By Coach Jon
Sleep is critical to health, happiness and productivity. I don't think any health professional would disagree with that! However "go and sleep more" doesn't really work well for many people.
What is optimal? 7-9 hours straight with no interruptions, no waking up to pee, no trouble falling asleep (out within a couple of minutes of lying down) and waking up with high morning energy ready and excited to face the day. These are signs of good and restful sleep.
If you are not getting great sleep, you increase the risk of developing all kinds of problems, including increased speed of aging, heart disease, inflammation, and cancer.
Many important immune system, detoxification, and hormonal functions happen when we sleep. That would be the subject of an entire book so its out of the scope of this post to describe.
But, certainly, if you are not detoxifying, not producing the right amounts of the right hormones and weakening your immune function, things do not look good for long-term health.
So what can you do about it?
The good news is that many of the things you can do to improve your sleep are cheap and effective. Here are some of the tips I give my clients to improve sleep without resorting to sleeping pills and other relaxant drugs with their negative effects.
1. Get a pair of ear plugs and eye mask. We are designed to sleep in a quiet and dark environment. But in a city like Singapore, this is extremely unlikely unless you live in a bungalow with a large garden around it, off the main road, with quiet neighbors and dark curtains in your room. So the chances of that are slim to none. Get these simple and cheap sleeping aids.
2. Get your sleep hygiene in order. Just like you clean your teeth and your body, you need to clean up your sleep for good health. Turn off the wi-fi router in your room. No laptops, no cell-phones, no TV, no lights. We all have a different tolerance to electromagnetic stress, but it certainly affects us negatively.
"Oh but my cell phone is my alarm..." well get a $5 battery-operated alarm clock.
3. Support your sleep nutritionally. The first and most important supplement is magnesium. Everybody is deficient in this mineral. It used to be in our foods, but with most of our foods produced with artificial fertilizers, it is no longer found there. Take up to 2g for men, and 1.2g for women. Make sure the magnesium is a good quality brand to avoid loose stools.
4. Add melatonin. Many people use this as the no.1 option. But I don't reccomend it. The reason is that it is looses effectiveness over time. So use it only when you really can't sleep, or when you are recovering from jet lag.
There are more customised options that we give to our personal training clients, but these steps should help many of you achieve better sleep and health.