Better sleep tonight…sounds luxurious, doesn’t it?
Let’s face it – life just isn’t as fun when you’re tired.
If you’ve ever woken up on the wrong side of a rough night, you know exactly what I mean.
I’ve had my own challenges when it comes to getting consistently better sleep. Many of my clients have struggled with it too. Over time, I’ve been able to see exactly what works and what doesn’t when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep.
One crucial, but often overlooked, shift you can put in place for better sleep TONIGHT: aligning with your body’s natural rest and recovery cycle.
I’ve seen it work time and time again. I’m not talking about just paying attention to the light and dark cycles of the day. While our bodies are influenced by sunlight, we are more heavily tied to a 24-hour cycle called the circadian rhythm.
What is Circadian Rhythm?
This physiological process applies to plants, animals, humans, and even fungi. Circadian rhythms are generated endogenously (from the inside) more than they are influenced by external cues.
When we get out of sync with these internal rhythms we challenge our bodies to work harder than necessary. (If you’re interested in getting science-y, click here to learn more.)
But first, why is sleep so important?
Even if you sleep well most nights, one or two nights of restlessness a week can really put a damper on your body’s ability to function optimally. Besides, most of us find it more challenging to be kind and patient with others when we are short on sleep.
A lack of sleep can result in your relationships suffering both at home and in the office.
When you get into a routine with your sleep habits, you also gain a sense of control over your general health and wellbeing. Better sleep translates to a better overall quality of life.
Sleep is a biggie when it comes to experiencing more joy and contentment in your daily life.
Sleep supports re-generation (as opposed to degeneration) of your mind, body, and energy levels. When you push sleep to the back burner or simply don’t know how to get consistently sound sleep, you press your body past its normal tolerance for degeneration and into a breakdown.
Getting less than 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep nightly shortens the time your body has to recharge and replenish. This has both short and long-term consequences on your health.
The surprising dangers of inadequate sleep:
- More prone to accidents
- Higher risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes
- Cognitive functions decrease – You literally aren’t you’re naturally smart and charming self
- Loss of sex drive
- Leads to or aggravates the symptoms of depression
- Skin shows age more (forget about that youthful glow)
- Poor judgment – There’s actually a point where you lose touch with how sleep deprived you really are. You begin to think you’ve adapted to a lack of sleep, but tests show you haven’t. (Again, click here for the science stuff and check out this Sleep Deprivation Infographic from Sleep Standards.)
How You Can Work with Circadian Rhythm for BETTER SLEEP
The one very simple shift you can make today to sleep more soundly and consistently: get to bed by 10 pm.
Let me explain.
Did you know that getting a second wind relates to your body’s natural clock? Yogis knew this long before television or electronics captured our attention in the evening hours.
In fact, your body experiences a natural downturn in energy levels from 6 to 10 pm each evening. This four-hour window is the time to take advantage of your ability to fall into sound, restful sleep.
If you push away your fatigue with activity and find yourself awake past 10 pm, it is more challenging to fall asleep. Between 10 pm and 2 am, your body goes to work processing any remaining food in your system, as well as the thoughts and emotions of your day.
This block of time from 10 pm to 2 am is dominated by what Ayurvedic science refers to as pitta dosha. Pitta is governed by the element of fire.
Our natural energy cycle causes us to be tired between 6 and 10 pm. Then the involuntary responses of the body are programmed to light up again after 10 pm. That’s when they get to work processing our day and regenerating our cells. Our bodies do this most efficiently when we are asleep.
Why You Want to be Asleep by 10 pm
If you push back your bedtime, it not only makes it more difficult to fall asleep, it also becomes more difficult to stay asleep and allow your body to complete its repair cycle.
I know many of my students and followers want to have a strong morning routine. However, they struggle with creating an evening routine that will get them under the sheets by 10 o’clock and ready for a relaxing morning. That’s why I wrote Great Mornings Start the Night Before.
For some of my clients, falling asleep by 10 pm is less about improving their evening routine. It’s more about accepting that it is a positive thing that they are tired. Sometimes we believe that we shouldn’t go to bed before 10 pm because it’s just way too early for someone our age.
Now that I’ve done my homework I realize this is really a silly notion. The idea that cool people stay up late comes from a teenage perspective. Teenagers experience a shift in circadian rhythms as they grow from children to adolescents to adults. Due to this biological shift, teenagers actually have an extended window of up to 11 pm before they begin to feel tired.
Recognizing that we aren’t teenagers and want to be fully thriving adults, helps me and my clients let go of our late night mindset.
Embrace Being Sleepy
Embracing the fact that you really want to go to bed extra early some nights can be super gratifying. Personally, shifting my perspective on what is an appropriate bedtime not only helped me get the sleep I needed, but also let me stop feeling bad about being tired in the evening.
When my clients understand that their bodies are SUPPOSED to feel tired in the evening they begin to love customizing their evening routine. They see that fighting that tired feeling is more external programming than internal desire. Then they begin to have conversations with their families, make improvements in the way they wind down, and get to sleep before 10 pm most nights.
Give it a try tonight! Experiment with going to sleep before 10 pm. This simple shift will allow you to support your body’s natural daily cycles and experience the benefits of better sleep.