“My mother told me to follow my dreams, so I took a nap.”
Sleeping facilitates a series of changes for your body. With sleep comes a process of recovery – your brain and body slow down so that your physical and mental performance can reboot for the next day and long-term future. Getting the sleep you need (i.e., seven to nine hours for adults and even more for children and teenagers) is fundamental in improving your thinking, concentration, energy levels, and mood.
Our bodies are like clocks and set their time according to our circadian rhythm – an internal biological process that regulates sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. Research in chronobiology reveals that certain organs have their own rhythm and clock. Our focus is on the liver – an organ that plays a key role in body detoxification by filtering blood to remove large toxins, secreting digestive juices to break down toxins, and maintaining hormonal regulation. When we shift our sleep pattern, we affect our liver’s metabolic clock and subject ourselves to much greater risk of developing a range of undesirable medical conditions.
Traditional Chinese medicine focus in on the body clock. These practitioners believe that our organs are vigorously repairing, growing, and detoxing old and new cells during different time intervals of our sleep. For example, the liver functions at its peak detox stage between 1 and 3 am and the lungs most actively cleanse themselves between 3 and 5 am. If we take this into account, we should by asleep by midnight so our liver can perform its optimal detox function. We should also allow ourselves to be in deep sleep by 3 am so that our lungs can remove toxins from the allergens, pollutants and smoke that we were exposed to throughout the day.
The science of getting a good night’s sleep is what we call sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is the art of having healthy sleep habits so that you can maximize the benefits of sleep and improve your overall quality of life. Below, we’ve listed 7 ways to improve your sleep hygiene and we’ve linked tools from Practice Shraddha to accompany our tips.
1. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule. Try going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day to reinforce your body’s natural circadian rhythm. To get your juices flowing in the morning and send wakefulness signals around your body, try out our Intentional Morning Flow class.
2. Creating a relaxing bedtime routine. This can involve whatever makes you feel most relaxed, whether it be soothing music, meditation, or gentle stretching. Try out Practice Shraddha’s classes for gentle stretches, such as our Restorative Yoga At The Wall class. Moreover, we have a Bedtime Body Scan class that works to physically unwind each system in the body so you can smoothly drift off into a dreamy, restorative sleep.
3. Turning off electronic devices before you go to sleep. Don’t include devices that emit blue light as part of your winding-down routine. Devices that emit blue light will keep your brain alert so ensure your phone isn’t used in the hour or two before bedtime. Keeping your phone near your bed can also disrupt your sleep – message notifications, buzzing and light can definitely interrupt the natural rhythms of your sleep cycle.
4. Exercising regularly. You only need 30 minutes of aerobic exercise per day to improve your sleep quality and overall health. Exercising outside is even better because exposure to natural light regulates your circadian clock. Practice Shraddha offers faster flows that can be done inside or outside, such as our … If you’re trying to get your movement in later in the day, we recommend classes like Yoga For Anxiety or Grounding Slow Flow because it’s best to avoid fast-paced exercise within the hour or two before your bedtime.
5. Setting up an ideal sleep environment. By “ideal”, we mean keeping your bedroom cool (optimally between 60 and 67°F), dark (using blackout curtains or an eye mask) and quiet (using a pair earplugs if you have noisy neighbours).
6. Managing stress before going to bed. To help prevent your worries from keeping you awake, we recommend our Morning Gratitude Journaling Practice to guide you in writing out your worries, to-do list for the day, and getting more in tune with your thoughts so they don’t come flooding into your head when trying to wind down. We also have a meditation and pranayama classes – such as our Root Chakra Mediation, Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, or Chandra Bhedrana Pranayama, that can be done before bed to help calm your mind.
It’s also important to note the correlation between the distinct stages of your sleep cycle and your body’s process of recovery. In your average sleep cycle, you progress through four to five sleep stages that can further be categorized into REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM sleep. Each stage of the sleep cycle has different impacts your brain and body.
Your brain activity during REM sleep is nearly identical to that of wakefulness. This helps explain why REM sleep involves your most intense, fantastical, and vivid dreams, which likely even involve elements of waking life. By contrast, non-REM dreams involve more coherent and less bizarre content.
For those who want to document or interpret their dreams, it’s time for a dreaming journal to become your new cuddle buddy. Dreams can be forgotten in the blink of an eye – you likely only remember them within the first minute of waking up. Our tip – before even sitting up in the morning, close your eyes and replay your dreams in your mind. Reach over and quickly record your dream details before forgetting them. For most people, a pen and paper on the nightstand is suffice but other people might prefer to record audio on smartphone apps.
If you haven’t done so already, start your free 7-day trial on Practice Shraddha by clicking here and start healing yourself through the magic of sleep hygiene.