How To Improve Your Sleep
Sleeping feels good, but I guess like many of you, I always feel there are far more productive and exciting things I could be doing. As a result, the amount of sleep I get is not enough or sometimes not good enough. Yes the quality of your sleep is important. Sleeping for 8 hours is pointless if you're not sleeping quality is poor. Remember from before, Quality comes before quantity.
Just how important is sleep? If you want to significantly improve your chances of not dying from Heart disease, Diabetes, Alzheimers or Cancer. It is pretty important.
We aren't going to go into the How and Why’s of a lack of sleeps connects with the diseases above, because this is about to improve your sleep. Besides there are entire books on that topic, trying to cover it in a few words is impossible. Matthew Walkers Book – Why We Sleep.
Interrupted sleep, struggle to get to sleep, i'm tired during the day but not at night… anything sound familiar? Below are tricks and tactics you can do right now, to improve your sleep. If you do them, that is up to you, but don’t expect your sleep pattern to change if you don’t.
Note here, that these strategies and tactics are optimal. Some will be applicable to you, others you may not be able to implement right away, life’s activities may get in the way. Im not saying you have to live like a hermit from now on, or you will develop a life threatening disease, or your legs wont recover from the bout of squatting you did during the day if you don’t follow these to the letter. But if you can get more of these things right than wrong, your sleep will improve.
A quick basic on how sleep works. Your sleep pattern is synched to your circadian rhythm. This is simply your body’s internal clock. This is important because your body’s internal clock regulates hormones and their release at certain times to help you go to sleep. The key player is called Melatonin, and this is directly affected by light.
Whilst on the topic of hormones. A lack of sleep has also been shown to affect your hunger and satiation hormones, and not in a positive way. Feel hungrier when you are tired and find yourself reaching for high sugary foods, there is a physiological reason for this.
Your body’s internal clock is synched with the Earths daytime hours. Natural light and sunlight help regulate your internal clock, and as a result these hormonal releases. Remember we said natural light. What you will see as you read on, is the human race, now has an addiction to unnatural light. That mobile phone you look at it, the TV you watch to help you ‘fall asleep’ is emitting light, that really isn't helping you sleep. It is also stimulating your brain, in simple terms, it's trying to keep you awake. Without going off on a tangent, mobile phone Apps like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube are all designed to keep you stimulated, to keep you online, thousands of pounds have been invested into the psychological reasoning to keep you stuck to that phone and logged into these sites and apps. Lying in bed, having a scroll, an hour later you are still going? You are fighting against thousands upon thousands of pounds of research.
One of the biggest influences that affect volume of sleep, is distractions. This might be an obvious one, but one many don’t follow. Stimulating your brain, getting worked up, over excited before attempting to sleep, is going to hugely affect how quickly you fall asleep. Most people have a latest time they need to be up in the morning, and set the alarm for this time, there is no shift in time at the other end, so any time you lose falling asleep, is certainly not time you can make up in the morning. All these ‘distractions’ and over stimulating are causing rises in
Artificial Light (Blue Light)
Your body’s circadian rhythm, like we said before works on a 24 hour time period, and in the perfect world is synched with natural light, which regulates hormonal release to help you sleep. In today’s society we are surrounded by artificial light. It has been shown, that this artificial light tricks the body and in simple terms confuses its clock. A third of the human brain is devoted to visual processing, we have become the only race to light up the night to such affect, that is the human that has no overcome the mechanics of the rotating earth to determine daylight hours. What does this do? That hormone, Melatonin, that helps you fall asleep, is no longer being released at the time you need. You have shifted your ‘bed time’ to the right, Instead of 10pm, it's now midnight, but your ‘wake time’ has no room for movement. Explain that to the boss. ‘Im late today, because I was watching the Ipad until 11pm, and shifted my body clock.’
The solution, reduce artificial light as much as you can, this includes TV, mobile phones, even reading books on Ipad's is not helping. Blackout curtains, switching the lights off. Reduce the amount of artificial light in the areas you inhabit 1-2 hours before you want to sleep. If this is not viable, you can get Blue Light blocking glasses, which can help.
Some people have also been known to cover up any LED’s in rooms, like the ones on TV’s, alarm clocks etc which emit artificial light.
Maintain a regular room temperature
Not really sure of the science or reasoning behind this, but I always find, a regulated room temperature that is ‘cool’ improves sleep no end. Thinking logically, you body likes to be regulated, its lowest core body temperature is lowest around 2am, so having a warm room to sleep in wouldn’t make much sense. A cool room would help to reduce uneasy uncomfortableness and possible interruptions to sleep.
There are various forms of supplements you can take to help aid sleep, but I guess like sleeping pills, which can become addictive, they are merely masking a problem, rather than fixing it. Although the difference I believe, is that sleeping pills are designed to cause drowsiness to send you to sleep. Various supplements are designed to influence natural occurrences of hormones in the body to help you regulate your circadian rhythm, and send the body naturally to sleep. These supplements include 5HTP, Zinc, Magnesium, Melatonin, P5P, Vitamin B5 and L-Theanine. I suggest doing your own research on this before diving straight in.
Everyone knows the benefits of caffeine. ‘My body doesn’t work until iv had a morning coffee.’ This is OK, to a certain extent, but think about all the powerful affects caffeine has for you in the morning, and then push this into the afternoon. Is that 3pm coffee keeping you awake at night?
Caffeine has a half-life of on average 5 to 7 hours. What does that mean. 7 hours after drinking a coffee, 50% of the caffeine content will still be circulating in your body. Drink coffee at 3pm containing at low does 40mg of caffeine, at 10pm 20mg of caffeine is likley to still be circulating your body. Change that to a small can of Red Bull in which there is over 77g of caffeine.
How does caffeine work exactly. It’s not what it adds to your body, it’s what it inhibits. It blocks and inactivates receptors that cause tiredness. Think of it like this. If there is a sound you don’t want to hear, you put your fingers in your ears. You block the sounds, you don’t remove the sound. Consuming caffeine late in the afternoon and evening essentially blocks your tiredness.
As you can see, there are many different variants that can affect sleep, and we haven't even covered diet. Which has also been shown, that you can tailor this to improve your sleep. Getting all these right will be difficult, especially in todays busy lifestyle, however if you can make little improvements
to each, and increase the quality of your sleep and the quantity and that keeps you healthy that little bit longer, a small change here and there is worth it.