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Written by Lucy Hendricks

Christmas is around the corner, and you’re deciding if you’re going to try to make it to the gym to stay healthy throughout the holidays or just say “forget it” and start next year.

What if I told you that you could immensely positively impact your health without even stepping into a gym? What if you could start working on a very important and often overlooked component of health without it even affecting your holiday schedule?

What is it, you ask?

It’s sleep!

If your trainer or health coach isn’t emphasizing sleep, they’re missing a huge piece of the puzzle.

If you want to avoid starting and stopping your healthy journey and want to achieve results that you can sustain for a lifetime, including during the holiday season, you’ll need to establish good foundational habits like your sleep routine. Better sleep is more than just thriving for 7-8 hours a night; it’s about regulating your internal clock.

Plants, animals, humans are all running on a circadian rhythm. We have an internal clock that wakes us up when the sun comes up and makes us sleepy when it goes down. It controls when and where certain hormones are released all throughout the body. If it’s disregulated, there are about a dozen different hormones that will go out of whack. Which is why having an unregulated rhythm has been connected to chronic disease and some health issues like weight gain, depression, heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and even cancer.

What can you do this holiday season to regulate your sleep and wake cycle?

Start blocking blue light at night and start getting sunlight exposure in the morning and you’ll be ready to hit the gym starting in January with more energy and a bigger chance of sticking to it!

Why is light exposure so important?

We’ve got our morning hormone (cortisol) that wakes us up when the sun comes up. When the sun goes down our sleep hormone (melatonin) helps us wind down and go to bed. These hormones are receptive to light, and with our technology-filled lives, these two hormones are not on their regular cycle.

Blue light is light produced by the sun, but it’s also produced by your phone, TV, tablet, and overhead lights. You’re walking around with an artificial sun, and your photoreceptors in your eyes and skin don’t know the difference between the artificial sun or the real sun. If you’re exposing your eyes to that light 2 hours before going to bed, you’re telling your brain that it’s still light out, and the need for melatonin, your sleep hormone, is not necessary. There’s a strong connection between working night-shift and chronic disease which is believed it’s due to the opposite timing, getting artificial light all night and not getting sun during the day.

Our lives are set up to where it almost makes it impossible to live as our ancestors did which was sitting by candlelight, watching the sun go down, and waking up with the sun rising. The good news is, there are a few things we can do to biohack our light exposure and not change much of our routine.

These things might seem simple, but don’t underestimate the power of good quality sleep!

  1. Buy blue blocking glasses and wear them 2 hours before bed (Amazon)
  2. Download f.lux on your computer and dim all your screens including your TV
  3. Buy red/amber light bulbs and turn off all overhead lighting 2 hours before bed
  4. Get 10-15 minutes of sun during the morning, even if it’s cloudy! Don’t wear sunglasses.

About the Author

Lucy Hendricks is co-owner of Enhancing Life and Teacher at The Lexington Healing Arts Academy Personal Training Program. She is a personal trainer that takes a holistic approach to health and fitness. She looks at all factors that impact her client’s results in the gym: stress, nutrition, breathing, routine, sleep, and more. By considering the whole picture, her clients can expect to achieve sustainable results and avoid plateaus or overtraining.

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