Today’s Skincare Saturday is re-posted from an email-exclusive newsletter from Liz’s personal blog. Enjoy!
Ever felt like you’re doing everything right, yet nothing is falling into place?
I’m not talking about your quest to be the next American Idol or your mission to knit the perfect chicken sweater.
I’m talking about your journey to better health. Do you feel like you’ve got the food figured out, the pantry stocked perfectly, the movement and exercise down pat, and the stress relief nailed down, yet something’s still missing?
Is that missing piece…sleep?
This is incredibly common, and it’s easy to see why. Sleep is usually last on the priority list. It’s not like you can meal plan, prepare food, take a restorative, proprioception-enhancing walk in zero-drop shoes, AND take care of your family in your sleep. We stuff things in to the schedule when and where we can, because everything we need to do to be healthy happens in our waking hours.
Except, of course, sleep.
Unfortunately, it’s not reasonable to say just get more sleep. Prioritize sleep. Seriously, sleep more. For some people, that’s just not going to happen.
Even if we do go to bed earlier, a racing mind can keep us from falling asleep in the first place.
So here’s the deal: yes, sleep is crucial. Yes, more is usually better. Yes, it’s often the missing piece to being as healthy as we possibly can be.
And if we can’t improve the QUANTITY, we can at least improve the QUALITY.
Starting with our surroundings.
Our surroundings have a huge impact on how our brains perceive what time it is – as in, is it a waking hour, or a sleeping hour? We’re wired with a very primal awareness of light and dark, and our bodies respond to natural cycles of sunlight and moonlight. In our modern world, however, artificial light stymies our natural ability to sense when waking hours should end and restorative sleep should begin. This is a recipe for dis-regulated, poor sleep.
If we based our cycles of activity and rest on natural light only, waking up with the light and winding down with the sun, we’d likely see amazing health improvements – in fact, in a one-month experiment wherein I used only natural light, turned off all television and digital devices after 4PM, and fell asleep as the sun went down, I became healthier than I’ve ever been.
Of course, hardly anyone can do that, even for a month. Even so, the results were telling.
The take-home: to get better sleep, modifying our exposure to artificial light might be the solution.
Start by trying these 3 basic, easy, FREE tricks to better sleep!
1) Change screen time.
Getting better sleep might be as simple as catering our intake of artificial light to a more natural wake-sleep cycle. What does that mean?
Quit watching TV at night.
Sure, this kinda sucks. All the good TV is on late – and with a stack of New Girls, Girls, and Housewives-related viewing (noticing a pattern?) waiting on my DVR when work is over, it’s hard to resist unwinding with a glass of wine and some lady drama.
But guess what? Not watching TV at night doesn’t mean not watching TV ever. It just means changing when you watch it. This doesn’t take away any of our well-honed Housewives-watching schedule. It just modifies it.
We can RECORD those nighttime shows so we can go to bed earlier. Then, we can wake up earlier and get our TV outta the way in the AM. The morning is a far more appropriate time to be exposed to that brain-activating digital idiot box.
(Of course, we could also ditch the TV altogether. I know – blasphemy.)
2) Download F.lux.
Speaking of screen time, it’s time to get real about the potentially sleep-damaging effects of living in front of the computer (or iPhone. or iPod. or iPad. Or Windows. Or Android. Or whatever) screen. It’s no longer Primetime TV affecting our sleep cycles. It’s all the screens.
If we really, really, really can’t resist playin’ Facebook or reading Email Monday at 9PM (hey – who could?) we can do it on a screen that won’t make our brains go bananas.
F.lux adapts our screens to a more natural glow, based on the time of day or night. If we can’t give up the screen time, we can at least make it more biologically appropriate. (Click here for a FREE download.)
3) Block out the tiny lights.
Of course, we turn off the BIG lights when we go to bed. But evidence suggests that ANY artificial light can manipulate our sleep cycles. Think of the little red light on the television, the tiny blue light on the space heater, or the soft green glow of that lava lamp that’s been around since high school.
(Unfortunately, this applies to kids’ night lights too.)
The closer we can get to artificial-light-free-sleep, the better.
And, unfortunately, a blackout mask might not cut it. Artificial light doesn’t have to be perceived by our eyes. It can also be perceived by our skin.
So what to do? Put a piece of tape over the light. Cover it with a piece of fabric. Block it with a copy of my book. Get creative!
Of course, don’t stress that your alarm clock’s warm glow is going to ruin your whole night’s sleep, or that your kiddo won’t sleep well if you rip away the night light. Stress (and sometimes, ripping away the night lights) just makes things worse. Do what you can, and let the rest roll off your back.
Thanks for reading!
Liz Wolfe, NTP