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Get Better Sleep and More Energy!

Updated on November 12, 2011

In the mornings are you most often: groggy, irritable, and well, a coffee-slurping zombie? You are not alone, as a matter of fact, you are in the majority.

Why must mornings be so miserable to us who don't share in the early bird ways? It's not enough that the mornings can be utterly dreadful, but usually the rest of the day doesn't fare any better - moodiness, tiredness, a bunch of other 'nesses.

To quote Captain Kirk, there's GOT to be a way!

Fortunately, there are a few ways to combat such icky mornings! You don't have to be of the early bird variety to wake up with a smile, fight off those morning blues with these tips.

What You Should Know About REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and Non-REM Sleep
While you sleep, you go through various stages of deep and light sleep stages. When you wake up, what sleep state you are in is crucial to whether or not you'll be waking up refreshed, or groggy and exhausted. Waking up in a lighter sleep mode will have you feeling best rested and refreshed. The deeper the sleep state you are in when you wake, the more awful you will feel.

Deep sleep starts right as you fall asleep. This is when your brain processes the new information from the day. This is also why naps can make you feel worse after waking up; the two or three hour nap is not enough time to cycle through the sleeping stages, and you will wake up while in deep sleep; you'll feel groggy and worse than before. A 30 min-1 hour nap will be better in the long run.

If you are deprived of sleep, your sleep cycle will focus more on the late stages of Non-REM sleep, as if to "reboot and recover" your brain. Non-REM sleep is focused on your physiological needs, whereas REM is psychological. You will spend less time in REM sleep, and thus, higher chance of irritability upon waking up.

It's a good start on why sleep is so important, and mind you, this is just but a trickle of REM information! It is clear that a good 8 hours to cycle through all the sleep stages will add to your being more refreshed. REM sleep happens around every 90 minutes, and lasts a bit longer each time, so it is essential to feeling well rested.

If you have an iphone or ipod touch (or smartphone), you can download an app called: Sleep Cycle. At only 0.99, it's a total steal. This app charts your sleeping patterns and will wake you up when you are in the lightest sleep state. All you do is place your iphone next to your pillow, or near you, and it uses the accelerometer in your phone to track your movements while you sleep, since you move differently in each sleep stage.

I recommend it - it's helped me indefinitely! Screenshots below:

So, make sure to go to bed at a decent hour (and try keeping on a schedule)! It doesn't hurt to invest in an alarm clock that can tell when you are in the lightest sleep state, either!

Here is a great article on REM Sleep.

Diet and Nutrition
You are what you eat, and what you eat, is what you dream. If you eat something funky or weird before bed, chances are you're going to have some strange (even frightening) dreams. Eating sugar, chocolate, junky type foods right before bed is a no-no on many accounts.

While you sleep your body will be busy digesting, there'll be more tossing and turning, and it's a bit harder to fall asleep right after eating. Bathroom trips will be more frequent - and this is my problem, since I drink a lot of water throughout the day and nighttime, and getting up to go pee is so annoying and cuts in on my sleep! Not to mention falling back asleep only to wake up an hour or so later to pee again, that can be an absolute nightmare! If you can, try avoiding drinks an hour before you go to bed, and food two-three hours before that.

Eating well can also have an effect on how you sleep. Eating a balanced diet not only helps with your energy levels, it makes you feel better, too. Make sure you're eating plenty of veggies and fruits, and try and lay off the junk foods (easier said than done, I know), or foods that aren't likely to give you much energy. I used to eat junk food aaaaaaaallll the time. Junk food and carbs. I'd always wonder why I was so lethargic... then I started eating better. I gradually incorporated more veggies into my diet, more fruits, and protein, and now I have more energy to live life to the fullest.

Your Bedroom
Take a look around your bedroom. Does anything make you cringe? Does it make you unhappy with how messy or cluttered it might be? Many people overlook the importance in the structure of a bedroom. I'm not talking about feng shui per se, but a relaxing room = a more relaxed you.

Clean your room! Rearrange it! Maybe you can try moving your bed to that other wall, or maybe you want to try something else! Bring in some plants, maybe a goldfish in a bowl, but definitely clean up any mess. Spring clean your bedroom - vacuum, dust, clean the windows, make sure your room is somewhere you want to be. Been admiring a lamp, or piece of furniture for awhile? Go buy it, and place it in your room.

Change your bedsheets (I'm a huge fan of those down comforters... oh my those are sinfully comfortable. It's like sleeping on a cloud), buy a foam mattress for extra support, or heck, buy a new bed if need be. Many people don't realize that an uncomfortable bed can be the #1 reason for lack of sleep. Maybe your mattress has lost it's luster. Perhaps your mattress is too firm, and you need something more springy. And if you find anything you don't like in your room, change it! Maybe you'd rather have curtains instead of blinds; also, any imperfections on the wall can be hidden by a serene picture, or family portraits.

Maybe you can sleep better with some background noise. You can always purchase one of those sound-machines, a fan blowing is a popular option as well. I like to sleep with my tv on low, nothing puts me to sleep faster, and when I was younger, I liked to listen to music as I drifted off.

The most underappreciated meal of the day. But this meal has always been boasted as, ever since you were little, the most important meal. A fine meal in the morning can really get you through the day. When your belly is full of hot oatmeal and fruit, or fluffy scrambled eggs and orange juice, it can be easy to storm through any mishaps that might occur later on in the day. Who could deny waffles swathed in syrup or pancakes topped with crushed blueberries and strawberries?

Don't have the time in the morning to cook? You can always pre-make your breakfast the night before, or complete the first few steps of making said breakfast. You can always mix pancake/waffle batter the night before and in the morning, simply pour into the iron.

Avoid fast food: It might hit the spot now, but later on, you'll feel gross and loggy, and possibly gassy.

I'm definitely no exercise advocate. You'll find me lounging on the couch with my laptop over jogging on a treadmill or exercise-bike, but to hit morning grog in the gut, exercise may be for you. A quick run in the morning and in the evening can do wonders to your body - in energy levels, mind mentality, and well, you'll look great! Even stretching in the morning when you wake up and stretching at night before bedtime can do wonders for your body. Why?

Endorfins. It's a natural high. It enhances your mood, your energy levels, and more. You'll really be starting the day on the right foot, and ending your evening with a positive tread. If moderate-heavy exercise isn't for you, perhaps you would like yoga. It's a bit more on the mellow side, but don't be fooled - yoga can kick your butt, like in those advanced levels. Start simple, and small. If you start now, the more you can do later on.

Slow Down On The Coffee
WHAT?! But that seems counter-productive!!!! I can't get through my day without coffee!!!

You can still have your coffee, but don't drink too much. Too much caffeine is bad for you, and the crash down you get later in the day can be horrific depending on the amount you've had. Caffeine is like a drug. Actually, I think I read somewhere that it *is* a drug, in the sense that it's addictive and alters your body/mind. No more than three cups a day, if you can hack it; start weaning yourself off now. Definitely stop drinking it at least six hours before bedtime.

The same goes for energy drinks too. Drinks like Red Bull, Rockstar, Amp, etc. They'll give you that sweet rush at first, but the crash is even worse than coffee. These energy drinks are also TERRIBLE for you. In the long term, it can lead your body to a life of adrenal fatigue, adrenal exhaustion, and low blood sugar. Some energy drinks carry serious warning labels if you ingest too much, while others have been banned in come countries and stores!

If you must have caffeine, go for green tea. It's natural antioxidants are a health plus and it carries less caffeine than all the others. Drink plenty of water! Nothing is more refreshing and cooling to me than a nice cold water. Sure it lacks caffeine, but water is life. Drink more of it!

Everything you do makes an impact on you and your sleep. There are all sorts of ways to change your lifestyle to become a better rested you. What's worked for me, might not work for others, and what's worked for others may not be something I'm into (cough, exercise, cough), but we all have to make changes somewhere, we all have to strike a balance.

Listen to your body, when you're tired, go to sleep - don't fight it! If you're hungry, and it's late, eat something healthy, like a few carrot sticks or a small salad. Don't forget breakfast, either. Happy snoozing!


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