Lifestyle is one of the most important factors of sleep.
Medical experts are talking more about the importance of sleep because it effects your short term performance and may also effect your long term health.
In the short term, poor sleep can effect your energy level, memory and waste removal and in the long term may impair your memory. Scientists are exploring links to Alzheimers.
I listened to Rafael Pelayo MD, who is a leading sleep researcher at Stanford, talk recently. I’ll share a few of my takeaways from his talk in case you’re concerned about your sleep and/or the potential health risks.
Steps to improve your sleep
1/ Real problem or not
There are over 100 different sleep disorders so the odds of having one seems fairly high. The reality is that you only have a problem if you experience some sort of impairment the next day.
Everyone wakes every 90-120 minutes throughout the night. Most of us don’t remember waking but according to Dr. Pelayo it’s part of our biology. If you’re waking up and staying awake for no reason [ie baby to feed or physical threat] then it’s probably something that you should explore further.
2/ Behavioral or biological problem
Sleep problems can be behavioral or biological. A professional can help you identify the nature of the issue and figure out the right solution[s].
Historically, many sleep professionals relied on medications as a remedy. Dr. Pelayo acknowledges that sleep medications are a tool but the benefits depend on how the tool is used.
Sleep professionals are now using a form of CBT to help their patients modify certain behaviors. For instance, if you have a hard time turning off your brain at night, try using a notebook to jot down all of your thoughts prior to bed.
Taking time to be alone with you thoughts before bed and to plan your next day may be all you need. If nothing else, it will give you some insights into the nature of the problem.
3/ Biological problems
If you snore or experience other biological issues that disturb your sleep, consult a professional to understand the nature of the issue.
Lifestyle effects how you feel and experience life. Taking time for you each day is not selfish. It’s an investment in you, your health and your life.
Dr. Pelayo acknowledges that people sleep best when they feel safe, comfortable and loved.
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