When we list our vital life necessities we think: air, water, food. But many forget that sleep can also make or break our existence.
I met with Martha Lewis, Certified Sleep Consultant and Nutritionist, to learn the risks high achievers are facing and the solutions for better sleep.
Below are the 10 things we learned.
You can watch the full episode HERE: “Sleep Solutions for High Achievers”
1. Sleep is non-negotiable.
You are not stronger than sleep. No, you don’t thrive on a small amount of sleep. No, you are not the exception. A research study from the University of Utah found that the brain scans of people who claimed they needed less sleep and averaged 6 hours or less showed more sleep patterns than wakefulness. Meaning that during their awake time they were actually in a “dozed off” state.
Your body depends on sleep to function properly and you can die without it. Yeah, it’s that serious.
The long term effects of sleep deprivation are very real, such as:
- Memory Issues
- Troubled thinking and concentration
- Mood Changes
- Weakened Immunity
- High Blood Pressure
- Diabetes Risk
- Weight Gain
- Low sex drive
- Risk of Heart disease
- Poor balance
- Did we mention death yet?
And that’s just physical.
Mental effects range from:
- Impulsive behavior
- Suicidal thoughts
But even the short term effects can ruin your day (and of those around you) with mood swings, irritability, and disinterest.
2. Hours of sleep is not equivalent to Quality of sleep
While aiming for 7–9 hours of sleep is ideal, the number of hours you sleep is not equivalent to the quality of sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, high-quality sleep includes:
- Sleeping at least 85 percent of the total time in bed
- Falling asleep in 30 minutes or less
- Waking no more than once per night
- Remaining awake for no more than 20 minutes before falling back asleep
To increase sleep quality, you can add a relaxing bedtime routine and remove stimulants such as blue light (screen time and other sources), coffee and alcohol.
3. Food directly affects your ability to sleep and stay asleep
Check out this crazy chain reaction:
- Certain foods can cause inflammation.
- Inflammation increases cortisol, the stress hormone.
- Stress hormones decrease melatonin, the sleep hormone.
- (+)More cortisol and (-) less melatonin means crappy sleep (or no sleep) for you and me.
While high sugar and high salt diets are common culprits, foods affect different people in different ways. Surprising sources like bacon, tomatoes, broccoli, dark chocolate, gluten, and dairy can also throw of a good night’s rest. While we want to blame the Sandman for our troubles it might actually be our fridge.
4. You need to check ALL your body systems to find sleep saboteurs
As mentioned, enemies of your sleep can be lurking where you least expect it. From microbiome issues, parasites, mineral deficiencies, inflammatory foods, unknown intolerances, and more. Advanced certified sleep consultants like Martha Lewis, Medicine Wheel Wellness will run a range of laboratory tests to find hidden contributors to sleep issues such as underlying health issues that have been left unaddressed.
5. It is estimated that 85% of People have a parasite they don’t know about
You don’t need to visit exotic places to pick up unwanted souvenirs. Parasitic infections affect millions of people right at home in the U.S. every year. They cause a wide variety of conditions in humans from bloating, sugar cravings, skin issues, gluten and lactose sensitivities, gastrointestinal upset, irritable bowel syndrome, general bowel changes, weakened immune system, anxiety, irritability, depression, and insomnia. Of the thousands of parasites, only 30% can be seen with the naked eye, so that leaves 70% undetected without proper testing.
6. You don’t have to wait for sleep problems to take action
There are plenty of preventative measures you can take for a good nights rest. A Sleep Consultant can customize routines and habits to cultivate quality sleep allowing you to stay productive, healthy, and happy. Instead of waiting for sleep depravity to hit, get an assessment and stop the symptoms before they start.
7. Everyone has a different sleep clock
There is no magical set of sleep hours or times that work for every person. You can test your best sleep rhythms by going to bed at the same time for a week and paying attention to what time you wake up without an alarm clock. Once you see a consistent pattern of waking up and feeling rested, you can assume your sleep needs. Keep in mind, the first few days you do this, your body will be adjusting to the change. It’s important to test for the whole week to get an accurate concept of your sleep needs.
8. Waking up in the middle of the night is normal
Martha explained that our body goes through 90 minutes cycles of sleep. And while you may not be conscious of it, most of us “wake up” at the end of each cycle. That may be as inconsequential as turning around in bed all the way to getting up for a quick bathroom visit. As long as we are able to easily fall back asleep, it’s normal.
9. Sleeping Pills are not a long term solution
Sleeping pills make you unconscious but they do not put you into the deep sleep your body needs. The same way you can go under anesthesia or get blackout drunk and do many embarrassing and very conscious-seeming things, sleeping pills are only putting one part of your body system out. They are not putting you into the deep sleep that your body needs to flush out toxins and create daily restoration. While also carrying a host of side effects, they can leave you groggy, foggy and grumpy which are all signs of lack of sleep.
10. Poor sleep, lack of sleep, inability to fall asleep is NOT normal
Just because society has created a badge of honor for sleep deprivation doesn’t mean it is. Sleep issues are a real sign of current health problems and precursor to more serious concerns down the road. Don’t accept sleep problems as the norm. Your body’s true normal is getting restful restorative quality sleep. It doesn’t need our help as much as it needs us to step out of the way. Take your sleep issues seriously and do something to address them.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE NOW:
When asked, Certified Sleep Consultant, Martha Lewis said that one of the most important steps we can take immediately for better sleep is to combat daily stress levels. Stress is the biggest enemy of sleep by creating cortisol in our bodies and stripping us of our sleep hormone, melatonin. Unfortunately, too many of us accept stress as a normal part of life and it’s wreaking havoc on our bodies.
One easy way to combat cortisol is to use this daily reset button.
ACTION: For every 90 minutes of work, take a 10-minute break.
Ten minutes is enough to bring down your cortisol from chronic levels that create chronic inflammation that robs you of quality sleep. To try this method out, we suggest setting a calm alarm to go off every 90 minutes to remind you of your break time.
To learn more about sleep health and solutions, watch the full episode “Sleep Solutions for High Achievers” on My Designed Life Show