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5 ways to improve your sleep

Sleep is the most powerful tool we have, to optimise our health. Sleep helps to repair our body, improves memory, lowers stress levels, supports growth and development, and keeps our immune system healthy amongst many other things. Once sleep is neglected or we to begin experience poor sleep all these things become negatively impacted.


The most common symptoms of not getting enough sleep can include forgetfulness, inability to learn new things, irritability, mood swings, headaches, and poor stress management. Poor sleep also indirectly leads to injuries, reduced output in our daily activities, damage to our relationships due to increased irritability and mood swings, higher susceptibility to illnesses & diseases and weight gain from hormone disruption.


You can see why sleep is the ultimate superpower.

Unfortunately, today’s environmental factors contribute to reduced sleep quantity and quality. On average the world is sleeping less and less as our daily life demands get the better of us. People of different ages have different sleep needs. As a rough guide the following hours of sleep over a 24-hour cycle are suggested for each given age group:

  • Newborns: between 14-17 hours

  • Infants: between 12-16 hours

  • Toddlers: between 11-14 hours

  • Ages 6-12 years = 9-12hrs

  • Ages 13-18 years = 8-10hrs

  • Ages 18+ = 7-9 hrs.

Many are not getting close to these recommended hours of sleep, and to add to the issue further, the quality of sleep (meaning the amount of deep and restorative sleep) one is getting is further reduced. So, although you may be in bed for 8 hours only half of this might be quality sleep particularly if you are impacted by environmental issues such as noise, light, temperature, and electronic devises.


Now that we that we know of the importance of sleep let's delve into some of the things I suggest, to assist with improved sleep quality.


1. Removal of blue light at night

Light from technology devices we use on a daily basis has a huge impact on our sleep. Before computers, mobiles and tv’s were around, we only had light from natural sources, but as technology has grown into our everyday life so rapidly with screens getting bigger every year, and the internet always getting faster--our human body has not been able to adapt as quickly to keep up with the sudden changes.


Blue light at night really impacts our sleep including the amount of time it takes us to fall asleep and how quickly we get into a restorative sleep--where our mind and body is able to recover and rebuild. However, there are some great gadgets you can buy including blue light blocking glasses, smart light bulbs that are more friendly on the eye as they adjust to a calmer light progressively as evening occurs, and even reading lights that can be clipped on to the top of a book to assist with reading at night. I purchase all my devices from www.boncharge.com and I highly suggest you visit the website to see all the cool gadgets they have on offer to help reduce the amount of blue light you get before bed. Keep in mind, having these gadgets does not mean we should be on electronics until it’s time to fall asleep. I still suggest turning off or switching to airplane mode for all technology devises around 1-2 hours before bed, opting to read a book or spending quality time with those around you instead of being on your phone where you are getting constant sensory stimulation.


Another suggestion to consider is rather than watching tv on your 75cm screen, switch over to a smaller screen like an iPad or laptop--if you absolutely must—where you can reduce the white point and/or backlight and adjust the colour filters to red. Lastly, technology devices in the bedroom should be off limits where possible. The bedroom should be a place for rest and sleep not for scrolling and watching.


2. Food & liquids up until bedtime

Every time we eat our body is working hard to break down the food we digest. This utilises more effort and energy than we probably realise and if we are eating up until bedtime, we are delaying the time it takes for our bodies to get to the restorative sleep we need.

By limiting the intake of liquids in the evening and having our last meal 2-3 hours prior and to bedtime we can get into a more restorative sleep sooner, and with less interruptions to the sleep cycles (not having to get up during the night to use the bathroom).


If you are the type to eat up until bedtime because you are hungry, or if you wake up during the night feeling hungry and need to eat to go back to sleep, there may be bigger issues at hand--likely a hormonal imbalance that needs addressing. Unfortunately, feeling hungry before we sleep can negatively impact our sleep just as much as eating before bed.


3. Viewing daylight

Sunlight is one of the most easily accessible, free tools we have. Our body has an internal clock called the circadian rhythm which, much like a normal clock it follows a 24-hour cycle. The idea of waking up and getting natural light in the form of sunlight may seem a bit woo-woo--but hear me out. Exposure to sunlight increases the brains release of a hormone called serotonin which is associated with boosting mood and helping us feel calm and focused. Viewing sunlight at dusk triggers the brain to make another hormone called melatonin which is responsible for helping you sleep. Very simply put--light creates natural hormonal changes within us.


Waking up and getting morning light into our eyes and on our body synchronises your body clock with the 24-hour day in two ways:

  • Tells your brain to stop making the sleep hormone melatonin

  • Your brains master clock sets a sort of internal timer, instructing the body to start making melatonin again about 14 hours later.

So, we can see the importance of how natural light impacts our hormones and if we can get in a habit of getting outside and viewing natural daylight ideally at least 30 to 40 minutes a day and going to bed around the same time every day we suddenly have hormones being released on time, setting ourselves up for an extremely healthy circadian rhythm and routine in general.


4. Caffeine after 12 noon

Caffeine in the form of some of our favourite beverages including coffee, black and green tea can disrupt your sleep up to 6-8 hours after consuming depending on your genetic make-up. Caffeine has a quarter-life of twelve hours. What I mean by that is if you have a cup of coffee at noon, a quarter of that caffeine is still circulating in your brain at midnight.


Some people with certain genetic make-up don’t have this issue but the majority of us do. Caffeine is a stimulant which if consumed late in the days can cause you to have a reduced amount of deep sleep if it is still floating around in your system throughout the night. The first half of our sleep is deep sleep which has many benefits to our health and just like consuming food & drink too closely to bedtime, drinking caffeine also disrupts our ability to get into a restorative deep sleep. On top of this caffeine interferes with the circadian rhythm (internal clock). Caffeine is a great drink to have, I personally drink 1-2 cups most days but try keeping it to the morning as early in the day as possible.


5. A dark and cosy bedroom

Having a comfortable dark room is important for improving the quality of sleep. Exposure to light during night-time can mess up the naturally programmed increase of melatonin levels. We want our room to be as dark as possible, so consider blackout blinds or an eye mask to block any light entering the room to ensure we get the best opportunity to sleep.


We also want a quiet room that blocks any outside noise. If you are living in an inner-city location with cars, buses or trains consider playing white, pink, or brown noise, fans, or wearing comfortable ear plugs that can block out some of the noises entering the room which could contribute to the possibility of broken sleep.


The final tip to a comfortable room is the room temperature. We have all woken up feeling too hot or cold and this certainly will reduce our sleep quality. Studies have shown that a sleeping in a room temperature of around 18-19 degrees is ideal for getting the best possible good night’s sleep.


In addition to the above there are a number of devices now that can measure sleep and although they don’t necessarily help you sleep, the changes you can make through analysing the data can be extremely beneficial. I personally use an Oura Ring and have done so for a long time now. Although I do not think this is a must have gadget it does show that when we implement strategies such as the ones suggested in this article, we are then able to observe the changes through the data provided to us and inevitably tells as what does and does not work for us. And yes, I do put this on Airplane Mode before I go to bed ☺



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