Sleep: The Super Habit That Could Change Your Health for Good
- Many people tend to push sleep to the bottom of their to-do list, but it’s one of the biggest needle movers in human health, especially brain health.
- Seven hours of sleep per night is the minimum to maintain good health for adults, but eight is ideal.
- Morning sunlight exposure, nervous system regulation, and mineral balance are key strategies for regulating sleep cycles.
You might be doing everything right. You eat a green smoothie for breakfast each morning, meet your friends at the gym by 6:00 AM, and stay faithful to your supplement regime.
So why do you still feel… sluggish? At work, you reach for a third cup of coffee. By the time you get home, you don’t have the brain power to answer your kiddo’s fifth “why?” of the evening, much less carry a conversation with your partner. When you finally find a moment of peace, you cozy up with Netflix — and suddenly it’s 1:00 AM and you still don’t feel good.
According to the CDC, one in three adults don’t get enough sleep. With a culture focused on daytime hustle and instant gratification, it’s easy to believe your bedtime routine doesn’t matter as much as your diet, hydration, and other lifestyle habits.
The truth is, sleep is one of the most essential elements required for long-term health. Rest and regeneration during sleep is meant to be part of the human experience. We sleep a third of our lives for good reason! And, unlike a lot of health remedies — getting enough sleep is totally free and accessible for everyone.
So how do you achieve the best sleep of your life?
Table of Contents:
- What Exactly Does Sleep Do for Your Body?
- How Many Hours Should I Sleep at Night?
- Sleep Quality and Brain Health
- Fast Facts to Improve Sleep Quality
- The Four Stages of Sleep
- Sleep Disorders
- Common Sleep Mistakes
- Best and Worst Sleeping Positions
- How Does Sleep Affect Your Cellular Health?
- How to Optimize Your Sleep Function
- Pro Sleep Tips
- Sleep Tracking
- Sleep Aids we Recommend
- Get Better Sleep for Better Days Ahead
What Exactly Does Sleep Do for Your Body?
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is one of the most harmful ideologies of our culture. No wonder heart attacks and stress-related illnesses always seem to be on the rise.
Sleep is the ultimate tool required to rest and recharge the mind and body. It allows us to process emotions and trauma, enables memory retention, balances blood sugar, and even flushes toxins from your brain (a naturally-occurring detox!).
When you sleep, you tell your brain it’s time to relax. There’s nothing that’s threatening your life or well-being. Better sleep is often associated with lower levels of cortisol and less overall stress. In addition, here are just a few benefits of better sleep you may experience when you optimize your bedtime routine:
- A stable mood
- Better heart health
- Improved blood sugars
- Better detoxification
- Mental clarity
- A healthier weight
- A stronger immune system
- Improved memory
- Less overall stress on the body
How Many Hours Should I Sleep at Night?
This depends on your age, current health, and your body’s own preferences. While we can give some general recommendations based on research, you should know that everyone’s optimal sleeping hours are different. They will depend on your daily stress levels and may change based on illness and other factors. A good rule of thumb is to sleep long enough that you wake up feeling refreshed.
Sleep Guide and Recommended Hours by Age
Typically you’ll notice your baby sleeps between 14 and 17 hours. Usually, this rest is intermittent. The world is a big place — and babies need extra sleep to process everything!
Your baby intuitively knows when they need to sleep. During the early years, focus on prioritizing your own rest over other things like dishes and laundry. Adequate sleep will enable you to be the best parent you can be.
Sleep helps your child retain everything they’re learning in these crucial developmental years. Typically, a child sleeps between 10-12 hours (including naps).
Just like with adults, activities will help to optimize a child’s sleep. Whether your child is busy learning in school or participating in an extracurricular sport, make sure they use up their energy.
“Just a few more minutes” isn’t your teenager’s plea to be lazy. They really do need their sleep — between 8 and 10 hours or more.
Help your teenager build healthy sleep habits with an optimized bedtime routine, minimized blue lights, and a comfortable environment where they feel safe. They might complain now, but they’ll thank you later when they reap the benefits of a healthy sleep schedule.
Around 7-8 hours or more. When you prioritize sleep, you also prioritize your immune system, mental health, and attention span during the day.
As you turn the corner into adulthood, you might realize you don’t need as much sleep as you did in your teen years. Still, one in three adults admits to not getting their recommended eight hours.
Sleep Quality and Brain Health
You know exactly what it feels like to be sleep deprived. You show up at work with a fuzzy brain and upset stomach. You think surely sipping on coffee and water will cure your brain fog and revive the regular version of you. But it’s really not until you crawl out of bed the next day that you start to feel normal again.
Sleep deprivation affects everything from digestion to cognitive function. One study concluded that 17 hours without sleep impairs motor and cognitive function at the same level as alcohol intoxication.
In another recent study, middle-aged and senior participants (38-73 years old) were tested for their cognitive function. Those who got 7 or more hours of sleep per night exhibited much higher motor skills and brain function. Those skills decreased for every hour of sleep lost by the participant.
Another research review connects poor quality sleep with degenerative brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. People with sleep disorders are more likely to develop one of these diseases in their lifetime. This isn’t meant to inspire panic, but instead highlight the importance of sleep for brain health.
Fast Sleep Facts to Improve Sleep Quality
Improve your sleep, improve your life.
If you don’t know a lot about the benefits of sleep, you’re not alone. These fast facts will give you a solid overview to help you determine if your body is getting enough rest — and if not, what to do about it.
Your Circadian Rhythm Supports Good Sleep
Your circadian rhythm doesn’t just refer to the hours you sleep. It considers the rhythm of an entire 24-hour day — your sleep and wake cycles as influenced by your hormones, energy, light exposure, and other factors.
The circadian rhythm is highly sensitive to its environment. Outside influences like bright light and exercise affect the brain — particularly the hypothalamus, which releases hormones to control your sleep and wake cycles. Your circadian rhythm is your friend. By taking care of it, you can improve your sleep quality and feel refreshed throughout the day.
Tip: If you’re struggling to regulate your sleeping schedule, we recommend spending 15-30 minutes in the sun as soon as you wake up. Morning light exposure immediately sets up your circadian rhythm for the day ahead. Bring your journal, coffee, and breakfast and enjoy!
The Brain Has a Waste Management System
With pollution, plastic, and biotoxins rampant in our air and food, detoxification is a hot-button topic. Harnessing the power of your body’s natural detox systems is one of the best ways to ensure your long-term health.
Did you know the brain actually flushes toxins while you sleep? Yep, the glymphatic system carries lymphatic fluid into the brain, uses that fluid to capture waste, and then flushes that waste into the bloodstream. Lack of sleep could actually leave unwanted toxins in your brain, which may contribute to neurodegenerative decline later in life.
Tip: Melatonin is a fantastic sleep aid. But alongside making you sleepy, it’s also been connected to improving glymphatic detox. Even better — it might also lower inflammation.
Between 10% and 30% of People Suffer From Insomnia
Insomnia isn’t a person’s refusal to go to sleep. It’s commonly driven by mental illness, other sleep disorders, medication side effects, chronic illness, or trauma. Those who struggle with insomnia should look to address the root cause of their sleep disturbance.
Tip: One way to address the root cause of insomnia is to reset and rewire your nervous system. If your brain and body are constantly on high alert, sleep won’t come easily. Try a guided meditation or EFT tapping to help you relax.
The Four Stages of Sleep
It’s all just sleep, right? Actually, there are four stages of sleep that your body will go through during your 7-8 hours and each one is equally important. If you suspect you have a sleep disorder, a study of your personal sleep architecture will probably be prescribed to help understand your personal sleeping habits better.
Stages of Sleep Chart
The “twilight” of sleep stages. Typically it only lasts a few minutes and is characterized by slower brain activity. It’s easy to wake someone who is still in stage 1 of sleep.
Your temperature and heart rate drop. Your body begins to prepare itself for rest. Outside elements might not wake you so easily in stage 2 of sleep.
Want more creativity, restoration, and a healthy immune system? Stage 3 sleep might be responsible for it all — and so much more. Most of your night’s sleep will rotate between stage 3 and stage 4 sleep.
Stage 4 (REM)
Your brain activity actually rises when you reach the REM sleep stage. This is thought to be due to vivid dreaming. Stage 4 sleep should make up around 25% of your total sleep time. Studies show REM sleep is essential to cognitive function.
There’s a big difference between trouble sleeping (due to lifestyle practices) and a sleep disorder (usually caused by a deeper root issue). Those concerned that they might have a sleep disorder should check to see if they’re exhibiting these common symptoms:
- Loud snoring
- Breathing trouble (breathing stops and then restarts during sleep)
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Difficulty waking up
- Waking up multiple times at night
- Commonly sleeping more than 9 or 10 hours a night
- Falling asleep during the day
If you suspect a sleeping disorder, you may want to start tracking your sleep at home. You can also request a sleep study to track your brain waves and sleep cycles. If you suffer from PTSD, chronic illness, or a mental health disorder, you are more likely to develop a sleeping disorder.
Common Sleep Mistakes
- Sleeping on your back. Although this sleep position works for some, it can make sleep paralysis worse for those who suffer from it.
- Sleeping less than 7-8 hours. Eight hours (or more!) really is the optimal amount of sleep for adults, though our culture may not prioritize it. Spend some time getting to know yourself and what your body truly needs. Then begin creating lifestyle habits that allow you to sleep the ideal amount for you.
- Using bright light after sunset. Fluorescent lights can stimulate your circadian rhythm and trick your brain into thinking it’s still daytime. If you’re using bright lights (maybe your cell phone!) up until the minute you go to sleep, that might be the reason you’re struggling with poor sleep.
- Thinking you can “catch up” on sleep later. Sadly, our bodies don’t work that way. Though naps aren’t inherently bad, a quick nap won’t make up for the multiple sleep stages lost when you pulled an all-nighter. It’s best to prioritize as much nighttime sleep as possible.
Best and Worst Sleeping Positions
While some sleep positions are “better” than others according to research, what it really comes down to is your own personal journey with sleep. Some sleep positions are better for people with sleep apnea, while other sleep positions help to keep back pain or heartburn at bay. Think about your own personal needs and choose your sleep position accordingly:
Sleeping on Your Back
This position may be best for people who suffer from lower back pain or neck pain. It’s also said to help reduce wrinkles. For people who struggle with sleep apnea and snoring, back sleep is not recommended.
Sleeping on Your Side
Sleeping on your left side specifically is supposed to help reduce symptoms of heartburn. Side sleeping overall is a great position for someone who struggles with sleep apnea, snoring, or wants to avoid sleep paralysis. The fetal position is the most common sleep position for adults.
Sleeping on Your Stomach
Some people swear by this sleep position… while others refuse to give it a try. Sleeping on your stomach can help with snoring, but it can also aggravate joint discomfort and back pain. If those are symptoms you struggle with, it’s best to stick with side or back sleeping.
How Does Sleep Affect Your Cellular Health?
Sleep affects almost every function in the body — right down to the cellular level. According to one study, chronically low-quality sleep can increase stress on the cells.
A process called protein homeostatic regulation then begins to deteriorate (essentially, your cells aren’t able to recognize good versus bad proteins). Over time, the cell is compromised, allowing misfolded proteins to enter. In the brain, this increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Getting a restful night’s sleep is not only something that affects you today, it’s a lifestyle habit that can impact your health in the long-term.
How to Optimize Your Sleep
So how do you avoid the risks associated with poor sleep? If you struggle with insomnia, getting enough shut-eye might seem ridiculously impossible and incredibly overwhelming all at once. But just a few lifestyle changes can really make a difference for you and promote better sleep.
Pro Sleep Tips
You have more control over your sleep function than you think! These sleeping tips can help you get the shut-eye you desperately need.
Your circadian rhythm loves routine. Find an activity that brings you joy and relaxation, and begin to add it to your bedtime routine. Doing the same things every night will set your brain in motion and tell your body it’s time to start getting ready to rest. Read a few chapters from a relaxing book, take a bath, or simply take a few moments to meditate before lights out.
If you could choose just one lifestyle habit to help you get better shut-eye, turn off your screens two hours before bedtime. This will not only help to mitigate your stress and give you more time with your loved ones, but it will also help your body produce the melatonin it needs to ease into sleepiness.
Your circadian rhythm may hold the keys to a healthier, happier, and less grumpy you. And remember — it’s affected by your morning habits too. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and go enjoy it on the porch under the bright sun. This has so many benefits — besides optimizing sleep and wake cycles, it gives you a boost of Vitamin D as soon as you wake up. For extra benefit, take off your shoes and get some grounding in.
Pick a target bedtime and wake-up time and stick to them for a week. Your body loves routine and will naturally begin to catch on. Eventually, you’ll be able to wake up naturally without even thinking about it — and obnoxious alarms will be a thing of the past.
Exercise isn’t typically recommended close to bedtime, since it can pump your adrenaline and make it difficult for your body to calm down. But nighttime yoga is another story. There are tons of yoga resources out there that can help you settle down for the night. Find one on YouTube and do it from the comfort of your bed.
Keep your body moving throughout the day. Whether it’s a trip to the gym or an early afternoon walk, muscle movement is good for you in so many ways — but especially for tiring you out at the end of the day.
Catching the sunset is not only a beautiful practice but one that can regulate the body and make you feel sleepy much earlier in the evening. If you can’t always get outside, use a salt lamp in your home after sundown to prep your brain and body to sleep better at night.
With modern farming methods and lack of outdoor exposure, your mineral levels are probably not where they should be. Magnesium especially is a mineral many people are drastically missing — and it can help you sleep better at night, relax sore muscles, and even may improve symptoms of depression.
There is a good and bad side to sleep tracking. While an app or a sleep ring can give you insight into your body’s sleep stages, they can also create unnecessary stress and anxiety. You rely on a device to tell you about your sleep quality, instead of your own intuition and observations. These devices can even kick up adrenaline in the body when you realize you haven’t hit your goals.
If you do choose a sleep tracking device, create boundaries with it. Use it for a month to see where your body is at, and then begin to rely on your own body and schedule. Or, use it for just a few days out of the week when you feel like you need a little extra accountability. Some of our favorites include sleep tracking apps like Sleep Cycle or the Oura Ring.
Sleep Aids we Recommend
When you first start to care about your sleeping habits, you might notice that you’re not getting the adequate shut-eye your body needs. But how do you make the transition from chronic sleep avoidance to a healthy eight hours? You might try sleep aids. (No, not the drug kind!)
There are numerous natural remedies to help you relax at night:
- Natural red light therapy
- Camomile tea
- Lavender essential oils or pillow spray
- BodyBio PC for glymphatic drainage support
- BodyBio Calm to quiet your racing mind and relaxation
- A salt lamp or candle light instead of bright overhead lights
- Blue light blocking glasses
- A snack before bed if you often wake up hungry in the middle of the night
- Valerian root
You might also want to use a gentle wake up tool, like a sunrise alarm clock or curtains that let in the morning light.
Get Better Sleep for Better Days Ahead
Sleep is one of the most overlooked elements required for optimal wellness. Right now, you have the opportunity to change the trajectory of your health with one simple lifestyle habit that’s free and easy. Whether it’s your own habits that are getting in the way, chronic insomnia, or a sleep disorder, make the commitment to yourself that you will find resources to help you sleep better.
One resource our customers have had success with is BodyBio Calm. This supplement supports stress management and helps to balance the nervous system. If stressful thoughts keep you up at night, consider BodyBio Calm to help your body rebalance.
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