Sleep is an integral part of our overall well-being — you’ll experience impaired judgment, age faster, become less creative, and throw your hormones out of balance when not getting enough quality sleep. This makes it very difficult to perform at your best, whether that is in the gym or in the board room! While you may think of sleep as a passive activity that happens when we’re in the absence of other things, we encourage you to start sleeping like a boss by becoming an active participant in sleep. The Stark team had the opportunity to chat with Christine Hansen, sleep expert and author of Sleep Like A Boss: The Guide to Sleep for Busy Bosses, to discuss how to get better sleep.
Sleep Like A Boss
There Are Different Pieces to the Puzzle
Sleep is only one piece of the puzzle. Most people with sleeping problems are prescribed sleeping pills, but that doesn’t get to the root of the issue. If you have trouble sleeping, the chances are that you have emotional and biochemical issues co-occurring.
Hansen says, “A lot of the time in my really chronic insomniacs, there is an infection in other parts of the body. Hormones are out of balance very often. We have infection or inflammation about 90% of the time. Those are things that you don’t connect with immediately. If you don’t know, you’d never think that sleep has anything to do with your stomach. Those two things are very far apart. Why would sleep — which we connect with closing our eyes and our head — have anything to do with what you eat, what is going on in your stomach, or even the way you poop?”
Turn the Brain off With a Nightly Routine
How do you prepare for sleep? If you have trouble winding down before bed, Hanen suggests implementing a nightly routine to create a pattern for the brain. You can set a timer to go off approximately one hour before bedtime. You should do whatever makes you feel relaxed — like a quick meditation, washing your face, journaling, or reading. The best way to optimize this nightly routine is to do every step in the same order. If you do this nightly routine the same way every day, your brain will recognize that it’s winding down to go to bed, and you’ll fall asleep faster.
Get Your Body in Balance
Even if your mind is prepared for sleep, your biochemistry could work against you. It’s necessary to balance your body so you can sleep like a boss! Gut health is one of the most significant contributing factors to sleep issues. People who drink soda, eat processed foods, or consume high amounts of sugar will likely have trouble sleeping due to unstable blood sugar levels. You should ensure you’re eating whole foods and maintaining a healthy, balanced diet to avoid blood sugar spikes.
Do you find yourself waking up between two to three in the morning? If that’s the case, you likely have gut inflammation from bacteria or parasites. Since bacteria and parasites are the most active at night, cortisol will kick in to provide anti-inflammatory properties. The battle in your gut will feel unsettling and wake you up!
If you’re looking to start cultivating a healthy gut tract immediately, you should aim to balance the bacteria inside your gut. We need bacteria in our gut — but too little or too much can be harmful! You can take probiotics and eat whole foods to balance your gut and promote gut health. If you’re experiencing consistent gut health issues, Hansen recommends doing a food sensitivity test, and removing those inflammatory foods from your diet. Sound familiar? This is also something Stark’s NMDs recommend to every student as well!
Here’s the thing: you’ll need to find the balance between emotions and biochemistry to truly sleep like a boss. It’s a double-edged sword. If you’re experiencing emotional stress, you won’t be able to sleep properly. When your gut is not functioning properly, you’ll have a harder time dealing with emotions. You should work to simultaneously deal with emotional stressors and biochemical stressors to get your body back in balance and sleep better.