening. Besides the stimulating effect it has on the body, coffee is also a diuretic, which means you risk waking up from your restful deep sleep just to use the bathroom.
  • Avoid Late-Night Drinking: Alcohol is another diuretic. More importantly, however, it’s been scientifically proven to cause your body to spend less time in deep sleep. The more alcohol you take before bed, the lower the quality of your sleep. So rather than having that glass of that relaxing scotch before bed, opt for a cup of camomile tea instead.
  • No Late-Night Eating. Your body cannot sleep if it is busy digesting a meal, so ensure you don’t eat a meal within at least 2-3 hours of going to bed. Also, your last meal of the day is a second way your body clock uses to determine the time, and so it is the most important meal of the day as far as your sleep is concerned. Try to keep this last meal on a set schedule (i.e. dinner at 6 pm every day) for optimal sleep quality.
woman on bed with face in book

SLEEP SECRET #2: Build Sleep-Supportive Habits

Replace bad habits and sleep-suppressors with sleep-supportive habits; allowing you to fall asleep quickly, stay asleep the whole night, and wake up in the morning feeling refreshed!

  • Sleep Schedule: Our bodies like patterns. The more we can stick to a set sleep schedule, the easier it is for our bodies to identify when it’s time to get sleepy. Start by figuring out how much time your body actually needs (6 hours? 7? 8?) And based on the time you need to be up in the morning, and try to go to bed at the set time each night.
  • Soft-Bed-Time-Target: Now that you have a schedule and a target bedtime, be flexible. Go to bed when you are truly sleepy. You want to go to be when you are actually sleepy so that your brain associates your bed with falling asleep instead of lying awake. One thing that can help ensure you go to bed tired is to create an evening ritual for winding down.
  • Evening Ritual: 30-60 minutes before your target bedtime, start your ritual. Turn off all screens - no TV, laptops, tablets, or phones. This is your time for relaxation. Create a ritual that works for you. This could include making a cup of tea, reading a gentle book, listening to some ambient music, relaxing with a meditation or podcast, etc… Do this until you feel the zzzz’s coming on. Then head straight to bed!!! Tip: Brush your teeth ahead of time so that you don’t jolt yourself awake with the bathroom lights.
  • The Right Exercise at the Right Time: Research continually shows that those who regularly exercise get better sleep over those who don’t. Exercise helps to tell your body it’s daytime; a time for being productive, active and alert. As such, it becomes easier for you to wind down at night. However, be careful with the time and type of exercise: heavy exercising late in the evening can mess with your body’s wind-down process.
  • Regular Meal Times: Just like light and dark help to tell the body what time it is, meal times also help your body know when it’s time for bed. The more regular your body clock is, the easier it is for your body to fall asleep at night. As much as possible, try having your main meals at the same time of the day - especially your last meal of the day.
wooden bed with white linen

SLEEP SECRET #3: Create A Sleep Sanctuary

Turn your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary; a place you will look forward to resting your weary head each night. Make sure your bedroom is…

  • Comfy: Create a comfortable sleep environment with a good quality mattress (perfect firmness, no lumps, etc…); a comfy pillow (with the right neck support); and fresh, soft sheets. You should be perfectly comfortable in your bed in any position.
  • Cool: Your body temperature needs to fall to its lowest to allow your body to enter the deepest stages of sleep. Sleeping in a cool bedroom enables you to loose body heat easily and quickly fall into a nice deep sleep. The traditional advice, therefore, is to keep warm in a cool environment. Not too warm that your body can’t easily lose body heat, but not too cold so that it’s uncomfortable to sleep.
  • Dark: Keep your bedroom as dark as possible. Streetlights, even moonlight can lower your melatonin production and keep you in a state of lighter sleep. If your bedroom is not currently dark, you may want to invest in some blackout curtains or (if that’s not possible), try wearing an eye mask.
  • Clean: A cluttered environment leads to a cluttered mind. The more clutter and distractions you have in your bedroom the harder it can be for your brain to relax. The cleaner and clearer it is, the more your brain will associate it as a place of rest and relaxation. Keep your room clean and clutter-free for a good night’s rest.
  • Relaxing: Engage your other senses in the process of unwinding and relaxation. Play some ambient music, nature sounds, binaural beats. Engage your sense of smell with aromatherapy. Studies show that certain aromas like lavender and jasmine make you fall asleep faster and sleep deeper. Try lighting some intense before bed or use an ultrasonic diffuser.
woman with blanket, book and cup of tea

SLEEP SECRET #4: The Right Mindset

As much as a good night’s rest is about habits, routines, and environment, it is also about mindset - after all, it’s your brain that you are trying to shut off. There are three steps to creating the right mindset for optimal sleep:

  • Clear The Brain: It’s hard to fall asleep if you are still thinking about how you did on that presentation or running through your to-do list for the next day. Before you hit the sack, you must unload any stress, anxiety, and mental chatter from your day. A good way to do this is to keep a journal. Dump out anything that’s still roaming around in your brain onto paper. You can safely leave it there until tomorrow.
  • Still the Mind: Now that the mind is clear, you can fill it with relaxing thoughts that promote quality sleep. Try a light meditation, breathing exercise, hypnosis or binaural beats to help you still the mind and drift off to sleep.
  • Build Positive Beliefs: What do you associate with sleep? Are they positive associations like relaxation, rejuvenation, and health? Or are they negative like a waste of time, a source of anxiety, stress, or even fearfulness? If you need help in this area try hypnosis or affirmations. Repeating affirmations like “My sleep is deep and refreshing” and “Sleep is a relaxing and nourishing experience for me” throughout the day can help you show up to bed with the right mindset. Train yourself to see bedtime for what it is: the opportunity to be your best self!

Now that you know the 4 Secrets to A Blissful Sleep, you can enjoy the many benefits that come along with more energy, clarity, focus, and relaxation. Which of these secrets will you try tonight?

Wishing you a great night and bright morning!

woman in bed with coffee giving a peace sign
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ewa Reid is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, certifying Fertility Support Practitioner, nutrition & fertility educator, wife, and mother. You can learn more about Ewa on our About page.




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