“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”
Benjamin Franklin was right. You need sleep. Sleep is when your body heals.
We’ve all heard that most people need 6-8 hours of sleep per night, but you may need much more, like 9-10. If you’re getting less than 7 hours, you may be sleep deprived. Not getting enough sleep night after night leads to a “sleep deficit” that keeps growing. And with that sleep deficit comes a gradual degradation of your health. Sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain, a weak immune system, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
I personally know a few night owls who always seem to be sick with something.
They catch everything that goes around. Sound familiar?
Practitioners of eastern medicine will tell you that every hour of sleep before midnight is twice as effective as every hour after midnight. Whether that’s true or not, 11 pm to 1 am has been identified as a critical recharge period for many internal systems, like your adrenals.
Before the advent of electricity (more props to Benjamin Franklin), our ancestors would go to sleep much earlier, within a few hours after sunset. Their bodies and sleep habits were in tune with nature; specifically the cycle of the sun, and they slept more in the winter months. So despite all its benefits, electricity has led to sleep deprivation for most of the people on planet earth. We keep the lights on and stay up late, watching tv, surfing the web, working, working out, etc. We’re inadvertently burning the candle at both ends and our health is suffering for it.
If you are sick, you need as much sleep as possible. You need to be practically comatose. Think hibernation.
Sleep is when your body repairs itself. Unfortunately most of us do not have the luxury of staying in bed for weeks or months at a time to rejuvenate. The bottom line is figuring out how to get more sleep. Consider setting a new earlier bedtime a few hours after the sun goes down. Depending on your living situation, this may involve rearranging your schedule: eating earlier, putting the kids to bed earlier, etc. So you’ll definitely need the support of your significant other.
Going to to bed early makes it easier to get up early, which means less stress trying to get out the door in the morning. This can create time for you to read a devotional, juice, workout; plan your to do list and meals for the day. A rushed, stressful morning can really get your day off to a bad start.
Going to bed earlier might be difficult the first few nights if you’ve trained your body to stay up late, but it will get easier.
Here are some healthy night time rituals:
Eat an early dinner that’s easy to digest, like a Giant Salad, and go to bed on an empty stomach. Eating heavy foods like meat and dairy, and eating late at night, forces your body to use energy to digest food while you sleep instead of repairing itself.
(See my post on Fasting for more on this)
Dim the lights around the house. This prepares your internal clock for sleep.
Take a warm bath.
Use Essential Oils like frankincense, myrrh, tea tree, and lavender to calm yourself and relax.
Read the Bible or The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (I’m not kidding, it’s great!)
or whatever. Reading at night always makes me sleepy.
All of those things will help you relax and get your brain and body into sleep mode.
Avoid anything stimulating: caffeine, sugar, the internet, or work related activities. They will turn your brain on, which can make it difficult to fall asleep quickly once you get into bed. Avoid thinking or talking about anything negative or stressful in your life.
Stop watching stressful television. Espcecially the news. It’s mostly negativity and fear mongering about crime, the economy, world events, the next flu pandemic, etc. You don’t need to be thinking about that stuff, let everyone else worry about it. Also turn off the dramas, mysteries, horror and action/adventure shows. All of these types of entertainment raise your stress hormones and get your adrenaline pumping. This will not only keep you awake, but also contribute to chronic low level stress, which is a precursor to disease. Some say don’t watch TV at all before bed, but my wife and I love to watch something funny. Laughter is good medicine. This has been scientifically proven! It puts you in a good mood and relaxes you. Arrested Development is our all time favorite show. Absolute comic genius. It’s relatively clean, but they do push the envelope a bit here and there. It may not be for everyone… We watch an episode every night, which puts my total TV time for the day at about 22 minutes.
Don’t worry about tomorrow. Make a to-do list for the next day, then put it out of your mind. If you find yourself worrying a lot, I highly recommend How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. This book not only shows you how to put your problems in perspective, but also how to dismantle your fear and put your mind at ease.
Think of your bedroom as a cave: It should be quiet, cool, and dark.
The ideal temperature for sound sleep is 60-70 degrees Farenheit. If your room is much warmer or cooler you may toss and turn in the night and not get enough deep sleep.
Black out your room. Light at night can interfere with your body’s production of melatonin, which in turn can increase your risk of cancer.
What Melatonin Does:
-It is an antioxidant 5 times more powerful than Vitamin C.
-It increases the effectiveness of your lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are killer cells that fight off foreign invaders and mutated cells.
-It increases the activity of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione. These chemicals are antioxidants, detoxifiers, and help repair damaged cells.
Melatonin is one of the most powerful health promoting hormones in your body. Make sure there isn’t anything interfering with your body’s production of it.
Even the small amount of light from an alarm clock can interfere with your sleep. We have pull-down shades and two-inch blinds in our windows, which black them out at night and still let tiny amount of light in the morning. If you black out your room completely or need an alarm clock, the Biobrite Sunrise Clock will wake you up naturally with slowly increasing light like the morning sunrise. This is a much nicer start to your day than being jarred awake by the radio or a buzzer.
I also recommend using an air purifier in your bedroom at night for two reasons. First, you’re in your bedroom for 7-10 hours every night so you need to make sure that your breathing the cleanest air possible by reducing or eliminating pollutants and allergens like pollen, pet dander, dust mites, smoke, chemical gasses, bacteria and mold. Second, like a sound machine, the white noise can help you stay asleep by masking random outside noises (things that go bump in the night) that might disturb your sleep.
We love the Oreck Air Purifier. It’s been cleaning the air in our bedroom since 2004.
If you can’t your room dark enough, you may even need to wear a sleep mask.
If you’re interested in learning more about this, I recommend you read the book Lights Out. There is some well-documented scientific research on how the lack of sleep causes weight gain, heart disease, cancer, suppresses immune function and leads to a host of other health problems.
Also check out Toxic Bedrooms: Your Guide to a Safe Night’s Sleep. Surprising stuff you need to know, but probably don’t want to.
There’s one more factor that could be interfering with your sleep: Electropollution