It’s apropos that I’m flying to Kilimanjaro and while catching up on some reading, I come across an article in my UCLA Alumni magazine about sleep and how important it is.
One of the first things mentioned is, if you’ve ever done some international travel, you know what it’s like to have jet lag. Ugh! I sure do. I’ve had more than 7 years of traveling across the world. I’m not a frequent business traveling, but I do some far off trips and when I go away, I’m usually ok. I think it’s the excitement of being in a new place, but upon my return I’m just about useless, you can ask my wife.
But jet lag is only one reason people don’t sleep very well. There are a load of other reasons as well. It’s often touted that technology is a factor and while it does contribute to the distractions in our life, people who lived hundreds of years ago, didn’t have technology, or currently live in primitive places and lack the onslaught of blue light, have shown they too sleep on average less than 7 hours a night. The study also showed that people in such places stayed up an average of 3 hours after dark.
So if it’s not technology, what is it, you ask? Alon Avidan, a neurologist who directs the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center, believes, in part, it’s because we’ve become conditioned to think a good night sleep is a luxury and not a requirement or necessity of health and well being.
Avidan points out the detriments to lack of sleep including memory and cognitive difficulties to depression, cardiovascular problems, and diabetes. I know, I too thought diabetes, at least, was all about blood sugar and food intake, but it turns out your immune system is compromised from lack of sleep which can lead to all sorts of issues.
Insomnia affects about one third of the US adult population. Avidan gives a few pointers for those of us lacking a good night sleep. he says that the first thing it to make sure you don’t see sleep as a luxury, that it needs to be a regular part of your routine.
He recommends going to bed at the same time each night, maximized your light exposure in the morning and avoiding blue and artificial light, as much as possible, in the evening. He’s also a proponent of regular meal times and regular exercise times. I know for me, when I’m in a rhythm, I definitely feel better and perform better.
While traveling across the world, make sure you give yourself a few days to adjust.
Caffeine, anti-depressants, and other stimulants should be limited or completely taken away. The earlier in the day you stop taking in caffeine, the better.
Don’t spend too much time awake in bed. Unless it’s for reading a real book that isn’t too stimulating, but definitely avoid electronics right before bed.
Take time to wind down. Give up the afternoon caffeine, make sure you limit other excitement and stimuli in the later afternoons.
Avidan recommends a hot shower a few hours before bed, it will help you relax.
I’ve found meditation is also a great way to allow my mind to wind down where it needs to, spin itself out, then allow me to relax before I turn the light out for the night.
Once you’ve gotten yourself ready for a good night sleep you can also help yourself to avoid waking up during the night. Again, late night caffeine and even too much water will cause the urinary system to wake you up.
Avoid heavy meals if you can, also avoid getting too hungry before bed. If you need a late night snack, make it nuts as opposed to sweets and sugary items.
Do what you can and you’ll begin to see vast improvements in your sleep health plus the rest of your day will become more energetic. So stop buying in to the fact that you have to be doing something every moment of the day and give yourself some sleep.
Originally posted on the author’s website.