The First Step Toward Improving Health

And, no, it’s not doing a cleanse, or going on a strict diet.

Woman sleeping peacefully on a white pillow and white bedding.

Photo courtesy of Pexels for Canva

Do This First

Commercials and ads would have you believe that the first step in healing is taking some supplement to cleanse your body, or following some new diet technique, but the number one area to address, in my opinion as a transformational nutrition coach, and a person who has suffered with chronic health symptoms, is to get more quality sleep.

Multiple studies show that sleep-deprived adults are at risk for many health conditions, such as, hypertension, weight gain, diabetes, cancer, and even death.

Several studies have shown that on top of the many health consequences of poor sleep, participants suffered diminished focus, inability to complete tasks, memory loss, and changes in mood. 

According to The National Sleep Foundation, healthy adults between the ages of 18-64 need 7-9 hours of sleep a night. 

I first started tracking my sleep several years ago, when I was at the beginning of my health journey.  I thought I got 7 hours of sleep most nights.  What I found was that I never got 7 hours of sleep (except maybe on the weekends).  I was a full-time teacher, with four kids of my own.  If anyone needed more energy, it was me!  I remember always feeling tired, walking around with a level of brain fog and not enough focus.  

Change Your Sleep Habits In Increments

It can be difficult to change habits you’ve been practicing for years.  If you stay up every night watching Netflix, or spend time browsing social media, you may struggle to change that at first.  For me, after the kids went to bed, was the first downtime I had all day.  

But, what I thought was downtime, was actually causing me to stay up later, interrupting my circadian rhythms.  Circadian rhythms are your internal body clock.  If you have ever been on vacation, and let yourself sleep as much as you want, you would notice that you begin waking up at the same time each day, and getting tired at the same time each night.  Our ancestors used circadian rhythms to their advantage, for farming and hunting.  When the sun rose, they rose, and when the sun set, they went to bed shortly after.

Like our ancestors, we can begin resetting our circadian rhythms to coordinate with sunlight.  You don’t have to wake with the sun, but if you get out into the sunshine first thing in the morning, your body has a natural response, and you begin feeling more awake with more energy for your day.  After a while, you will also begin feeling more tired at night, when it is time for bed.  That’s a simple habit change.

Another simple tip, is to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends.  I’ve been doing this for years now, and most days I wake up even before my alarm goes off.  (I still set my alarm for getting kids off to school.)

To get in your 7-9 hours of sleep each night, try setting an alarm for bedtime an hour before you actually need to be asleep.  Use that time for your nighttime routine.  Just like when you were a little kid, and had to get to bed on time for school.  Take a bath or shower, brush your teeth, put on your pajamas, and read a real book.  If you read on your Kindle or tablet, like I do, try some blue light blocking glasses.  Blue light waves give us more energy and keep us awake.  You want to eliminate as much blue light as possible.  

Protect Your Sleep

Protect your sleep schedule above other obligations.  Of course, there will be times that you have to go to bed later, or get up earlier, but those should be rare occasions.  Make sleep a priority, and you will begin seeing health benefits immediately, with more energy, more focus, better mood, and less food cravings.  As you improve your sleep, your self-confidence will also improve.

I could write a whole book on sleep and sleep hygiene.  In fact, I did a research project on sleep, and I used to do a three-day workshop for my Facebook group.  If sleep is something you struggle with, and would like more easy tips like the ones above, let me know in the comments, and I will create a free quick course or guide. My group program, and my one-on-one coaching program, include a section on sleep as well.

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