So you want to get the perfect nights sleep?
In the first instance, let me unravel the concept of what “sleeping well” actually means. Like many things in life quality is of more value than quantity. Research is showing that a higher % of deep and REM sleep is better and a more relevant indicator to who is “sleeping well” rather than who is sleeping longer.
Why are we even talking about sleep? Because it is becoming a more prominent issue with busy working lives and technological advancements that mean we are constantly plugged in - this makes it harder to switch off, unwind and relax.
As research in this area continues it is becoming well known that good quality sleep is being linked to operating better at work, in the gym, and with your loved ones. Improved sleep has been associated with:
- Being smarter
- Being a better decision maker
- Better with words
- Feeling happier – better hormonal balance
- Feeling more alert and less tired throughout the day
- Better immune system
- Better memory
- Recover better
- Reduced stress
To improve sleep quality you need to improve ease of falling asleep, not waking up during the middle of the night, total sleep time, ease of waking, not arising earlier than wanted, and truly achieving deep sleep.
So how do we do this?
1. Make Your Room As Dark As Possible And Reduce Light Exposure
The human body goes through a biological cycle every 24 hours. When darkness sets in, our bodies release the sleep hormone melatonin, which causes us to feel tired and sleepy. Artificial light can suppress melatonin production by up to 50%. It can also stimulate the production of cortisol, a stress hormone that acts to keep us awake and affect our sleep. This is why we want to make our room as dark as possible and avoid bright screens like phones and TVs an hour or two before bed.
For the geeks – if you delve a little deeper into which type of light is bad before bed you need to understand that light is made up of different wavelengths. It is the blue light that is especially good at melatonin suppression, which means it is bad for us at night. These blue wavelengths are more prominent from modern day screens such as tablets, phones, and laptops.
Unless you move to Tibet and become a Buddhist monk, removing light exposure from your life at night is pretty tough…….
There are a couple of cool resources available for us to minimise light exposure. Currently on the market there are glasses and phone screen filters that block blue light, meaning that you can still look at your iPhone or computer whilst minimising the negative effects on the production of the sleep hormone at night. You can check out where to get blue light blocking glasses here and here. You can check out where to get blue light blocking screen protectors here.
Another option is to install F.lux, free computer software that dims computer screens and reduces blue light exposure as you get closer to bed time. You can check this software out here.
2. Have Your Room Temperature Between 15-20degC
When you sleep, your body’s thermal set point drops to its lowest for the day. This mild drop in temperature sets ideal physiological conditions for the body to have quality sleep.
If the room you are sleeping in is cooler, it is easier for your body to achieve the drop in temperature. This is why they say not to exercise before bed. Exercising elevates your body’s core temperature making it hard to achieve ideal sleep conditions.
Again, this is tough for most people whose only time to exercise is at night. A way of reducing the heat effects of late night exercise is to have a hot shower or bath before bed. When you get out, your body’s core temperature will drop abruptly.
3. Foam Rolling
Everyone knows that foam rolling can be used for recovery and mobility. What is being suggested hear is a different concept – using a foam roller and casually massaging different parts of your body (maybe whilst listening to a podcast or some music). Foam rolling or massage with a lacrosse or tennis ball for only 10 minutes before bed will activate your parasympathetic nervous system which helps you to calm down and relax, putting you in the ideal state for sleep.
If you don’t own a foam roller, do yourself a favour and get one. They are cheap and will change your life. I use the rumble roller which is a beast - hard and firm (not for beginners). They have well priced rollers and balls for beginners here.
4. Sleep Induction Mat
This thing is awesome and does work! Trust me I use it every night. It hurt the first few times but I was able to work up to 10 minutes whilst meditating.
A sleep induction mat is a mat with hundreds of spikes on it. An individual lays down on the mat for approximately 10 minutes before bed. The spikes trigger acupressure points, stimulating blood circulation, and also cause a surge of endorphins and other beneficial hormones, making us more relaxed and ready for bed.
I use the Bulletproof brand but there are several others available.
Ok, everyone knows they should meditate and most people want to but just can’t fit it in or forget. If you are serious about incorporating this into your routine, start with 1 min a night before bed where you close your eyes and try to relax. Do this for one week, then move to 2 minutes a night, then 3, so on and so forth. The brain is like a muscle that needs to be trained. Work up to 10 minutes before bed. If you are struggling with mindfulness meditation, use a guided meditation where they talk you through it. I like the ones that Omvana provide - they are free, have variety and are effective.
Not only will this improve your sleep but it will improve all areas of your life. Numerous studies have shown that meditators are found to spend more time in slow wave sleep and REM sleep, and also have more sleep cycles which all indicates better sleep quality. Further,meditation techniques are known to positively affect hormones, especially those related to recovery and good sleep.
6. Avoid EMF - Turn Phone To Flight Mode.
Turning your phone onto aeroplane mode is not just a wives’ tale……..Electro Magnetic Fields (EMFs) released from phones, computes, WIFI and other electrical devices are bad for you. The discrepancy between natural EMFs and man made EMFs can prevent deep sleep.
As we stated previously, Melatonin production is very important for us when we are trying to sleep. The issue is that research shows that EMFs hinder the production of melatonin, resulting in a harder time falling asleep.
Whilst science supports that there are benefits to turning your phone onto aeroplane mode there are also some holistic positives. Choosing the aeroplane mode option on the touch screen of your smart phone truly allows you the ability to mentally switch off and prepare your mind to sleep and be rejuvenated.
There are several natural supplements which assist with restful sleep. First and foremost I would try a magnesium supplement. Magnesium Citrate is the best of the differing types of Magnesium, consuming approximately 400mg before bed is ideal. Ascorbates, orotates and glicinates are also effective. Magnesium assists in muscle relaxation and also in the production of sleep assisting neurochemicals such as melatonin and GABA.
If your still finding it difficult to sleep, research has shown that supplements like 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytrptophan) and Tryptophan have benefit if taken before bed. These substances are the precursor to sleep hormones like melatonin and seratonin. By increasing the amount of precursor you will increase the production of good hormones. These substances are generally not to be taken on a regular basis as this will affect the bodies natural production systems of these sleep chemicals.
Other natural supplements worth looking at include GABBA, Valerian Root and L-thanine.
8. Stop Coffee Before 2pm And Take It Easy On The Red Wine Before Bed
Caffeine binds to particular receptors in the brain. This prevents the uptake of adenosine which makes you feel tired and is primarily associated with deep sleep. Caffeine also causes the release of fight or flight chemicals such as dopamine and adrenaline, chemicals associated with wakefullness. If you want a quality nights sleep, stop caffeine after 2pm. You also want to avoid red wine before bed. Tim Ferris talks about how red wine consumption can reduce sleep quality by 20-50%.
Above are 8 tips to a restful night sleep. Objectivity is key to measuring anything in life. It's all well and good to say your improving your sleep but how do you really know. A great way to tell is by using one of the numerous apps out there that help monitor sleep quality.
Make these changes and you will be on the way to perfect sleep and an improved life.
Co-Owner Primal Health Products
For more info on Primal Health Products click here: https://primalhealthproducts.com.au/