6 Ways to Improve Your Sleep Tonight
Time to read: 5 mins
We strongly urge EVERYBODY to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night and here is how!
Good research has shown that sleep is important in preventing and helping to cure numerous problems and ailments, including depression, anxiety, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, headaches, constipation to mention a few. Getting good sleep has shown to improve memory and concentration in university students by as much as 20%. Almost every single person on the planet requires 7-9 hours of sleep daily...don't miss out!
"If you sleep better, you can certainly live better. It’s pretty clear."
Raymonde Jean, MD, director of sleep medicine and associate director of critical care at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City.
A consistent sleep schedule is paramount to optimising sleep performance. Keep bedtime and wake-up time regular on a daily basis. Try to limit the difference in your sleep schedule on weeknights and weekends to no more than one hour. This level of consistency reinforces your body's innate sleep-wake cycle - the relationship between sleep drive and the internal body clock.
Sleep drive is basically the drive to sleep that accumulates from the time you wake up, and lessens during sleep. When we remain awake for an extended period of time, structures in the brain promote sleep, every hour awake strengthens the sleep drive. Sleep drive along side our internal body clock are the primary modulators of sleep.
Our internal body clock or as scientists refer to it as the Circadian rhythm (or alerting system) is an internal pacesetter that boosts alertness and thereby inhibits sleep. With a consistent sleep schedule, the clock and sleep drive become highly synchronized. When in a good routine, the alerting signal increases with every hour you are awake and counteracts the build up of the sleep drive. The internal clock's alerting signal eventually drops off to coincide with the increasing sleep drive allows for the onset of sleep.
Anything you eat or drink throughout the day can either have a positive or negative affect on your sleep! Take for example the amino acid tryptophan, found in turkey, chicken, fish, and nuts, its a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin and the hormone melatonin (the hormone that regulates sleep), has been tenuously linked to post meal drowsiness (aka Christmas turkey fatigue). Also consuming a meal rich in carbohydrates can indirectly increase the production of sleep-promoting melatonin. The answer is clear, we should all be eating a nice turkey sandwich before bed!!
Negative impacts on sleep are normally associated with Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol. The stimulating effects of nicotine and caffeine take hours to wear off, depending on how fast you can metabolise them it could be up to 12 hours before the stimulating effects disappear. It’s probably a good idea to limit any coffees you consume to before midday. Alcohol might make you feel sleepy, and its has been shown to induce sleep earlier, but it actually completely disrupts sleep later in the night by reducing the rapid eye movement (REM) phase. This disruption in REM sleep may cause drowsiness and poor concentration throughout the day, also the more you drink before bed, the greater these negative effects will be. So, maybe its not the best idea to finish off everyday with a night cap!!
3. Make your bedroom put you to sleep
Let's create an idyllic sleeping environment!! Your bedroom should be associated with 2 activities - sleep and sex - only the good things! By limiting the activities in the bedroom you’re teaching your mind to subconsciously switch off to the outside world and will automatically help get you in the right frame of mind as soon as you walk in!
A quiet, dark, and cool environment is needed promote sound slumber. You want your bedroom temperature to be between 15° C and 20° C for the complete log like sleep experience, this enables your body temperature to decrease and initiate sleep. You also need to get over your fear of the dark... soften your room lighting and get rid of the screens - TVs, laptops, tablets and smartphones - keep them out the bedroom (try getting an actual alarm clock guys!).
4. Optimise your Nap-Life balance
Long daytime naps are a big no-no. You can’t just slip off under your desk for a few hours and not expect it to interfere with your nights sleep. If you choose to nap, limit yourself to up to 30 minutes and avoid doing so late in the day. Or follow the great Dr Einstein’s technique - unbeknownst to him taking advantage of what is now referred to in the scientific literature as a hypnagogic state. This is the phenomenon that describes the mind before full sleep and wakefulness and linked to an increase in creative thought. Go get that ultimate power nap!
The Einstein Nap Hack
Sit down and hold something in your hand (smartphone not recommended). As you nod off, you'll drop the object. Boom! You wake up feeling fresh!
5. Get a sweat on..early in the day.
Getting regular physical activity has been shown to improve the quality of sleep and we know all LBE readers are living the sweat-life on a regular basis, so you should have this much ticked off. However the timing and type of activity is important, exercising too close to bedtime can have the opposite effect, known as exercise induced insomnia. Exercise induced insomnia is predominantly linked to HIGH intensity bouts of exercise and that it prolongs the time taken to get get to sleep. This is possibly due to the high levels of cortisol (human stress hormone) released and its stimulating effect on the body...You‘ve probably noticed after a late night spin session or 5-a-side fixture it takes a lot longer to wind down!
Also it should be noted that some research has shown that low to moderate activity close to bedtime can be beneficial. So make sure your next Crossfit HIIT Bootcamp mega workout is at least 3 hours before you hit the hay and maybe try a nice yoga or pilates session before bed!
Racing thoughts out soon as you hit the pillow play havoc with sleep - worrying about a problem or a long to-do list can delay relaxation and inhibit sleep causing insomnia. A recent study found that mindful meditation helped improve sleep quality, reduce incidents of insomnia and improve daytime wakefullness better than just attending regular sleep education classes.
Mindfulness meditation involves distraction, by changing your focus to your breathing. This enables you to bring your mind’s attention to the present without slipping into concerns about the past or future. This training of your brain to break the direction of your everyday thoughts and elicit the relaxation response, using whatever technique feels right to you.
……Sweet dreams and good night!