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Sleep – The Most Important Thing We Have

As an online coach, Per has helped over a thousand people to get in shape and improve their health. The goal is to encourage people to live a balanced life with exercise, good sleep, and a healthy diet in a simple and non-demanding way.

 
Executive Contributor Per Ekbjörn

A good night's sleep is the foundation of a healthy life. Here, I will talk about the benefits of sleeping well and getting enough sleep, as well as share my best sleep tips.


A group of cats sleeping.

Start with sleep and discover that everything else becomes easier

Many people struggle to know how to get started with a healthier life, and my suggestion is to start by getting your sleep in order. The beauty of it is that you can start in many different ways, and often, only small changes are needed as long as you start and do it now.


But to make it easier for you, I will talk about sleep. As I said, as long as you start, it’s good no matter what. The advantage of starting with one part, such as beginning to eat a bit better, is that it automatically leads to improvements in other areas, like having the energy to exercise. If you manage to reduce your stress, it leads to better sleep and vice versa. Everything is interconnected.


Start with sleep. Why? Because sleep is the foundation of everything and something everyone should prioritize. You should strive to sleep enough and achieve good sleep quality. Let’s start with the disadvantages of poor sleep.


The negatives of poor sleep

The obvious: you get more tired during the day, which leads to worse mood, poorer decisions, more conflicts, less energy to exercise, and less energy to eat well. Poor sleep leads to eating more and worse the following day as it increases the hunger hormone ghrelin and decreases the hormone for satiety (leptin). This leads to overeating and can result in weight gain.


The positives of good sleep

You feel more alert, and with that comes everything else: you are in a better mood, you can handle daily life, work, and exercise in a better way. You reduce your stress. You strengthen your immune system and reduce the risk of a range of diseases: cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and depression.


Research also shows that getting enough sleep makes you appear more attractive. Your memory improves, your creativity increases, and so does your ability to learn. You might even be perceived as more trustworthy if you have slept well.


If I take it a step further, I would claim that you will even earn more money by sleeping better. You will reduce your sick days, you will be better at your job, and you will avoid buying unnecessary treats, which saves you a lot of money over time.


In conclusion, you have much to gain by prioritizing your sleep.


What can you do to sleep enough?

For many, it’s about not feeling they have enough time to sleep adequately; you know, “the hours in the day are not enough.” The first thing you need to consider is what you can prioritize away in your busy life. A classic example is choosing to watch one episode of your series on Netflix instead of two. Can you avoid social media for a while in the evening?


I don’t think you should prioritize away things that make you feel good; it’s important to do things you enjoy. But if you think about it, there are probably things that don’t give you much that you could still cut out of your life.


What can you do to sleep better?

“Just” sleeping long enough won’t help if you don’t sleep well. This can be harder; first, you need to think about why you don’t sleep well. Often it’s due to some kind of stress, but there can also be other reasons. What is stressing you, and what can you do about it? It’s important to distinguish between things you can influence and things you can’t. What you can influence, you should do something about, and preferably right away.


If you have major sleep problems, I recommend professional help first and foremost. On my website, there are more tips; if you want it sent to you in English, contact me and I’ll send it to you.


Here are some sleep tips


  • Spend time outside in daylight, preferably in the morning.

  • Expose yourself to stimuli during the day, move a lot, and exercise, but limit stimuli in the evening and take time to wind down.

  • Reduce your caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon. We metabolize caffeine at different rates, but the half-life of caffeine is usually 4-5 hours.

  • Use tools like acupressure mats, weighted blankets, heating blankets, earplugs, and “sleep tape” (a piece of tape over the mouth) to sleep better.

  • Take supplements that help you sleep better: Magnesium, ashwagandha, melatonin, glycine, theanine, tryptophan, GABA, valerian, and lavender can all help you relax and improve your sleep.


Choose the tips that you think suit you best; we are all different, but sleep is important for everyone.


Me and my sleep

I have always been careful with my sleep, even though I could party all night sometimes during my teenage years or stay up studying half the night now and then. It still happens that I sleep poorly sometimes, but I know that what I do over time counts. My sleep routines might be perceived as somewhat extreme, which they probably are.


First of all, I exercise during the day and try to move quite a lot otherwise too. I always try to be outside and get daylight. For those of us who live in Sweden, this is difficult during the winter, but considering my job, I have the privilege of being able to be outside most days. Then I limit my caffeine intake in the afternoon. After putting the kids to bed around 9:00 PM, I take magnesium and zinc supplements, and sometimes ashwagandha.


I also avoid my phone after 9:00 PM to avoid too many stimuli that might disturb me. If I have things I “must” do, like sending an email or paying a bill, I let go of those thoughts and do it the next day. Then I lie on the acupressure mat on the couch and either watch some “light” series, a documentary, read a book, or watch a football match, and have a casein protein drink and rice cakes with peanut butter and half a glass of cola zero (if there’s any at home) until I fall asleep around 10:00 PM. Then I get up and take my mouth guard to avoid grinding my teeth, a piece of tape for my mouth to prevent snoring (snoring leads to worse sleep), and my weighted blanket to sleep better.


I wake up once or twice a night but usually fall back asleep almost immediately. If I wake up and have trouble falling back asleep, I take ashwagandha. Sometimes I wake up before, but otherwise, I have an alarm set for 7:00 AM. If I have time during the day, I also take a nap. 9-9.5 hours of sleep per day for an adult!? Yes, that’s right, I enjoy it, I have the energy to train hard, eat well, focus on my jobs, and be a good family man.


To avoid creating stress that worsens your sleep further, I want to add that small changes in your sleep will also make a difference in your well-being in the long run. Prioritize your sleep and notice what a big difference it makes in your life on all levels. Sleep well!


 

Per Ekbjörn, Online Coach Health

As an online coach, Per has helped over a thousand people to get in shape and improve their health. The goal is to encourage people to live a balanced life with exercise, good sleep, and a healthy diet in a simple and non-demanding way. On his social media, Per demonstrates that it's possible to stay in shape and be healthy even if you're over forty, have young children, and indulge in some treats. With a keen interest in fitness and nutrition Per is passionate about helping people to improve health by explaining how the choices we make impact our bodies. Life balance is a key concern for Per, emphasizing that excessive exercise or strict dietary restrictions are not the best for the body.

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