Ah, Daylight Savings. When 5 PM feels like the middle of the night, you wonder how you’re going to finish all the tasks on your to-do list, and despite feeling wired, you’re bone-tired – this is when you need to rest well and restore!
As circadian beings, our body chemistry follows the light: when it gets dark, our bodies start preparing for sleep. If you were already exhausted and over-obligated, the early-darkness-induced sleepiness isn’t helping you.
But what if this year you took a different approach and allowed yourself to do less, and to use this time to rest and restore? After all – that’s what nature is doing right now. Deciduous trees have shed their leaves and drawn inward for survival as the seasons’ change – preparing for their next season of growth.
Our bodies are under tremendous amounts of stress regularly – much more than our bodies were designed to tolerate, and much more than many of us realize.
Our bodies can build the ability to handle stress by getting more rest. This is a great time of year to build a healthy rest habit.
But what am I talking about when I say “rest?”
Rest is both your sleep and your restorative or leisure activities. They are different but related.
So why rest..?
Greater mental focus, productivity, and creativity
Your brain sorts and stores information while you are sleeping. During your sleep, the brain improves your memory and helps you think more clearly while awake.
One of the benefits of balancing work with rest is that you are more creative and productive. You have a greater sense of accomplishment over time. Conversely, pushing yourself to work longer hours, skipping rest days, or not taking time during the workday for rest intervals decreases your productivity.
So if you want to accomplish more – if you want to be more focused and productive, make sure you get some rest and restore.
Improves your emotional state
When you are sleep-deprived, you tend to be more emotionally volatile. The emotional response center of the brain, the amygdala, controls our emotional responses to stimuli.
When you do not get enough sleep, the amygdala goes into overdrive, so you are much more intensely reactive.
Missing out on healthy sleep can make you more impatient, more prone to mood swings, can compromise decision-making.
Sleep deprivation also makes you much more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts.
One of the benefits of healthy rest is to have a balanced, more positive emotional state.
Who runs the day? You? Or your amygdala?
That is right: you do. So make rest a priority!
Restores your body, builds muscle, and helps maintain a healthy level of body fat
When you sleep, your pituitary releases growth hormone, which repairs your tissues. This is why sleep is so important for making progress with your workouts. Growth hormone repairs the micro-tears you inflicted on your muscles during a workout. Working out is eustress, or good stress, which is necessary for improving and growing.
Not all stress is bad, there is good stress or eustress, and there is dysfunctional stress or distress. At Strength & Shield Coaching, we transform stress into success – we overcome dysfunctional stress.
Working out is usually a good stress, but if you’re not repairing and restoring, your workout won’t have nearly as much of a positive effect.
Sleep also helps us to burn fat and to maintain a healthy weight. Growth hormone increases fat burning. Healthy sleep helps balance our appetite hormones: ghrelin and leptin.
So if you want those gainz (i.e. ideal workout recovery and to achieve or maintain a healthy level of body fat), getting a healthy rest is necessary for meeting your health and wellness goals.
Improves your immune system
Cytokines. They do some rad things.
Healthy sleep strengthens your immune – something vitally important during a pandemic – but also generally important all the time!
While you are sleeping, your immune system releases small proteins called cytokines. If sick or injured, these cytokines help your body fight off inflammation, infection, and trauma.
So if you want a strong immune system, put on some relaxing sleep music and have a good rest.
Improved brain health
Your brain detoxifies and restores itself at night. While you are sleeping, you are quite literally being brainwashed.
During sleep, your cerebrospinal fluid dramatically increases flow. There is a rapid pumping of fluid into the brain and out of the brain. It washes away toxins and the harmful waste proteins that build up between your brain cells while awake. Studies suggest that your brain shrinks to make space for this increased flow of fluid in and out of the brain.
Your brain can’t do this while you’re awake and doing things during the day. You need your brain fully functional, not smaller, and going through the rinse cycle. Plus this cleansing process takes a lot of energy that the body can’t devote while you’re awake.
This is important because the toxins and waste proteins being washed away are harmful to your brain cells. In the short term, it can make it hard to focus or be productive after a single night of sleep deprivation. In the long term sleep disorders are linked to Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other degenerative brain disorders.
Keeping your brain healthy requires getting quality sleep!
When you sleep, there are fewer demands made on your heart. Your blood pressure will drop, and your heart will be able to take a break. Sleep also causes the body to release hormones that can slow breathing and relax other muscles in the body. This process can reduce inflammation and assist with healing.
Before we go any further, what is inflammation?
Inflammation is a natural, protective biological response from the immune system that fights off harmful foreign pathogens—bacteria, viruses, toxins. It also helps heal the body from injury.
The symptoms of acute inflammation, including swelling and redness, fever and chills, pain and stiffness, and fatigue, are signs the body’s immune system is in “fight mode,” working hard to neutralize a threat.
We talk a lot about the dangers associated with inflammation. But the body’s inflammatory response is essential to our health and survival.
Problems with inflammation occur when this natural, protective response happens too often, or at the wrong times.
Chronic inflammation is also linked to the development of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer—the major chronic and life-threatening diseases of our time.
With chronic inflammation, the body’s immune system is in perpetual fight mode, which leads to chronic illness and can lead to autoimmune diseases, which occur as a result of the body triggering an inflammatory response when there is no foreign threat present.
Instead, the immune system’s pathogen-fighting cells attack the body’s healthy cells and tissues. Multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus are examples of autoimmune conditions that develop in part from an excessive, misdirected inflammatory response.
What triggers excessive, chronic inflammation?
Eating the wrong diet for your body’s unique nutritional needs, environmental toxins, and stress all increase inflammation.
Insufficient and low-quality sleep is a contributor to inflammation. Our sleep and immune systems have the same regulator: in humans, both systems are diurnal.
When you are not getting sufficient, good-quality sleep, you are increasing your inflammatory state. Even after one night of poor sleep, you have activated the pro-inflammatory process in your body.
Getting healthy sleep reduces inflammation. Whether you suffer from an inflammatory disease, have chronic pain, or feel fine and would simply like to prevent those things, getting healthy sleep is a good thing!
Improved insulin sensitivity
First of all – what does it mean to have high insulin sensitivity, or low insulin sensitivity – otherwise known as insulin resistance?
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that controls the level of sugar in the blood. Insulin sensitivity refers to how sensitive the body’s cells are to insulin – how much insulin does it take to do a thing.
High insulin sensitivity allows the cells of the body to use blood glucose more effectively, reducing blood sugar. High sensitivity means that it does not take as much insulin to produce that effect.
Low insulin sensitivity means that it takes more insulin to accomplish the same effect. Low insulin sensitivity means that the cells do not absorb as much glucose – which they need to produce energy and execute their important sub-cellular tasks, which are necessary for – ya know – all of life.
So you want high insulin sensitivity. You want it to take as little insulin as possible for your cells to absorb glucose and your blood sugar to remain steady.
High insulin sensitivity is a good thing.
Many lifestyle factors that impact insulin sensitivity – eating the right diet for your metabolic type, eating low-glycemic foods, getting regular exercise, intermittent fasting, some dietary supplements can help increase insulin sensitivity.
But since we are talking about sleep and rest – you guessed it – healthy sleep improves insulin sensitivity!
Make healthy sleep a priority. Your pancreas will thank you!
This is important because the body was not designed to be chronically stressed.
When the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis is constantly responding to a stimulus, the stress response itself dysfunctions.
Because the body is a system of systems, when the HPA axis dysfunctions, every other system in the body is vulnerable to dysfunction.
So stress reduction is important.
During sleep, your sympathetic nervous system – which controls your fight or flight response – gets a chance to relax.
When we are deprived of sleep, sympathetic nervous system activity increases, causing an increase in blood pressure and total cortisol.
Science tells us that healthy sleep is important for living well. All of our bodies need to sleep and restore. But living resting well and experiencing life from a place of being and feeling rested. It reduces our stress levels in our day-to-day lives and promotes well-being.
A combined approach of living rested well and making healthy sleep a priority reduces stress levels. Optimal is possible!
Why don’t we rest?
Why are we even talking about rest in the first place?
Overcoming the effects that chronic and dysfunctional stress has had on our health is why we’re here. Stress will make you sick.
Stress can be either external or internal. You can find external stress from a job that doesn’t fit you, a relationship that drains you, or even a global pandemic. Internal stress can be caused by a food sensitivity or bacterial overgrowth in your gut. Because internal stressors are HIDDEN – Hormone, Immune, Digestion, Detoxification, Energy metabolism, or Neurological (see what I did there?!) – they can be harder to identify, but are no less – well – stressful.
Both external and internal sources of stress cause a physiological stress response. When that stress response is chronic, the stress-response-system starts to break down. The body is a system of systems. When that system malfunctions, it can cause issues with all of the other systems.
BUT! We can take steps to build our capacity to adapt to stress!! BOOM!
By eating right, getting rest, exercising and moving our bodies, supplementing, and deliberately reducing stress in our lives, we can better equip ourselves to manage stress!
Here is the thing, though – we already know that.
We know that stress makes you sick. And we know that sleep is good for us.
…but we still do not make rest a priority.
Why? Why don’t we make sleep a priority, but also, why don’t we make hobbies and restorative activities part of our lives?
Misplaced sense of worth
One potential reason is that you may have a misplaced sense of self-worth.
When you perceive, whether consciously or subconsciously, that your value comes from what you produce or what you achieve, or how hard you work, you are not going to let yourself rest and restore.
If you do not let yourself rest and constantly push yourself to do more in a day than is reasonable to expect, then I encourage you to consider the deeper reasons why that might be the case. It may be that you perceive that your value comes from your work. It may be that you perceive that your value comes from your work.
This is false. This is a lie of the enemy, supported by our culture that tells you that you have to always-do-more.
Your value is not something that you have to earn.
Your value is innate, and your value comes from being a child of God. You were created, fearfully and wonderfully made, spiritually gifted, and unconditionally loved.
When you truly know where your value comes from – when you know how loved you are – when you know that your value comes not from what you do but from who you are – and whose you are – you will permit yourself to rest. We know that stress makes you sick. And we know that sleep is good for us.
Lack of boundaries
There are myriad reasons why you may lack healthy boundaries, but one potential reason is that you believe that love is transactional. What I mean by this is that love – or approval – or acceptance and sense of belonging – that these are things that you can earn by doing things for others, by over-obligating. Or by saying yes when you want to say no.
Fear of not being included, fear of not being approved of, fear of not being liked – fear can drive us to fill our calendars with things that don’t fill our cups. And when all you do is pour out, that emptiness turns into resentment and anger. Rarely does our over-obligating earn us the love, approval, belonging, acceptance, or other positive outcomes that we thought it would.
Time is zero-sum. If your calendar is full because you lack boundaries, then you are likely chronically stressed.
Plus, your already-full calendar is likely, not full of restorative activities, and, likely, that you are also sleep-deprived because you’re trying to do too much and emotionally drained. After all, you spend time doing things that you do not want to be doing.
A lack of boundaries based on the assumption that a positive outcome can be earned leads to a life that is not just too busy, over-obligated, and sleep-deprived but also leads to a life devoid of peace.
If a lack of boundaries is the reason you don’t rest and don’t get healthy sleep, it may be time to consider why you do what you do, and what activities are truly aligned with who you are and what you want so that you can let your yes be yes, and your no be no.
Lack of commitment or discipline/distractions
There may be things during the day that are wasting productive time, and because you are not getting after it during the day, you are running behind in the evenings and need to catch up, which pushes your bedtime back.
Especially if it is not your current habit, it takes discipline to start getting ready for bed at 9 PM.
There are so many distractions and pulls on our attention – from tv shows to social media and other apps on our phones. Looking at Pinterest or Instagram before bed is dangerous – you look up, and 45 minutes have passed in the blink of an eye.
Whatever it looks like for you – identify your distractions – identify the things that keep you from enjoying truly restorative activities.
Identify your distractions, the ones during your day and the ones in the evening that keep you from having a healthy bedtime routine.
Establishing habits around healthy restorative activities and a healthy bedtime routine take commitment and discipline.
By the way – anything electronic is not fully physiologically restorative – so if you are taking a break from working by scrolling social media, your brain is not resting. If you are relaxing at night by watching a movie, you are not fully resting.
Because of the electromagnetic waves and because of the blue light, those are not restorative activities in the same way that taking a walk, or going hiking, or working in a garden, or reading a book, or exercising, or socializing with friends, or getting a massage are restorative activities.
You are too necessary
Have you perhaps made yourself too necessary? Do you feel like you are failing your people if you take a break? Do you catch yourself apologizing if your response to a text or email was not immediate, even if the initial message wasn’t urgent?
This might be for you, then.
We know that rest is super good for us, yet we still don’t do it.
One potential reason for this is that you have elevated being responsive over being restored. You feel like you are so necessary that if you took a break or if you were not available and responsive, you would let people down.
Recently, I have noticed examples in scripture where Jesus withdraws to spend time with the Father. He wants to spend time in prayer and have restorative time. He just leaves! Peace, out!
Here we have the Savior of the world – a pretty necessary dude – and yet even He withdraws when he needs to withdraw so that he can restore, pray, and spend time with the Father. And he does so without worrying about being available or responsive.
He’s not worried about the emails waiting for Him or the texts that need to be answered!
Certainly, there are situations in which we need to be responsive and available – like for our children and families, and in certain professional situations.
But for most of us, most of the time, we have created a context in which we have misperceived how necessary we are, we don’t have appropriate boundaries relative to what is important and urgent, or important but not urgent…or just not important!
If you relate to this, consider shifting your perspective to make living well a priority. You can bring your best energy and consider making the quality of your energy more important than the speed of your response, instead of letting someone else drive your work-rest cycle.
Being available is not more important than being healthy.
Rest when you need rest.
Mental models/subconscious programming
Another potential reason is that we have a mental model – or some subconscious programming – that drives our behavior around rest.
A mental model is a subconscious belief that is part of our operating system, it is how we are wired, and it is how we see the world.
I have a friend who is also a business owner who has told me multiple times, as an entrepreneur, if you are not at some point up at 3 AM dry-heaving because you are so stressed about the success of your business, you are not doing it right.
That is his mental model. He believes that struggle is required – stress and struggle are part of the process of business ownership.
Maybe you have a mental model that you have to earn rest – that you can only rest when you deserve it, the way you deserve it is by doing a task. So you can not rest until you have done the task.
What you may be missing because of this mental model is that rest helps you complete the task. You are more likely to do the thing successfully when you balance works with rest.
One of the major epiphanies I have experienced in my life is when I realized that I believed that stress was the price I had to pay to achieve what I wanted or create the outcome I was seeking.
My mental model was that I had to suffer.
Relationships were supposed to be challenging – they required me to say yes when I wanted to say no. Motherhood was supposed to be heartbreaking and exhausting. Work was supposed to be stressful and miserable.
Subconsciously, I believed that to get any outcome I was seeking, the price I had to pay was everything on the spectrum from mildly irritating to full-on violating.
When I became aware of this false mental model that drove my decisions and my behavior, it was a turning point for me.
I encourage you to look closely at your patterns of behavior.
Observe what you say to others and what you say to yourself.
If you believe things like, “no pain, no gain,” or that “sleep is a crutch,” you may have a mental model that is keeping you from living rested and may be harming your health.
How to get good rest?
We’ve talked about the benefits of rest, and we’ve talked about what might be keeping you from living rested – now I want to share HOW to get good rest.
Eat IAW MT
Nutrition is a critical factor in your sleep.
Here is the thing, if you are not eating according to your body’s specific and unique nutritional needs, then you will have low energy regardless of how much sleep or rest you get. Don’t confuse the low energy that comes from eating wrong for your metabolic type with the low energy that comes from needing sleep. If you are eating according to your metabolic type, you will have energy, and you will also be able to sleep deeply.
By adhering to a nutritional protocol aligned with your metabolic type, wherein you have eliminated stress-inducers like artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, food dyes, and high fructose corn syrup, you will dramatically improve your ability to fall asleep, sleep well, and live rested. Besides, you are limiting stress-inducers like sugar, alcohol, and caffeine.
Let me give you a quick example of how nutrition affects your sleep.
When you consume refined sugars, your pancreas produces the hormone insulin, which breaks down the sugar into energy that can be used by your cells. Refined sugar induces a strong insulin response, which “burns” the sugar quickly, causing a quick sugar high followed by a sugar crash.
This low-blood sugar or hypoglycemic state is a stressor that prompts a physiological stress response and cortisol production.
Also, this process leads to sugar cravings, which may cause you to repeat the cycle: sugar consumption, insulin release, hypoglycemia, cortisol release, sugar craving.
Repetition of the same cycle subjects the body to chronic stress, which can have devastating long-term health effects.
Since we are talking about sleep here, let’s back up and talk about cortisol again. The purpose of cortisol in the body is to enable you to best deal with a stress event, like being chased by a grizzly bear.
One of the ways cortisol helps you deal with stress is by increasing alertness and heart rate. When your blood sugar level drops while you are sleeping, your body perceives that as a threat, as if the same bear is chasing you.
You can’t run away from a grizzly bear while you’re sleeping, so your body will wake you up.
If you spend the day in the aforementioned sugar cycle or eat sweets late in the evening hypoglycemia and subsequent cortisol production will make it difficult to get quality sleep.
Eating according to your metabolic type and avoiding foods that are stressful for your body is critical for getting healthy sleep!
Pre-bedtime routine for optimal rest
We are diurnal beings – biochemically we are designed to sleep at night and be awake during the day. This means if it is dark, your body wants to sleep and restore.
If you have noticed that you are sleepier during the winter months, that could be because it is darker, earlier.
A healthy pre-bedtime routine includes a commitment to going to bed by 10 PM.
One hour before you plan on going to bed, at 9 PM at the latest, turn off all of your devices and begin preparing your body for sleep. This means no TV, no phone, no computer – no screens.
Do something that relaxes you, such as praying, reading a book for leisure, or taking a warm bath.
Over time, your mind will recognize the pre-sleep pattern from your routine. By establishing a habitual pre-bedtime routine, you’ll help yourself fall asleep faster.
Optimal sleep is possible when you have a healthy, habitual pre-bedtime routine.
What this means is that you have set the conditions for deep, healthy sleep.
Here are five ways in which you can set the conditions for healthy sleep:
1 – Establish a healthy pre-bedtime routine. Go back and check out last Thursday’s Healthy Half-Minute!
2 – Your bed is for two things, and one of them is sleeping. It’s not for reading a book, it’s not for watching TV – if you want healthy sleep you should not have a tv in your bedroom. This is a fact. When you use your bed for alertness-inducing things like watching tv, this confuses your body about what it should be doing in bed. With one notable exception you want your body to know that if it is in bed, it’s there to sleep.
3 – There should be no light in your room. Get light-blocking curtains. And unless it is necessary because you have small children, put away the night light.
4 – The ambient temperature in your sleeping space should be 68 degrees or less. Play with this a little bit – colder is typically better for deep sleep, but only to a point, and you still have to balance it with how much you want to pay for air conditioning during hot summer months. If your A/C bill will cause you sleep-depriving stress, keep the temp at 70! Balance is important.
5 – Minimize sleep interruptions as much as possible. If your cat wakes you up through the night, maybe it is time to consider whether your cat needs to be permitted in your room while you are trying to sleep. I understand that there are factors outside your control, you’re not going to turn your child away if he or she wakens you through the night – but decrease sleep interruptions as much as possible.
Setting the conditions for healthy, quality sleep is so important! Optimal is possible. Optimal sleep is even more possible when you set yourself up for sleep success.
Rest Insider Info!
If you want to sleep well, you need to BE WELL.
Being well means you are showing up in your life as your best, most energetic, healthiest, and most authentic self.
Transforming into your best, healthiest self requires four ingredients: information, investigation, coaching, and community.
If you have sleep issues and you are in one of my coaching programs the specific way you struggle with sleep helps me with my investigation.
As a health detective, I am looking for clues. I am an investigator, looking for cause and effect. Your symptoms give me clues as to what your root cause issues could be. I want to share some of these clues with you – insider info right here.
If you have trouble falling asleep, that could be a pathogen. Pathogens are most active in the evening and at night. Their increased activity is an internal stressor that causes a physiological stress response, including cortisol release, which keeps you from falling asleep.
Now, if you are falling asleep just fine, that does not mean that you do not have a pathogen. But if you have trouble falling asleep, that is a clue that you might have a gut pathogen.
If you are waking up between 2 AM and 4 AM, that could be a couple of things. It could be sugar or metabolism like I described in a previous healthy half-minute. It could also be related to hormone imbalance or a detoxification issue.
In eastern medicine, between 2 AM and 3 AM is considered “liver time.” If your toxic load exceeds your body’s filtration and detoxification capacity, that could be waking you up.
If you generally feel tired and fatigued all of the time, it could be leaky gut or damaged gut lining, both of which decrease nutrient absorption. Lethargy and all-the-time fatigue can also be caused by food sensitivities or dysfunction of the HPA axis – the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis – caused by chronic stress of any kind.
If you get your best sleep in the morning – like, between 6 AM and 9 AM – that points to a potential neural health issue, which can also be caused by chronic stress.
If you’re having any kind of trouble sleeping – falling asleep or staying asleep – that points generally to gut dysfunction since melatonin, the sleep chemical, is made in the gut.
Transformation requires four ingredients: information, investigation, coaching, and community.
When we investigate and discover what factors are keeping you from sleeping well: we can start the process of transforming sleep stress into sleep success.
With investigation, optimal is possible.
Book your Connection Call today to see which program is the right fit for you!
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