1. Blue light
2. Sleep environment
5. Regular exercise
6. Address an overactive mind
8. Other tips
Sleep is one of the most underrated factors when it comes to our health, our mood, our body composition, recovery from exercise, recovery from activities of daily living and from the stress in our lives.
There is a lot that can be done to aid a better night’s sleep. The research suggests that humans need between 6-8 hours’ sleep a night. Everyone is different some people function well on six hours sleep a night while others cannot cope without their full 8 hours of sleep a night. Get to know what works for you.
Prescription drugs for aiding sleep tend to knock the body out rather than letting your body rest and recover. If you have ever taken them, did you truly feel refreshed after your “night’s sleep”? If not that is the reason why. This is why it is so important to try and get to the reason why you are not sleeping properly. If we go for years and years of poor sleep our bodies will not be healing and recovering optimally and this can lead to injuries and illness.
If you have trouble sleeping, what is it that you think keeps you awake?
1. You aren’t tired – You don’t feel like it’s bedtime.
2. Your mind is racing at a million miles an hour.
3. Thinking, thinking and thinking about everything you didn’t get done to today and what you need to get done tomorrow. Stressing, stress is a stimulant for the mind.
5. Your body is restless – it doesn’t feel like it wants to sleep.
6. You can fall asleep but always feel like you didn’t get a good sleep that you don’t feel rested – This could be caused by sleep apnea (when we stop breathing when we are asleep). This needs to be investigated by your healthcare professional.
If you can figure out what is stopping you from sleeping, is it your mind? Is it your body? Is it that you just don’t feel tired? We are all individuals and you need to listen to your body and figure what is stopping you from sleeping. Then hopefully you can help your body to naturally fall asleep without the use of prescription drugs.
Do you ever wonder how plants know when it’s time to wake up from hibernation and start to come to life? It’s all to do with light and temperature. The same can be said about hibernating animals. As the days get longer, brighter and warmer plants and animals burst into life.
It all comes down to light – light energises plants, animals and humans. That’s its job to wake us up, to get us to produce our offspring and keep the circle of life going. It’s that simple. This is why when it is bright out in the mornings it is way easier to wake up than in the dark winter mornings we have to drag ourselves out of bed. We are meant to be sleeping when it’s dark outside.
Humans have taken light (in the form of light bulbs) and manipulated it so that we can extend our days. This is brilliant but there is always a price to pay for manipulation. Now with the invention of energy saving lights bulbs, smart phones, tablets, computers, iPads and smart TV’s we are constantly exposing ourselves to blue light.
During the day we are exposed to blue light from the sun. It is blue lights function to wake us up and energies us. This is great during the day because we are meant to be awake and to be productive. Once it gets dark we are meant to rest and sleep.
Our body’s follow their own internal clock also known as the circadian rhythm. It is usually a 24 hour cycle (give or take a few minutes) within the body. This 24 hour clock-cycle guides the body on when it should be awake, when it should feel sleepy, when it should be asleep, when we need to go for a number two, when we should eat. Unfortunately we are losing the ability to let our body guide us.
Sleep patterns and eating are two areas that have a major impact on our internal 24 hour cycle.
Blue light is brilliant during the day but to be exposed to it in the evenings can be an absolute disaster for your internal 24 hour body clock. We are not meant to stay awake all night. If we were we would be nocturnal.
Why is blue light so bad for us in the evening? Blue light stimulates us to wake up and to be productive, to do this blue light stops our bodies from producing the hormone melatonin. Once it starts getting dark and we are no longer exposed to natural blue light (the sun) our body will produce melatonin. This hormone tells the body that it is time to rest so we start to feel tired and then we should go and get ready for bed. With the invention of gadgets (smart phones, iPads, energy saving light bulbs) that give out blue light we don’t get this feeling of being tired. We are tricking our bodies into staying awake. Ever feel that you have gotten a second wave of energy in the evening? You felt tired but then suddenly you are energised again? This is the energy that your body should have been putting into repairing your body but unfortunately you are now using it to stay awake when you should be asleep.
Sleep is extremely important for recovery of our bodies. Being exposed to blue light plays havoc with our 24 hour clock.
Decreased levels of melatonin in our bodies have been linked to poor sleeping patterns and an increased risk to major health problems such as cancer, obesity and depression.
What can you do to block your exposure to blue light? Ok no one wants to hear the boring answer, turn off all electrical devices at least one hour before bedtime. That essentially is the best thing that you can do. Realistically what you can do is block this blue light from your eyes by:
1. Downloading the f.lux app which blocks blue light being omitted from electrical devices.
2. Wear a pair of orange glasses in the evenings. Orange lenses block our exposure to blue light.
3. In the evenings try and switch to lights that have an orange glow not bright energy saving bulbs. Just think of someone trying to be romantic, switch to your Romantic setting!
In general we should be sleeping when it’s dark and awake when it’s bright. This is why it is ideal to use blackout blinds in your bedroom and to make your room as dark as possible. Light is designed to wake us up. Once light peers in the window and its rays fall upon your skin, this light is trying to stimulate you and wake your body up. If you are not sleeping when it is dark and up when it is bright it is recommended to sleep in a dark room.
Manage your sleep environment, make sure that:
1. Your bed is comfortable and supportive; you will be spending a lot of time there. Poor night time posture can end up with injuries that cannot be explained during your waking hours. For example lying on your side or sleeping with your arms above your head for 8 hours a night can lead to shoulder injuries, just something to think about.
2. You should like your pillow, you are resting your head on it for long enough.
3. Make your bed a haven that you want to visit.
4. Make sure that your bed temperature is not too cold or not to warm, wear socks to bed if you get cold feet, (just make sure that they are sexy socks!) cold feet can keep you up at night by preventing you from falling asleep.
5. Sleep in a dark environment (discussed above).
6. Get all electrical devices out of your bedroom. Your bedroom it used for two main reasons – sleeping and enjoying some naked time with your partner. There is no room for a TV in your bedroom if you want to get good night’s sleep. Televisions programs, movies and electrical devices stimulate brain activity it is best to avoid brain stimulation before bed.
7. Take as much electronic activity out of your bedroom as you can, turn your phone off or even better leave it off in another room. If you use it as your alarm put it on airport mode, you don’t need it connected to the world while you are asleep. Unplug all electronic devices in your room if possible.
8. Earth or ground your bedroom.
Consumed stimulants such as
or mental stimulants
1. Stress – an argument
2. Watching a television show before bed
3. Being exposed to blue light
Figure out what stimulates you and keeps you awake; some people can drink a cup of coffee 5 minutes before bed and fall asleep while some people would be wide awake for hours if they drank a coffee 5 minutes before bedtime. We are all individuals figure out what stimulants keep you awake and try and take them out of your life prior to sleep time.
Follow the same routine – get into the habit of creating habits! Follow the same schedule every evening when you are preparing for bed, and soon your body will learn a routine for turning into sleep mode.
Get some form of regular exercise – exercising can help you to sleep better at night, it makesthe body and tired also destresses the mind.
Addressing an overactive mind…think, think, think, thinking. There are loads of things that can be done for an overactive mind.
Keep a pen and paper by your bed. Make a to-do list before you fall asleep as this can help to ease the pressure that keeps your mind working. If you do wake with ideas/things to do that you might forget, write them down. This way you can clear your mind.
Meditation is a great way to turn the mind off and fall asleep. I was never any good at getting into a relaxed state on my own. Guided meditation has worked for me. YouTube guided sleep meditation and give it a go (provided you have used the F.lux app to block blue light being omitted from your phone). Headspace is a brilliant app that is ten minutes of guided meditation a day – download the app for a ten day free trial.
My favourite trick is to pretend that I have to get up in ten minutes… I generally get my nicest sleep (coziest) when I know I have to get up in ten minutes! But in truth I can roll over and get comfortable.
If you are struggling to turn your mind off when it comes time to sleep. There are a number of supplements useful for this, valerian, Passion flower, lemon balm and hops. These all help to turn the mind off so it becomes easier to fall asleep.
If you are finding that your body is restless or cramping at night time: magnesium is a brilliant supplement that helps to relax muscles. Calcium makes our muscles contract while magnesium makes our muscles relax. When we move or when we exercise our muscles are constantly contracting and relaxing. Our diet these days is pretty deficient in magnesium and this can be a reason why we feel restless at night time or that are muscles cramp during the day or at night time.
Magnesium taken at night time is best taken in a liquid form 30 minutes before bedtime is great to help the body relax.
Other tips to help for a good night’s sleep:
If you find that you cannot get up in the morning, try a light that slowly wakes you up. There are lights available that are inspired by nature’s sunrise, which uses natural light techniques to wake you up gently and naturally.
There are also plenty of sleep applications for smart phones or iPhones. These apps can pick up on what stage of sleep you are in and slowly awaken you at the optimal time within your sleep cycle and close to the time that your alarm is set for. The problem is that your phone is connected to the world (wifi) and it’s by your body/head all night long and it can expose you to blue light that is always trying to wake your body up.