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propello life blog the importance of sleep on your health and why can't I sleep

The importance of sleep on your health

Today's world is stressful. Kids, work, education, and whatever else fills your day leaves you little time for the things you love doing and relaxing. Throw in the need for exercise, and something's got to give - right? 

Too often people admit they only get 4-6 hours of sleep per night. And it is no wonder they are burning the candle on both ends with schedules packed full of To-Do lists and responsibilities. Days can be so stressful that we shave a few hours off our sleep by staying up late binge-watching Netflix or waking up earlier to squeeze in a workout – or sometimes both! 

But is all this hard work and grind it out mentality really maximizing our performance, and what is it doing to our health?

The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following amount of sleep for healthy individuals throughout their lifetime as:

  • Newborns: 14 to 17 hours

  • Infants: 12 to 15 hours

  • Toddlers: 11 to 14 hours

  • Preschoolers: 10 to 13 hours

  • School-aged children: 9 to 11 hours

  • Teenagers: 8 to 10 hours (and potentially more during growth spurts)

  • Young Adults: 7 to 9 hours

  • Adults: 7 to 8 hours (and there is emerging research showing women may need 8 to 10 hours)

  • Older Adults: 7 to 8 hours

The cold hard fact is that most of us aren't even in our bed for the recommended amount of time. Let alone getting a good night's sleep. But do you know what is meant by "good sleep?" Let's define it so we are all on the same page.

Sleep does not mean laying in bed taking deep breaths reading a book or watching tv or staring at your phone. The sleep clock starts after you fall asleep and stay asleep. Good sleep quality means no sleep problems, no middle of the night get out of bed bathroom trips, good night's rest kind of sleep. I am talking about a good night's sleep where you wake up the next day and feel like a million bucks! Yes, this is how you should feel every morning - crazy right!?

What does sleep deprivation do to your health?

A recent article by the New York Times and a quick search of WebMD discuss the health impacts of sleep deprivation:

propello life poor sleep quality and it's impact on your health graphic





  • Cardiovascular disease



Additionally, lack of sleep impacts our hormones leading to increased chance for weight gain and obesity. None of this is good.

10 Reasons You Can’t Sleep

Whether you are staying up late to watch tv, setting your alarm for an early morning workout, have trouble falling asleep, lay awake staring at the ceiling, have trouble falling back to sleep, or any other sleep issues it is negatively effecting your health and life. And you are not alone!

Almost half of Americans are having problems sleeping, and over a third of adults don't get at least 7 hours of sleep. And frankly, 7 hours isn't enough for 2/3 of people. We are chronically deprived of sleep and it shows. Just look at the health trends across the board and it doesn't take a PhD to see the connection to one of our foundational health needs - sleep!

So what is causing so many of us to have difficulty falling asleep, have sleepless nights, spend our nights lying awake, have chronic insomnia, have sleep disorders, and other sleep difficulties? Here is a list of 10 common reasons you can't fall asleep and stay asleep.

Change in Sleep Schedule

Humans are creatures of habit, and this applies to your sleep wake cycle. We have what is called a circadian rhythms which is our body's internal clock that regulates when we rise in the morning and when we fall asleep at night. The circadian rhythms helps regulate the hormones released in our body and even our body temperature to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

Some common sleep schedule disruptors are work or school, jet lag or time zone changes while traveling, social activities, and lifestyle choices. The key is to be consistent in your sleep routine. Do your best to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time.

Room Temperature

Not many people know that your body temperature is tied to sleep quality. Your body temp rises naturally throughout the day and then begins to drop leading up to bedtime. To get sound sleep the key is to create a better sleep environment, and one huge factor is room temperature. Try setting the room temp between 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and adjust to optimize your sleep quality. You may also want to check with your bed partner as well to make sure the environment works for them too.

Screen Time Before Bed

This one may be the hardest habit for all of us to improve. Between watching tv and using our devices, it is very hard to limit the use before bed. The reason screen time before bed leads to trouble sleeping is because of blue light. Blue light interrupts the release of our sleep hormone melatonin. Melatonin is tied to falling asleep and staying asleep.

Here are some things to try to limit your screen time or at least to limit blue light exposure.

  • Put down your phone and turn off the tv 1 hour before bed

  • Read a book - not on a device, but a real book

  • Wear blue light blocking glasses

  • Last resort - try a melatonin supplement or a relaxation tea.


Stress is at the center for most of our health problems. The human body responds to stress by releasing chemicals that increase alertness, elevate the heart rate, and cause muscle tension. This is a great thing for short durations of stress - this is our fight or flight response.

But many of us live in a heightened state of constant stress due to relationship issues, financial issues, work issues, political issues, and the list goes on. Living in a state of constant, long term stress leads to a lot of health issues including chronic insomnia. If you think you may have chronic insomnia or other major sleep disorders, please reach out to health profession right away.

For the rest of us just trying to create healthy sleep habits, try some of these relaxation techniques:

  • Progressive muscle relaxation

  • Meditation & meditation music

  • Tapping

  • Journaling & the practice of gratitude

  • Stretching & yoga

  • Breathe work and deep breathing

A mental health condition

Anxiety disorder or depression are two of the leading mental health conditions that effect sleep quality. The tricky part is that these conditions can cause sleep disorders and sleep disorders can cause these mental health conditions. It is a chicken or egg situation.

If you think you may have anxiety or depression and it is impacting your sleep, please see a sleep specialist or talk to a medical or mental health professional about what options might be right for you. There are a number of treatment options available to people experiencing sleep problems alongside anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. These include therapy, relaxation techniques, and sleep medicine.

Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol is one of those tricky things. There are constantly studies being reported about it being good for your health, bad for your health, etc. Is red wine good or not? How many servings of alcohol helps with relaxation, but not bad for your health. I guess the jury is still out. But one thing I have consistently heard is that when you drink alcohol, it negatively impacts your sleep.

Drinking alcohol may make it easy to fall asleep, but studies show you get REM sleep (deep sleep), and often have to wake up to go to the bathroom. I have also heard it can cause acid reflux, snoring, and worsen sleep apnea.

To improve sleep habits, try to avoid alcohol as much as possible, and when you do drink, please drink responsibly (1-2 servings) and stop 1-2 hours before bedtime.

Caffeine Intake

I know I love my morning coffee and preworkout drinks for my exercise, but caffeine use needs to be strategic and it should never be used as a crutch to deal with daytime sleepiness. Also, caffeine can sneak into the drinks and foods you consume if you aren't looking closely.

Here are a few foods and drinks that may contain caffeine:

  • Coffee & Tea

  • Energy drinks

  • Soda

  • Chocolate

  • Some over the counter medicines such a pain relievers and cold medicines

  • Any food or drink that says "energy"

If you do drink coffee or consumer caffeine containing products please limit the amount so you don't consumer too much caffeine, and don't use in the afternoon. This allows the stimulating effects of caffeine to wear off so you can fall asleep and rest deeply.

Dietary Choices

Your diet is so important when it comes to your physical health. It's impact on how much sleep you get and sleep health is impacted by the quality, amount, and timing of your meals. Highly processed, sugar filled, and low quality foods lead to sleep difficulties and sleep loss. Research has shown that diets low in certain vitamins and minerals—such as calcium, magnesium, and Vitamin D—can lead to short sleep duration.

On the flip side, whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins are nutrient dense, and feed your body the vitamins and minerals it needs to be healthy. These high quality foods are nature's sleep medicine!

The key with eating is to eat as healthy as possible, eat slowly, don't over eat, don't over do it on the spicy foods, and to have your last meal around 3 hours before bed.

An Inactive Lifestyle

Just like dietary choices, your activity level plays a huge role on your overall health and sleep. Regular exercise is linked to better sleep - from falling asleep to staying asleep. And the best part, it doesn't really matter what you do for exercise. You can aim for 10,000 steps a day, go to the gym for an hour, go for a run or bike ride, or do yoga. It doesn't matter. All that matters is that you move your body.


  • Any amount of exercise is better than none (if you only have 15 min, squeeze it in!)

  • Resistance Training and High Intensity Aerobic & Anaerobic exercise is best

  • Exercise during your normal waking hours (don't jeopardize sleep for exercise)

  • Warm up properly

  • Stretch after every workout

  • Don't over train; make sure you recover fully between workouts

  • Depending on your age and health conditions - a walk outside in nature may be the best option.

  • Just move your body and take deep breaths!

An Undiagnosed Sleep Disorder

Have you tried all the suggestions listed above and still are having trouble sleeping? You may have an underlying sleep disorder such as one of the following:

  • Insomnia

  • Sleep apnea

  • Restless legs syndrome

  • Circadian rhythm disorders

If you think you may have insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, or another sleep disorder, please reach out to your doctor, health care provider or a sleep specialist immediately.

The bottom line: MAKE GETTING great SLEEP and enough sleep A TOP PRIORITY IN YOUR LIFE.


  • Set a sleep schedule – go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (10pm to 6am)

  • Wind down - practice a relaxing bedtime ritual (i.e. dim the lights, turn off the electronics, take a warm shower, do some mindfulness meditation, listen to soft music, etc… for 1 hour before bed)

  • Exercise daily – Intense exercise is best, but don't jeopardize sleep or your health for exercise. If all you can do is walk, then walk!

  • Optimize your sleep environment:

    • Optimize the room – temperature set between 65-68 degrees, no TV, no light, no disruptive noises, move electronics at least 4 feet from your body, etc…

    • Optimize your mattress – make sure your mattress is supportive and comfortable

  • Natural light exposure – get enough natural light exposure during the day to optimize your circadian rhythm (especially in the first few hours of the day)

  • Avoid sleep disrupters – avoid alcohol, cigarettes, heavy meals, and drinking too many liquids in the evening

    • Try to have your last meal 3 hours before bed

    • Try to drink your last beverage 2 hours before bed

Try to build these sleep habits into your lifestyle, and over time they will become second nature. Don't go through life in a sleep deprived fog like so many of us do. Once you start prioritizing sleep you will be amazed at how good you feel.

And, if for some reason you get off track, don't sweat it!  Just get back to following the plan above the next day and you will be on your way to a healthier, more energetic life.

Good luck!


A Simple Morning Ritual For Weight Loss blog by propello life



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