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The Night Owl’s Guide to Better Sleep

The Night Owl’s Guide to Better Sleep

If you love the night, you are not alone. Studies show that up to 20% of people are night owls, and for many of us, these tendencies even have genetic roots.

Evening people are those who prefer to go to bed well after midnight, and prefer to wake closer to noon when given the opportunity. These habits are most prevalent amongst adolescents due to temporary hormonal changes, but genetic research has also found distinct early and late genotypes related to circadian rhythm timing. If you are a genetic night owl, waking up early truly may not come easy.

For lifelong night owls, bad sleep habits can have real implications for health and happiness, making awareness important. Many healthy sleep and self-help articles tout the benefits of being an early riser. But, it is entirely possible to be a well-rested, healthy, and happy night owl by incorporating good sleep habits into your routine.

Here are a few ways night owls can have their late evenings and stay well-rested, too.

1. Make sure you are getting enough hours in dreamland

The main reason night owl-ism is often touted as unhealthy is that many owls find themselves staying up late while also trying to wake up early, leading to chronic sleep deprivation. It is tempting to think you can just catch up on weekends, but this is really not how our bodies work.

The average person needs at least seven hours of sleep to avoid fatigue. Teens may need up to 10 hours, and very active adults may also need more rest. Think about days when you are well-rested and have no morning obligations. How many hours do you usually sleep? What amount of rest makes you feel your best mentally and physically?

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If you are not getting enough rest, sleeping earlier is always an option. However, if you don’t plan on changing your sleep habits, then try to schedule classes later or pursue a career with flexible or later hours if possible. Short naps are another option for catching up on rest, provided you nap wisely.

2. Keep a regular schedule

Night owl personalities are often attracted to novelty and spontaneity. This novelty-seeking tendency may make owls more prone to keeping irregular hours while avoiding “ordinary” schedules and bed times like the plague.

However, studies have shown that regular sleep and wake times are beneficial for our bodies and help prevent sleep issues such as insomnia. Irregular hours and insufficient sleep may even play a role in body weight, adding yet another reason.

Think about your day-to-day schedule. When do you have to wake up to get to work or school on time? Work backwards by at least eight hours, and that is the time you need to start getting ready for bed at night. Remember, it takes awhile to get ready for bed and wind down once in bed, so give yourself ample time.

Even on the weekends or your days off, try not to delay this pattern by more than an hour.

3. Learn how to shut down

Night owls are more likely to struggle with insomnia than early birds. Learning how to destress, tune out and set boundaries can be helpful for keeping sleep on track.

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Whether you struggle with a racing mind or just have difficulty getting the sleep zone, there are several relaxation techniques studies have found helpful for reducing stress and insomnia. A few suggested by the Mayo Clinic included visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic relaxation, meditation, deep breathing and music relaxation.

Other ideas include setting distinct email/work/texting boundaries so you aren’t bothered or stressed out before bed, establishing a consistent pre-bed routine, using positive reframing and gratitude to overcome negative thoughts, and dimming lights in the evening. Taking a warm bath one to two hours before bed may also help, as the temperature drop from warm to cool promotes drowsiness

Try practicing a couple to see what works for you. Most techniques can be practiced at home, and there are also dozens of apps and online videos to guide you as well.

4. Make your bedroom sleep-friendly

Electronics like TV, games, laptops and phones can mean less time for sleep, especially for those prone to distraction. Keep the TV in the living room, and don’t work or play games in bed. Burn the midnight oil in a place other than your bedroom, and use your mattress only for sleep.

Other factors to consider include keeping your room as dark as possible at night to aid melatonin release, keeping temperatures cool, and making sure bedding and mattresses are in good shape. If you notice anything in particular that distracts from sleep or steals your attention, try to remove it from your sleep environment.

5. Mind your diet

Night owls are more likely to be overweight. This is likely a combination of sleep deprivation side effects and all of those extra midnight nibbles. If you are awake for an extra few hours, you can consume considerably more calories which add up over time.

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Be conscious of late-night snacking to avoid this. Keeping late meals light is also wise, as heavy meals and fatty foods can cause indigestion and disrupt rest. Healthier, sleep-supporting foods to munch on at night include fresh veggies like carrots, celery and greens, fruits like bananas and berries, lean protein like turkey or chicken, nuts like almonds and walnuts, and healthy carbs like whole grain breads or crackers.

Three other stealers of shut-eye include caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Limit caffeine at least six hours before you plan on sleeping, and institute last call on alcohol and smokes a couple of hours before bed as well. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day as well!

6. Try not to workout too late

Many night owls feel their energy peak in the evening, but working out too close to bed can leave you wired. Try to plan strenuous cardio and weight workouts at least a few hours before you want to sleep. This gives your body enough time to wind down and cool off.

Calming yoga and light stretching, on the other hand, can be beneficial near bed since they promote relaxation.

7. Remember why rest is important

Although work, hobbies, Netflix, games and other activities may seem like more fun than sleep at 2 a.m., night owls have to remind themselves that rest is an important part of being healthy and feeling good.

Fatigue and “social jet lag” can have a big impact on your mood, job, looks, and more. Studies have found that lacking sleep changes how people perceive you – tired faces look less attractive and less approachable.

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The National Sleep Foundation website, www.sleepfoundation.org, outlines several other undesirable side effects:

  • A tired mind is also less adept at complex tasks and decision making.
  • Tiredness makes people feel more irritable, anxious, angry and sad.
  • People that drive while sleep deprived also increase their risk of auto accidents.
  • Fatigue can comprise the immune system’s effectiveness and can affect hormone production.
  • Long-term sleep deprivation is also associated with increased risks of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and more.

Whether you want to look better, get fit, be more productive or simply stay healthy, there are infinite ways that better sleep benefits your life. When you are debating between one more episode or chapter and calling it a night, remind yourself why rest is important to you.

Not everyone is cut out to become to become an early bird, and that’s okay. Night owls can still sleep well!

Simple things like getting enough rest, sticking to consistent bedtimes, prioritizing sleep and optimizing your bedroom environment set the stage for better sleep regardless of when you prefer to go to bed. Awareness of healthy sleep hygiene habits like these can help you develop an evening routine that works for your night owl nature and your sleep needs.

Share: Are you a night owl? What helps you get better sleep, or how do stick to a healthy schedule?

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Last Updated on October 9, 2018

Why Am I Exhausted? The Real Causes and How to Fix It Forever

Why Am I Exhausted? The Real Causes and How to Fix It Forever

Do you say “I’m exhausted” all the time? Do you constantly feel exhausted for no reason?

Fatigue shows up in many ways including pure exhaustion, the inability to concentrate, anger, frustration and behavioral issues, memory problems, decreased work performance, and slower reaction times. Chronic fatigue has also been linked to medical problems including obesity, hypertension, depression, diabetes, as well as increased automobile accidents.

We attempt to combat fatigue with coffee, sugar, energy drinks, vitamins and a variety of other products that claim to increase our energy and stamina. But what if your exhaustion is trying to tell you something?

If you’re getting enough sleep and you’re still feeling exhausted, it’s time to stop, take a step back and look at what else is contributing to your exhaustion.

As a life-coach and consultant with a diverse background, I like to look at things from a holistic view – from multiple levels – including your body, mind and spirit.

So before you reach for that next cup of coffee, the 3pm sugary snack or the toxic energy drink, let’s look at some other reasons why you might be tired all the time, and more importantly, what you can do about it.

Here are 11 potential reasons why you’re exhausted even when get enough rest, and what you can do about it.

1. You are out of alignment mentally, emotionally or spiritually.

Essentially, you’re off track with who you are and what works for you. Maybe you’re unhappy, unfulfilled, stressed out or just plain bored with some areas of your life. You might be in a relationship that isn’t working, a job you can’t stand or a situation that drains your energy.

Think about a time in your life when you were in the flow, in the zone, and totally engaged and excited about what you were doing. How much sleep did you need then? Even after only a few hours, my guess is you probably found yourself jumping out of bed in the morning without an alarm clock, excited about embarking on the day.

On the flipside, think about a time in your life when you were in a relationship or job that zapped your energy. No matter how much sleep you got, you probably found it difficult to get out of bed in the morning and were tempted to hit that snooze button just a few more times.

We all have things that make us feel great and energized and things that completely zap our energy. Maybe you’re someone who likes to move quickly but you’re drowning in detail; maybe you’re someone who thrives when you are on top of things and you’re feeling like everything is completely out of control. Or maybe you thrive on spontaneity and variety and you’re bored with your life.

When I asked my 11-year-old daughter why she thought people are tired even when we get enough rest, here’s what she said.

“Maybe people are bored and so they’re tired.”

Ever wonder why you can’t drag your kid out of bed for school on the weekdays but they pop out of bed on the weekend? Perhaps this is the culprit.

I had a client share this sentiment recently as she described a period of time in her life: “My boss sucked, the work was boring and it made me tired all the time.”

Exactly.

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When you’re doing things that align with who you are, in environments that align with what you need, you will feel more energized and alive. On the contrary, when you’re in environments that go against your grain, you will feel drained and de-energized.

What can you do?

Take a step back and identify what’s not working. Figure out what you want and work towards it. Do things that give you energy.

What makes you feel healthy and alive, energized and excited? What gets you in the flow and makes you feel most like you? Aim to get more of that in your life.

Find more ways to be in alignment with who you are with these tips:

How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

2. You are out of alignment physically.

When we are structurally out of alignment, it can cause all sorts of issues. When things aren’t moving properly, it makes it hard for your body to do its job. Not to mention, pain is exhausting and zaps energy. And we are pretty hard on our bodies, aren’t we? We drag them around and tell them what to do. They need to be taken care of too.

Here’s what Chiropractor, Dr. Ruth Ziemba, who specializes in NSA (Network Spinal Analysis) has to say:

All of life is energy. We are energy. Any disturbance or blockages to the energy flow creates imbalances… Physical, mental and emotional stressors can cause subluxations (misalignment of the vertebrae) which interfere with signals getting clearly through your body. This can result in many health problems, including fatigue and insomnia.

Recently, I was feeling tired all the time – and felt like I was doing “everything else” right. So, I went to see my chiropractor and a cranial sacral therapist. Two days later, I felt much more energized and clear in my head.

I love the analogy I was once given by a chiropractor: “It doesn’t matter how well you can play an instrument if the instrument is out of tune.”

Such is true with our bodies.

What can you do?

Get some body work. This might include getting a massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, reiki, cranial sacral therapy – anything that works for you.

Don’t know where to start? Ask a friend or colleague for a recommendation. Even better if you have a friend in the field who can refer you to another practitioner. And make sure to schedule regular body work, not just when you need it.

3. You are not eating right (or enough).

What – and how much – you eat has a significant effect on your energy levels.

While there are many different diet protocols, there is one thing all the experts can agree on: sugar and processed foods make you feel sluggish and exhausted. They make your blood sugar go haywire, causing you to feel a brief period of energy followed by a crash.

Paradoxically, those are the very things we reach for when we need a hit of energy.

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What can you do?

I’ve found two things to be consistently true:

One, you need to eat real, clean food. The food you’re putting into your body is either real or it’s not. Avoid processed foods and especially refined sugars. You’re going to feel so much better for it.

Two, find what works for YOU. Gluten-free, Paleo, Mediterranean, high-fat, plant-based, you name it. Experts and well-meaning friends and family may tell you what’s best, but no one knows your body as well as you do. Pay attention, do you feel energized or fatigued after you eat certain foods? What works – and what doesn’t for YOU? Our bodies have intrinsic wisdom if we are willing to listen – and hear them.

4. You are not really sleeping.

We’ve established that you’re (hopefully) getting enough sleep. But are you getting enough high-quality sleep?

Some of the top causes of poor sleep quality include: being on electronics right before bed, interruptions, an uncomfortable mattress or the wrong pillow, grinding your teeth, an inconsistent sleep routine or the fact that you’re not getting through all of the sleep cycles.

What can you do?

Start with the basics:

Get off your electronics at least an hour before bed, make sure you have a comfortable pillow and mattress, set a consistent sleep routine, reduce outside noise and sleep in a well-darkened room or wear an eye mask.

If you have difficulty falling asleep or have poor sleep quality, this guide will help you get a good night’s sleep back:

Poor Sleep Quality Comes from All the Things You Do Since Morning

5. You are stressed or worrying too much.

When you’re stressed, you produce more cortisol (the stress hormone), which can significantly affect your sleep.[1] This is why one of the common side effects of stress is sleep problems.

On top of stress hormones, excessive worry can drain your energy. When you worry, you’re using energy. It’s like when you have an app on your phone that takes up a lot of battery and you have it constantly running the background, your battery will drain more quickly. Such is true with worry and stress.

I think of this very simply. We all start the day with 100 units of energy to use throughout the day. If you’re using half of your energy units worrying, you’re inevitably going to be tired.

What can you do?

Find things that reduce your stress levels. I’ve seen clients have great success with yoga, meditation and exercise. Worrying too much? Get a clear plan in place to take action on what’s worrying you.

    6. You are not breathing deeply enough.

    Deep breathing increases circulation by bringing oxygen to your muscles and brain. This increased oxygen content in the bloodstream leads to greater energy and healthier muscles, organs and tissues.

    To highlight the benefits of deep breathing, I reached out to longtime Yoga Instructor & Ayurveda Wellness Counselor, Vivica Schwartz. Here’s what she shared:[2]

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    “Most people breathe in to the chest only (shallow breathing) and don’t allow the breath to reach deeper into the abdominal region, due to stress and anxiety. Shifting the breath down, so that it expands the belly (and all the muscles that comprise the diaphragm) is one of the best ways to shift our awareness, quiet the mind, release tension and increase our energy levels”.

    What happened when you started to read this one? Did you start breathing more deeply? Great, you’re already on your way.

    What can you do?

    Make a conscious effort to breathe deeply, more often. Try this from Vivica:

    1. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your lower belly.
    2. Breath smoothly in and out through the nose, noticing how your breath expands three-dimensionally in the ribcage.
    3. Now begin to shift the inhalation into the lower abdomen first, so that the lower hand rises first, then fill the chest area.
    4. Reverse the process on the exhalation, emptying the chest area first, then the lower belly.
    5. Continue like this for a few rounds, visualizing the diaphragm contracting and pushing down and expanding the belly area.

    7. You are hanging out with the wrong crowd.

    Have you ever known someone who “sucks the life out of you”? After spending time together, you feel tired, drained and exhausted? “Energy vampires” do just that, they suck your energy. It doesn’t matter how much sleep you’re getting; if you’re spending time with people who drain your energy, you’re going to feel tired.

    What can you do?

    Grab some garlic and your stake and ditch the energy vampires. Make a conscious effort to hang out with people who feed your soul and make you feel energized and alive.

    If you need a little help to spot these people out, here it is: 15 Signs Of Negative People

    8. You are not moving.

    There’s been a lot of research conducted over many years that shows physical activity and exercise improves energy and decreases fatigue.

    In a widely acknowledged 2006 study published in Psychological Bulletin, researchers analyzed 70 studies on exercise and fatigue which involved more than 6,800 people. Over 90% of the studies showed the same thing: Sedentary people who completed a regular exercise program reported improved fatigue compared to those that did not exercise.

    What can you do?

    Get moving! Find ways to increase your exercise and movement. General guidelines are 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity (or a combination of the two). This can be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking 20 minutes a day or participating in a sport you enjoy.

    Here’re some tips for you: How to Instantly Fall in Love With Moving and Start Shaking off the Extra Pounds

    9. You are dehydrated.

    The human body is composed of 50-65% water. Some parts of our bodies, like our brain, heart and lungs are more than 70% water. This means even mild dehydration can cause your energy levels to fall.

    Fatigue is a telltale sign you are dehydrated. In fact, in a survey of 300 doctors in the UK, 1 in 5 patients who saw their doctor for symptoms such as fatigue and tiredness simply weren’t drinking enough water.

    What can you do?

    First and foremost, drink enough water. A simple rule of thumb is eight 8-ounce glasses per day. And before you reach for your coffee in the morning, reach for a glass of water first.

    However, Doctor and hydration expert Dr. Zach Bush noted,

    “Proper hydration is not simply infusing your body with water. More specifically, it’s about getting the water inside your cells. To do that, you need to improve the electrical charges across your cellular membranes. Strategies that improve the electrical charge across your membranes include: reducing EMF (electromagnetic field) exposure, increasing electrolytes, and boosting your fiber intake.”

    So, try this intensive hydration protocol: Drink 4 ounces of water every 30 minutes from 7am-7pm for 3 days. During this intense hydration, add electrolytes to every other 4-ounce dose. Then give your body a break from food and water between 7pm and 7am.

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    Learn more about intracellular hydration with Dr. Bush here .

    10. You are too busy.

    You know the saying, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” I say, leave the busy person alone. They clearly have enough on their plate.

    I work with many clients, especially moms, who wonder why they are so tired all the time. When I ask them to tell me about “a day in their life”, I get something like this: 6am wake-up , exercise, get the kids off to school, work, drive to after-school activities, get dinner on the table, do hosework, coordinate schedules, bath and bed time (for the kids of course), and then back to work after the kids go to bed. And they wonder why they are tired?

    I get it. I’ve been there and I have to be careful of this myself. As a working mom of three young girls, who also wants to be social and active in my community, I know all too well the life of being busy. I’ve had to reign it in, create strategies and make very conscious decisions.

    What can you do?

    Look at your life as an outside observer or “fly on the wall”. What do you notice? Maybe you need to learn to say no? Perhaps you need to take a step back and identify what’s most important? Or set better boundaries?

    Perhaps you need to delegate more, outsource or just get some stuff off YOUR plate! Take just ONE thing and start from there.

    If you want extra advice on this, check out this guide:

    The Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life

    11. There is something else going on.

    If you’ve tried everything above, you are getting enough sleep and you are still tired, you may want to see your doctor or healthcare professional to uncover any underlying issues.

    Amongst other things, what leads to exhaustion could be medication side effects and other health concerns including thyroid and adrenal dysfunction, anemia and sleep apnea.

    What can you do?

    Talk to your doctor. Seriously. Make an appointment.

    If you’re sleeping enough and doing all the “right” things above and you still feel tired, it’s important to identify what could be the cause.

    The bottom line

    If you’re sleeping enough and still find yourself tired and exhausted all the time, it’s time to step back and see which of these reasons resonate with you.

    In order to get a different result, you have to DO something differently. In order to be more energized and less exhausted, you’re going to need to make some changes.

    What changes will you make? Are you going to eat better, exercise more, stay hydrated, take something off your plate, reassess the job you hate or relationship that’s draining you?

    Take a few minutes right now and think of 1-3 things you’re going to try. Write them down in your journal, on your phone or send an email to yourself.

    Change takes action and it’s time for change. You’ve got this. Take action now and your energy levels will be glad you did!

      Reference

      [1]Dr. Doni: How Cortisol Affects Your Sleep
      [2]Vivica Schwartz,Yoga Instructor & Ayurveda Wellness Counselor

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