Sleep is very precious to me...as in, I don't play about it. I don't let anybody shame me about getting too much of it. And I've found that it's very underrated. Between caffeine and crazy alarms, you might be able to get up and function but are you "sleeping" on the benefits of sleep? If you aren't getting enough rest, you're truly undermining yourself. If you feel like you're killing it on a few hours a night, just imagine what you could do if you were well rested. Because I love us for real, I want you to harness the power of rest in your life. Wondering why you should sleep more and how to go about it? Start scrolling, sis.
What are the Benefits of Sleep?
- Your skin and hair flourish. Extra blood flows to our skin during sleep, resulting in everything from a glowing complexion to healthier hair. Collagen production also happens during sleep and an inadequate amount of rest cuts that production time short. Collagen is a building block for healthy hair, skin, and nails. We want more of it. Studies have shown that fewer than six hours of sleep per night can lead to more fine lines. Not cute.
- You're more alert. I'm sure we've all experienced the fog that results from a late night plus an early morning. From driving to reviewing a report for work, or typing in the right group chat, we can all benefit from better focus and mental clarity aka being alert and present. Sleepiness behind the wheel causes more accidents annually than intoxication! A good night's sleep will help ensure you're alert and attentive throughout the day.
- You stress less. Healthy amounts of sleep are proven to lower your stress levels. We all know that stress is a killer so why not do something simple to decrease it? If you want to truly be #unbothered, go to bed on time.
- Your immune system is stronger. I rarely get sick and when I do, my body gets the germs out of there in just a few days, at the most. I don't know if that is related to my stellar sleep habits but studies have shown that people who don't get adequate sleep are more likely to get sick when exposed to viruses.
- Your memory is improved. I think one of the reasons sleep is underrated is because it seems like a passive activity--like we aren't really getting anything done while snoozing. And while we aren't checking things off our to-do list while asleep, our minds are actually quite active and some of the brain processes that occur during sleep help us cement learning and commit things we've recently learned to memory.
Obviously, we can't always get a full eight hours for many reasons. Conventional wisdom says that healthy adults need between seven and nine hours per night to be at our best but that isn't always realistic. I am all for hard work and definitely have times that are hyper busy. I'm not above pushing back bedtime in order to meet a deadline (self-imposed or otherwise), finish a good book, or binge on Netflix. But these are exceptions to my normal routine because I have seen firsthand the power of healthy sleep habits in my own life. What I've listed above makes up just a fraction of the benefits linked to getting adequate sleep hours.
How to Get Better Sleep
Prioritizing sleep is something that has come naturally to me since childhood and my body won't really let me do too much when I'm running low. I learned during college that trying to study while drowsy is a pointless effort. Workouts are less effective. Trust me, I stumbled my way through a strength and conditioning class last Saturday morning after a late Friday night. Felt super foolish afterward. And trying to pay attention during business meetings on zero sleep is a big waste of time. So I've learned to listen to my body. I've also picked up some practices that set me up for success in this arena. Here they are.
- Stop eating at least a couple of hours before bedtime. Our bodies engage in so many restorative processes during sleep and, if you add digesting food to the mix, energy is diverted from things like collagen creation, skin repair, and hair growth. It's called beauty rest for a reason! My mom used to joke that I would look like a teenager forever because I wouldn't let anything stop me from getting sleep. Between my oily, melanin-rich skin and a strong sleep game, I don't plan on cracking any time soon. 🙂
- Unplug from electronics an hour before bed. This includes your phone, tablet, laptop, and TV...even your Apple watch, girl. The blue light emitted by these screens suppresses melatonin, which can negatively impact our quality of rest and make it harder to fall asleep. Unplugging sends a signal to your body that it's time to rest.
- Establish a bedtime routine. Nightly skincare (linked some faves below), a hot shower, quiet time, and reading are all good things to include in your bedtime routine. Do whatever works for you but get into the habit of doing it regularly. You will begin to associate the routine with sleep and slip into that mode more easily.
- Invest in quality bedding. Clean and crisp sheets, a fluffy comforter, firm memory-foam mattress, and satin pillowcases are my mainstays. I also use a satin sleep mask for naps or when daylight savings time makes it really bright too damn early in the morning. Blackout curtains would accomplish the same thing. I've been reading and hearing good things about weighted blankets, especially for those who deal with anxiety, and am thinking of buying one.
- Set a bedtime alarm. Just like you set an alert to get you up in the morning, set one to let you know it's time to stop what you're doing and get ready for rest. If you have the bedtime feature activated on your iPhone, you can set a reminder for 30 minutes, an hour, etc. before the bedtime you've set based on how many hours you want to get.
- Workout. One of the many benefits associated with getting active is better sleep. Have you ever had a particularly tough workout and just know you're going to sleep well that night? It's a real thing. I tend to workout in the evenings and following up a good sweat with a nice, hot shower knocks me right out!
- Limit caffeine intake. Full disclosure, I don't drink coffee or soda so this isn't a struggle for me at all. For those of you who start the day with a cup of Joe, I'm not trying to threaten your morning routine. 🙂 Just keep it in the AM. Limiting caffeine to the morning will ensure it is out of your system by bedtime, which prevents it from interfering with your sleep. Here's my hot evening drink of choice that I totally recommend you try.
- Try white noise. I traveled to Belize a few years ago and stayed in a house just yards from the ocean. I loved hearing the sound of waves crashing as I fell asleep and woke up. Since then, I've used a free white noise app to play a variety of sounds depending on what I'm feeling. You know that good sleep you get when it rains overnight? Try this for a little bit of that! I also linked a standalone white noise machine below.
- Ask. When I say my daily prayers, I ask for restful, restorative sleep and peaceful dreams. God is concerned with every detail of our lives--from big to small. From reading here, I hope you've realized that sleep isn't such a small detail.
I hope you get a wonderful night's sleep tonight. What healthy habits already help you sleep well? As always, thanks for reading!