In the first part of this article we saw the importance of a restful sleep for achieving optimal health, the benefits it brings, and what happens when this habit is not given the importance it deserves.
I also explained how sleep problems began with the arrival of artificial light at the end of the nineteenth century that disconnected us from our sleep pattern, disturbing the circadian rhythm.
All human beings have a biological clock that marks rhythms which we cannot ignore. This watch regulates our physiological functioning and our behaviour, thanks to the secretion of hormones. In turn, it is regulated by several factors, with light being the most important.
Our genetic code carries the information that activity should be done during the day and that the night time is for resting. However, exposure to artificial light, always constant and of low quality, seriously alters our circadian rhythm, especially sleep, hindering physical recovery and optimum health.
With sunset, our ancestors went to sleep. In today’s society, we do the opposite. We get home after a long working day and start another frantic day: prepare dinner, pick up dinner, do homework, organize paperwork, watch TV, more computer, phones, social networking, going to the gym …
We are not going to tell you that you should get to bed by eight o’clock, or stop helping your children with homework. We know that today’s lifestyle is very demanding, but precisely for this reason, it is necessary to balance it by little creating an environment that provides calm and sleep. When nature goes to sleep, prepare yourself for that, too.
As I promised last week, we will explain the practical part, and what specificially to do.
13 Tips for Great Night of Sleep
By gradually incorporating small habits, you will be able to experience great results. It is about giving your body what it naturally expects at every moment, as much as possible.
Only with these first two steps can you begin to synchronize again with your circadian rhythm and notice the first improvements:
- They say that a good night’s sleep begins in the morning. The body expects activity in that part of the day. Start with some exercise, such as a walk at a good pace, to elevate cortisol levels and promote sleep quality at night, according to studies like this.
- The advantage of a morning walk is that you can take advantage of exposure to sunlight. The body waits for this light to activate. Exposure to sunlight helps circadian rhythm synchronization. Even if you work in an office, you can walk up to it or park the car further and continue on foot; or forgo public transportation by biking or walking to get there.
I assure you that these two practices are much more effective for starting the day with energy than a cup of the best coffee.
But there are many other options. Stick with those that work for you:
1. Learn to wake up with sunrise.
To do this, don’t close the blinds to the lime and edge. Curtains are usually sufficient unless you live in a place with light pollution such as a city centre.
It is much more pleasant to wake you up by daylight than by an enraged alarm clock :-). If you have to wake up before the sun rises, there are alarm clocks that simulate the dawn light.
2. Know about light spectrum.
The morning light is clear, inviting you to start your daily activity.
Midday light is of blue spectrum, to maintain this activity.
In the afternoon it turns orange, like the sunset inviting us to slow down and gradually enter into rest phase.
The big problem is that today we live almost all day with artificial light, which is blue (although not as luminous as sunlight but enough to inhibit the production of melatonin). Being hooked all day to electronic devices and exposed to artificial light is almost like being exposed all day long to the blue light of noon.
If you have no choice but to use your computer when natural light goes out, you can use free applications like flux and twilight for tablets and smartphones so that their light emission turns orange after sunset.
There are also eyeglasses that block the blue light of the computer but, personally, I have not tried them.
3. Eat food rich in tryptophan.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which induces the production of melatonin. It’s contained in eggs, bananas, meat and cheese.
4. Eat quality carbohydrates for dinner.
Pumpkin, sweet potatoes or bananas, for instance, can help you fall asleep as these carbohydrates facilitate the entry of tryptophan into the brain.
5. Consider incorporating a magnesium supplement.
This will help you to have better quality rest because it helps the muscles to relax.
6. Avoid coffee and tea after 4 p.m.
This way you are more likely to metabolize their caffeine/theine content before going to sleep. Replace them with herb infusions with calming effects like valerian, passionflower, lemon balm or linden but do not consume them just before bed to avoid frequent night visits to the bathroom.
7. Don’t do workouts just before bed time.
Sport is perceived as a kind of stress by your body and, in response to it, the body secretes the hormone cortisol which is precisely the one we produce in the morning naturally to activate us. If you do not have another moment during the day for your workout, you can counteract its effect by eating healthy carbohydrates, having a cold water shower, vaporizing relaxing essential oils (lavender, orange, neroli) in the room, and avoiding electronic devices.
8. Don’t have every light on throughout the house
in addtion to the computer and the TV. Give preference to ambient lights or even candles and put on relaxing music at low volume while you finish with all the evening tasks.
9. Remove all electronic devices from the room.
Turn them off (to avoid unnecessary energy consumption and electromagnetic pollution) and create an environment that helps sleep and relaxation. For this purpose you can even play with the colours in your sleeping room as they can also influence on your mood. Green, blue and cream tones, for example, are relaxing colours.
Once in bed, it is preferable to read (but not horror novelsJ) instead of continuing wasting your time with electronic devices to avoid light and more stimuli.
Regular breathing exercises as, for example, abdominal breathing, bring more oxygen to the brain and cells, more air comes into the lungs, more oxygen to the blood, and we feel more and more relaxed.
12. Park your thoughts.
Don’t lay down with your head full of worries. It’s time to proactively park your thoughts in a corner of your little head. There is nothing that can be done about it anyway once you are in bed. The best occupation at that moment is nothing else but sleep.
If you fail to stop the mental chatter, practicing meditation can be a very good option.
13. Consider co-sleeping.
If you have small children, getting a good night’s sleep is a big challenge, even more when they are ill. We tried this practice with our second son, and I do not think he has become weird or anything. He’s a quite happy young boy now, and we gained many sleep hours.
I hope all of these tips will help you improve the quality of your sleep.
And now it’s your turn! Which are your tricks for the best sleep ever? Tell us in the comments!