We all know that sleep is vital for our health. Getting rest to repair our cells and reset our hormones is crucial but getting to bed is so hard for many of my clients (and me!)
All my life, I was convinced that I was a night owl, that I didn’t need a lot of sleep. Even as a little girl, I remember lying in bed for hours when my parents and sister were fast asleep. I would roll on top of them (when we co-slept) and then from about age 6, I would write and draw in my journal. Later, I’d stay up late sneak playing tetris, altering my clothes, talking on the phone with friends, playing piano, and sometimes doing last minute homework. I would always struggle to get up before school, but didn’t feel tired throughout the day and never dozed during classes. I figured I don’t need as much sleep and am definitely more alert in the wee hours of the night.
I concluded that I must have some degree of insomnia and continued on sleeping late (as late as 3-4am) through my early 20’s. The lack of sleep started to show and I started to feel tired. I realized that getting an average of 5 hours of sleep was not enough and wished that normal “life” started later so I could get my eight hours. But I worked normal hours and was in a full time master’s program.
Since studying holistic nutrition and working with clients, I learned that there may have been other factors to my inability to fall asleep as a reasonable hour. The more I learned about the body, the more I began to understand that it’s not just how much sleep we need but when we need to sleep. However, it was still difficult for me to wind down and get to bed at a reasonable hour.
So, What is a reasonable hour? I would never feel tired around 10 and always found myself in the middle of something so I tried getting up at 5:30 and hiking for a couple of months but I just ended up sleeping even less!
Then, I learned about dimming lights in the evening. It drove my husband crazy because we both prefered daylight but I needed to “feel” sleepy. I also installed a program called “flux” on my computer which dims the backlight on my laptop monitor according to the sunset in your region. These two things really helped me to feel sleepier in the evening. But it still didn’t teach me when to go to bed….
…until I became a parent that I was introduced to the term “critical bed time”. If you are a parent you’ve seen it in your own kids. When they miss their nap or bedtime, they are more alert, more awake and want to play. I took this and applied it to all humans, not just little ones! Many of us have found things to do at night. TV, Read, Work.. and we miss our critical bedtime. So maybe, if you have a hard time falling asleep at night, you need to go bed earlier! We all need to get enough sleep at night and this study shows how DNA repair (in Zebrafish) occurs during times of sleep. And in order for your organs to rest and repair to function optimally, you need to be sleep!