Conclusion: You can be doing everything else right (healthy diet, adequate exercise, follow the Golden Rule, etc…), but without enough of the right kind of sleep, you can be thrown completely out of whack physically, emotionally, and mentally. Following these 5 rules as closely as possible could turn your whole beddy-bye world right-side up.
Now… if you don’t want to just take my word for it, you can read everything that usually comes before the conclusion:
If you can’t seem to get rid of your love handles and feel overwhelmed, depressed, and stressed out despite following the Paleo Diet religiously and never missing your 7am workout, it’s time to examine your sleep patterns.
What would make you answer “Yes” to this question: “Did you sleep well?”
You probably would have to wake up feeling rested, and have slept through the night (or day, for you shift-workers). Laying in bed for an hour or two tossing and turning, having nightmares, or being constantly interrupted from your shitty slumber would probably result in a big, fat “NO.”
To some of us, getting good sleep is an unattainable treasure. To others, it is simply taken for granted.
As mentioned on the lifestyle main page, two of the most important choices that affect your quality of life are diet and exercise. Start there if you haven’t already. Eating the right things, getting in some physical activity, or both might be your ticket to good sleep.
Stress is the main culprit behind most people’s sleep problems. When your body senses stress, cortisol is released. The cortisol goes and has a chat with your liver and convinces this essential organ to release stored energy, thinking that you’re being hunted by aliens, or something. Not only does cortisol release stored energy which anyone can figure out might impair sleep, but it also causes grey matter to die. That’s right, it kills your brain and prevents new memories from forming! If you don’t decrease the stress in your life, you won’t sleep, you’ll get chubby, fussy, and senile. Use common sense to let go of some things that will create large amounts stress in the future. You don’t need the Ferrari with a 10 year lease, or the financial stress associated with it.
In addition to reducing stress in your life, here are some tips to getting the “right kind” of sleep:
- GO TO SLEEP AT NIGHT WHEN YOU ARE TIRED, avoid catching a “second wind.”
- Sleep in COMPLETE DARKNESS.
- Turn off your alarm (don’t argue yet, I’ve tried it).
- Try to sleep when it’s dark outside (don’t worry if this is impossible due to your job, there are ways to fudge this).
- Cut the salt out of your diet.
After trying these five things for a couple of days, you should wake up naturally after approximately 7 to 9 hours of sleep feeling rested and energized (and most likely, happy!).
Need elaboration? Ok, fine.
- Most of us have heard this from Mummy or Dada since we can remember… if you push past the point where you are naturally tired, it becomes much more difficult to go to sleep. The chemistry of this is discussed in Robb Wolf’s book, The Paleo Solution, so I’ll let you find it there if you are curious about why this is. If you can make yourself stop everything you’re doing and go to sleep when that “whoa, Nelly, I’m tired” wave hits you for a couple of nights in a row, you will find that…
- Waking up without your three alarms is not only possible but quite enjoyable. Try this first when you don’t have many obligations that night or the following morning. This way, you will not feel stressed about the possibility of oversleeping- that stress will wake your body up and make the whole process difficult and frustrating. (We know those were out-of-order, but it made everything flow, so let it go, O-C-D Olga.)
- This means getting good curtains that block out any light from outside your windows, shoving a t-shirt under your door to block out the hall light, covering up your idling computer light, the standby light on your cable box, internet modem, router, glowing clocks, and any other charging electronics.
- Before the world at night became a technological light show, Homo sapiens (again, that’s us) synchronized their sleep schedule with the Sun. Our ancestors were early to bed, an early to rise by any modern-man’s standards, and arguably felt a heck of a lot better than you do (don’t take it personally, just trying to make a point). If your job requires a nocturnal lifestyle, just do your best to obtain complete darkness when you do go to sleep.
- Salt impares sleep, not to mention increases your risk of kidney stones, stomach cancer, and having a stroke! This means more than throwing away your salt shaker; this means avoiding foods like deli meat, bacon, and bread that have naturally high salt content.
If you need some help falling asleep or switching around your sleep schedule, try Deep Sleep. It’s an all natural sleep aid – it doesn’t knock you out (well, at least not me) like Tylenol PM, but if taken consistently and at the same time every night, you should find yourself tired when it’s time to go to sleep and able to sleep soundly until it’s time to rise.
If you have to wake up to an alarm, try to train yourself to wake up to more soothing, natural sounds (you know, like birds chirping, ocean waves, sizzling bacon….). If the first thing you do in the morning is scare your body, your system thinks it’s being chased by a bear and goes into Fight or Flight mode. And for some it can be nearly impossible to turn that off. NOT a good way to start a day.
Keep an eye on our Blog for more on sleep
References: The Paleo Solution: Chapter 8, by Robb Wolf; The Paleo Diet: p. 90, by Loren Cordain