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Why The Best Thing You Can Do for Your Health is Sleep + How I Felt After 1 Week Improving Mine

Let’s talk about sleep, baby.

I was not born a morning person.

In fact, growing up I never woke up earlier than 10AM on a day I didn’t have to for school. And even 10 was early! Sometimes I’d even sleep in until 12 on the weekends.

Even after moving to NYC and starting college, I never had a set routine. If I went to bed at mid night, I would have considered it early.

It was probably around 2 years ago when I began to make sleeping early a priority. I was sick of always being tired and always felt like I was missing something when I woke up late on the weekends. My days would start at 10/10:30 and by the time I was actually up, had breakfast, and everything else it was already basically lunch time! I just wasn’t feeling that anymore. I guess I was having FOMO of the morning time.

Even though I’ve officially transitioned to grandma status and have a bedtime of 10PM these days, I hadn’t really stopped to realize the importance of sleep until a couple months ago when I was listening to this episode of the model health show podcast.

It was so eye-opening for me! What stuck out to me the most was when the host, Shawn Stevenson, talks about something called “social jet lag”. Basically if you’re thrown off your sleep schedule, you will constantly feel like you’re jet lagged from going on a trip, and it takes more than just one day of sleeping in to recover from it. For example, if you spend the entire week going to sleep and waking up at a certain time and then you get to the weekend and decide to sleep in until 12PM, your body will be thrown off and won’t know what’s going on.

He mentions Till Roenneberg, a professor at the Institute of Medical Psychology at Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich and a lead researcher of chronobiology. He says –

“The discrepancy between what our body clock wants us to do, and what our social clock wants us to do is what social jetlag really is. And it almost looks as if people on Friday evening fly from Paris to New York City and then back home on Monday morning.”

Here’s a piece of an interview with him where he talks about the consequences of social jet lag. It’s super interesting!

Your sleep is reduced because your signal to fall asleep comes late in the evening. So it takes longer to fall asleep, and your alarm clock goes off early the next morning. We get much less sleep during the workweek, one to two hours less than if we weren’t using alarm clocks — and that sleep debt accumulates.

Your cognitive performance is reduced greatly. Memory capacity is reduced. Social competence is reduced. Your entire performance is going to suffer. The way you make decisions is changed. Simply, if we are sleep deprived, we behave quite differently than when we sleep enough.

The problem is that we are living in a time zone that is not our own. The fact that our biological timing is so different than our social timing also affects our metabolism and immune system. We’re prone to becoming fatter — even if we eat the same amount of food — because we’re forced to eat at the wrong internal times. The chances that you develop diabetes are higher, and the chances you develop an illness you would have otherwise been able to fight off is also higher.

Read more of this interview with Roenneberg here.

I don’t know about you, but I hate the feeling of jet lag. At least if it’s from a trip it’s worth it because that means I was just on vacation. What’s the point if the only reason is that I only got 2 hours of sleep last night?

Things that can happen if your sleep quality sucks –

  • weight gain
  • acne/other skin issues
  • hair loss
  • hormonal imbalance (which can lead to a bunch of other issues)
  • premature aging
  • blood sugar imbalance (another thing that’s SUPER important for overall health!)
  • adrenal fatigue

So yeah, if you’re losing sleep time because you need to make that 5AM workout to get your dream bikini body, your little amount of sleep could be making you gain weight even though you’re crushing your workouts. That’s why whenever I end up going to bed later I just skip my workout the next day. And I don’t even feel bad about it! Because I know that getting that extra hour of sleep is going to benefit me so much more than that SWEAT leg day workout. I can always get a long walk in later in the day!

The point is – do yourself a favor and fix your sleep quality if you think your health might be suffering because of it.

Here are a few things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep –

Avoid artificial blue light

I’ve been learning a lot about how bad screens from electronics are for us, and being that I spend the entire day staring at either a computer or iphone screen because it’s my job, I want to limit it at least whenever I can.

Artificial blue light can throw our bodies out of whack and ruin how we sleep. And sleep is one of the most important things we can focus on! I really can’t stress that enough.

One thing (or two) that help avoid blue light if you really need to be using it at all are F.lux and night shift.  F.lux is an app you can download on your computer that switches the screen to an orange tint while the sun is down and back to normal when the sun is up. You can also set your phone to go into “night shift” mode automatically at specific times. I do mine from 8PM to 7AM the next morning in order to avoid the blue light. BUT, even though these things might help, having a light on in your face in general after the sun has gone down/close to bed time isn’t the best thing for our health.

Not only that, I feel like scrolling through instagram or working on a project right before bed makes me take longer to go to sleep since my mind hasn’t had time to calm down.

Avoid other forms of artificial light

If you look back at our ancestors, they didn’t always have lights like we do today. It would become dark, and they would just go to sleep. Then when the sun would come up at 5AM, they would wake up with the natural sunlight. And this would happen every day – not only during the week. They didn’t party on Friday night and wake up late and hungover the next day (or maybe they did, but the point is they had no artificial light to ruin their internal clocks). This is how our bodies were meant to work. Now, being exposed to bright lights at 10PM, causes our bodies to think it’s still daytime and it’s  harder to get into a natural sleep rhythm.

I’m obviously not saying you should go to bed at the exact time it gets dark and never turn on any lights in your house, but there are some things that could help.

Example:  you could use dimmers for the lights as you get later in the evening. That way, you have light but it’s not an intense light and your body can adjust and realize it’s closer to bed time. Another thing is getting blackout curtains in the bedroom so that no light comes in when you’re sleeping. It’s important to sleep in complete darkness to truly get a good night of sleep.

In the morning, I always open the blinds first thing to get natural light in. In general, your body responds better to natural light, so even if it’s just as bright outside as it is inside, natural light is the best option. If you work in an office where there is no natural light (like me 🙄) make sure to go outside in the sun for at least 20 minutes every day.

Develop a night routine

Other than avoiding screens, it’s also very important to develop a night time routine. This is because your body will end up associating this routine with going to sleep the longer you practice this habit. A night time routine can include taking a bath, doing your skincare routine, reading, having a cup of tea, etc. And should begin about an hour to an hour and a half before you want to go to sleep. And needless to say, this routine should not include scrolling through instagram while watching The Bachelor on Netflix and checking your email on your computer! 🙅

Take a magnesium supplement

Magnesium has helped so much with my ability to fall asleep. I take one supplement every night and sleep like a baby! I love this brand.

With all this being said, I obviously do not have a perfect sleep quality and have been feeling the consequences of that for a while. I don’t want to feel tired during the day anymore and wanted to apply these tips to myself and see what would happen.

So I decided to do a little experiment!

I went 5 days last week (Monday-Friday) shutting off all screens an hour before bed. Not every day was perfect, but in the end I think it really worked!

Here are some guidelines I set for myself –

  • Put away the phone/turn off the TV/computer sometime between 9-9:15 PM
  • Have a night routine – skincare, set clothes out for the gym the next day, take care of any quick things that needed to be done around the house
  • If I went to bed and wasn’t tired, read until I could fall asleep
  • The next day, start off with a glass of lemon water and try to eat within 90 minutes of waking up to help balance blood sugar

I took notes along the way, and here’s what happened day-by-day –

Monday night:

I didn’t have that much work to do, so the screens were out of sight by a little bit before 9PM. After I brushed my teeth and washed my face I hopped into bed and it was only 9! Snaps for Gabi! I read until about 10 and passed out. side note – I’m currently reading The Couple Next Door and loving it!

How I felt Tuesday morning:

I woke up at 6:30AM with way more energy and didn’t crash during the day, but was tired at around 7/7:30 and ready to end the day. I skipped the lemon water and didn’t get a chance to eat within 90 minutes of waking up because I worked out fasted and took longer than usual a the gym, so maybe that’s why I crashed!

Tuesday night:

In bed by 9:15 and read for only about 20 minutes because I was so tired already. I had some trouble falling asleep but at least I was in bed with no distractions to make it worse!

How I felt Wednesday morning:

Woke up 30 minutes earlier than usual (6AM) in order to get my workout in and wasn’t as energetic as the morning before but I think that’s due to the fact that it took me a while to fall asleep. I still felt way more awake than the weeks before when I would lay in bed for at least an hour on my phone before sleeping. I had a lemon water and ate half a nectarine after my workout and before my shower/protein shake ritual so that made it into the 90 minute window. Success! I didn’t crash at all that day and was wide awake the whole time!

Wednesday night:

I went out with some friends that were visiting from Rio so I wasn’t able to be in bed my my grandma bed time. I did however make an effort to not look at my phone after 9PM. The artificial lights on the street and at home aren’t the best but they’re not as bad as the blue lights! I only looked at my phone to set my alarm for the next day but didn’t spend hours on social media or texting anyone before bed. I was asleep by 11PM.

How I felt Thursday morning:

I slept in later and skipped the gym in order to get my 8 hours of sleep in. Like I mentioned before, I think it’s better to sleep in and not gym than go work out on less hours of sleep. I ended up getting my exercise in that day as a 40 minute walk during my lunch break, so things worked out perfectly! I woke up with so much energy! Even a little bit earlier than what I had set my alarm to. Lemon water – check. Eating 90 min. from waking up – check. This was easy since I had skipped the gym.

Thursday night:

Screens were off by 9:15 and I was in bed by around 10. I read for about 30 minutes and passed out!

How I felt Friday morning:

I woke up at 7, since Fridays are my work from home days and I sleep in a little later. Not tired at all and full of energy to run all my errands for the day! Lemon water – check. Balancing blood sugar by eating 90 min. from waking – check!

Final thoughts:

I felt amazing by the end of the week! I would definitely recommend everyone try going a week with no screens and see how you feel! It’s not something that can happen every single day. Life happens. We end up working late or being out and not being able to get all the sleep we need. But, it is important to make a conscious effort to have the best sleep quality possible because it’s SO IMPORTANT.

I’ll definitely stick to my grandma status and turn my phone off by 9 as much as I can!

Let me know if you guys have any tips for optimizing your sleep even more, I would love to hear them!


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Why The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Health is Sleep + Why You Should Limit Your Screen Time Before Bed | The Health Junkee

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