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How to Sleep Better

Importance of Sleep

Sleep is nature’s restorer. It has a major effect on your health.

Good sleep determines the quality of your day life. It allows you to be alert and focused during the day.

Your whole body, including your brain, detoxifies and heals itself during sleep.

Hormone Melatonin makes you sleepy and keeps you asleep. But also, it is a powerful protector, as the strongest antioxidant for your brain. 

Your brain stays active during the night. Only when you are asleep does your brain process impressions and information that you collected during the day, and it changes (neural plasticity takes place).

These neural processes allow you to learn and adjust to your ever-changing environment properly.

So ideally, you want to fall asleep quickly, sleep deeply and uninterruptedly, and wake up rested.

Sleep Issues

Sleep issues | wellbeing blog

When we cannot sleep properly or enough, all the above processes are disrupted and affect our well-being and health.

Different issues can cause sleep problems. One of the most significant is the disturbance of the inner rhythm.

Inner Rhythms and Light

The Role of Light

Our life follows certain rhythms.

Sleep and wake alternation is just one of your inner rhythms. But also blood pressure and body temperature, appetite and digestion, mental alertness, and focus follow their own daily pattern.

Your brain orchestrates all your inner rhythms. And the main external factor that regulates them is light.

Sunlight enters your eyes and directly influences your brain.

Your brain recognizes daytime by the light intensity and spectrum and sets your inner clock.

Especially it reacts to the morning and evening light. This is different from the daylight because of a more significant yellow portion.

Morning light sets inner clock | wellbeing blog

Artificial Lights

Sleep disturbed by screen light | wellbeing blog

Though electricity and artificial lights expand our possibilities, unfortunately, they disturb our natural daily rhythms.

It was shown that the eyes become very sensitive to light at night.

Excessive use of screens (mobile, tablet, computer, TV) delays your circadian rhythm and sleep time.

The bright screen light at night does not only knock down the internal clock. It also activates the part of the brain called the habenula, which is responsible for your cognitive and motivational functions.

Such habenula activation can cause dissatisfaction, poor cognitive function, and motivation and even lead to anxiety and depression.

It was shown that light exposure during sleep impairs cardiometabolic function. Therefore, keeping your sleeping room as dark as possible is crucial.

3 Easy Rules for Restoring Sleep-Wake Rhythm

Sleep like a baby | restore your sleep | rules | wellbeing blog | new empowered you
How to Sleep Better 7

To restore healthy sleep, we need to give our brain the correct information about the daytime using its language – sunlight. For this:

  1. Go out before 10 a.m. and expose yourself to the morning light for at least 10 minutes. Even on a cloudy day, the light outside is brighter than inside.
  2. Dimm all lights in the house when it gets dark outside. Use low, weak lights instead of lights from the ceilings. The bright light from above signals our brain to stay awake and alert. Also, keep your sleeping room as dark as possible.
  3. Stop using screens (TV, phone, tablet, computer) for 2 hours before bed.

It is essential to follow these simple rules consistently. And you will notice the results very soon.

Experiments have been conducted where individuals with disturbed day rhythms went camping and did not use artificial lights.

The results showed that the natural rhythm of wake and sleep can be restored entirely in just a couple of days (only one weekend).

Your inner clock adjusts completely if you expose yourself only to natural light. 

Shiftwork

If you are a shift worker, it is beneficial for you to keep the same wake and sleep rhythm for at least 14 days. Consistency is vital because it helps your body to adjust.

The rules about the lights stay valid:

  • See as much light as you can when you need to be alert. Of course, take care of your eyes’ safety.
  • Stop using screens and dim the lights two hours before going to bed.

The yellow light of the sunset can play the role of the waking-up light. Whereas the yellow light of the sunrise can play the role of the end-day light.

Other Causes of Poor Sleep

Of course, your diet also plays an important role, as your brain requires nutritious food to perform its sophisticated activities. Certain supplements can be taken to improve the quality of your sleep.

Hormonal changes, mostly in menopause, are well-known as sleep disrupters.

Sleep issues can also have psychological reasons, especially in cases when they are combined with anxiety and/or depression.

Those reasons are deeply rooted in your subconscious mind but can be effectively treated.

Hypnotherapy offers a fast and permanent solution to sleep issues by treating the very root cause of the problem.

How much sleep do you need?

An adult person requires about 7 to 9 hours of sleep.

What is also important is that the total sleep time should consist of completed sleep cycles. Each sleep cycle consists of:

  • light non-REM
  • deeper non-REM
  • deep non-REM and
  • REM (rapid-eye movement) sleep

An average sleep cycle is about 90 minutes, and the total sleeping time should be made of 4 to 6 sleeping cycles.

It isn’t easy to wake up during the deep sleep phase. Whereas the brain in the REM phase is active, and you can wake up more easily.

You can use the Sleep Calculator to calculate your bedtime depending on how much time you need to fall asleep when you need to get up, and how many sleep cycles you choose.

Sleep Calculator

Best Sleep Time

Not just the length but also the timing of your sleep plays an important role. Even people who consider themselves owls admit they feel better rested when they go to bed earlier. This is because our circadian rhythm is tied to the daylight, as discussed above. Therefore, the rest and sleep time should ideally occur between sunset and sunrise.

Moreover, the sleep times need to be consistent.

As mentioned above, your sleep consists of repeating cycles that are not identical. The first cycle differs from all following through

  • the longest deep non-REM sleep stage and the shortest REM stage
  • with a spike in growth hormone levels and
  • clean up (detoxification) of the neurons

The high quantities of growth hormone released in the first sleep cycle is needed to renew and heal cells, tissues, and organs.

During the deep cleaning of your brain in the first sleep cycle, neurons wash out the protein debris that got misfolded or unfolded due to brain activities. A thorough clean-up of the debris is necessary for the brain’s normal functioning the next day.

The growth hormone release and brain cleanup occur only when you go to bed at the usual time. If you go to bed later, they do not shift to the later time but do not take place, and therefore, the next day, your brain and body functions will not be optimal.

The best temperature to sleep

Your body temperature follows the circadian rhythm – it decreases in the evening, reaches its minimum during sleep, rises towards the end of sleep, and reaches its maximum during the day.

As our body lowers its temperature during sleep, sleeping in a cool environment (17-19 degrees Celsius) promotes sound sleep.

If you wake during the night and have difficulty falling asleep, you can lower your body temperature by:

  • drinking some cold water
  • washing your hands with cold water
  • sticking out your feet or hands from the blanket: Both palms and feet soles are rich in blood vessels and participate in your body’s thermal regulation; by cooling down your feet or hands, you can quickly reduce your body temperature.
  • even using a programmable temperature-regulating mattress cover

Healthy wake-sleep rhythm

Circadian rhythm dysregulation can cause various health problems, including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular risks, obesity, mood disorders, and age-related macular degeneration.

Restoring healthy circadian rhythms by regulating light exposure brings you multiple well-being and health advantages in the short to long term.

In the short term, you will get an excellent sleep-wake rhythm, quality of sleep, and focus.

In the mid-term, you will improve your moods, memory, productivity, and symptoms of mood disorders like major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and schizophrenia.

In the long term, you will secure healthy aging and longevity by preventing aging-related diseases.

Restoring and supporting a healthy circadian rhythm can be accelerated by additionally keeping regular eating and exercising times.

Better Sleep FAQ

Does melatonin work?

Melatonin supplements make it easier to fall asleep but do not improve sleep quality. You may also wake up in the middle of the night when the melatonin supplement stops working. Therefore, finding the root causes of sleep issues and treating them is better.

How do I increase melatonin levels to have better sleep?

Being outside and viewing the evening sunlight will additionally influence your inner rhythms. Like the morning sunlight, the evening sunlight has a more yellow color. Viewing it will stimulate the melatonin release in the evening.
Regular sleeping times will support the sleep and wake rhythm and melatonin release in the evening.

Can I have better sleep after meditation?

A relaxing guided meditation can help calm down and sleep better. Other options are breathing exercises or (self-)hypnosis.

Does daily exercise promote better sleep?

Your body is meant to be active in the morning and during the day. Daily exercise during this part of the day will be aligned with the daily rhythm, make your body tired, and promote better sleep at night.

What is one small change that helped you get better sleep?

Learning self-hypnosis for sleep helped me to get better sleep – to fall asleep easier and sleep through the night.

What is the best dinner for better sleep?

Foods that support brain activity and health will also promote better sleep. Nutrient-rich protocol, like the modern hunter-gatherer protocol, is highly suitable for general well-being and sound sleep. It includes a wide variety of vegetables, mushrooms, seeds and nuts, and quality meats. But it is low in carbohydrates, especially sugars.
Vitamin D and magnesium supplements may be helpful.
Consult your doctor before taking any supplements.

Conclusions

  • Good sleep determines the quality of your daily life.
  • Ideally, you want to fall asleep quickly, sleep deeply and uninterruptedly, and wake up rested.
  • Your brain sets your inner clock, the sleep and wake rhythm, according to the sunlight, especially the rising and setting sunlight.
  • To restore your sleep, it is beneficial to follow three simple rules:
  1. Go out before 10 am for 10 minutes
  2. Dimm all artificial lights at night
  3. Stop using screens 2 hours before going to bed
  • Hypnotherapy can be an excellent solution for sleep issues caused by psychological reasons.

Share here what helps you sleep well

References

  • Touitou Y, Reinberg A, Touitou D. Association between light at night, melatonin secretion, sleep deprivation, and the internal clock: Health impacts and mechanisms of circadian disruption. Life Sci. 2017 Mar 15;173:94-106. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2017.02.008. Epub 2017 Feb 16. PMID: 28214594.
  • Matenchuk BA, Mandhane PJ, Kozyrskyj AL. Sleep, circadian rhythm, and gut microbiota. Sleep Med Rev. 2020 Oct;53:101340. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2020.101340. Epub 2020 May 13. PMID: 32668369.
  • Evans JA, Davidson AJ. Health consequences of circadian disruption in humans and animal models. Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci. 2013;119:283-323. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-396971-2.00010-5. PMID: 23899601.
  • Walker, W.H., Walton, J.C., DeVries, A.C. et al. Circadian rhythm disruption and mental health. Transl Psychiatry 10, 28 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-020-0694-0
  • Mason IC, Grimaldi D, Reid KJ, Warlick CD, Malkani RG, Abbott SM, Zee PC. Light exposure during sleep impairs cardiometabolic function. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2022 Mar 22;119(12):e2113290119. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2113290119. Epub 2022 Mar 14. PMID: 35286195; PMCID: PMC8944904.
  • Lim S, Park S, Koyanagi A, Yang JW, Jacob L, Yon DK, Lee SW, Kim MS, Il Shin J, Smith L. Effects of exogenous melatonin supplementation on health outcomes: An umbrella review of meta-analyses based on randomized controlled trials. Pharmacol Res. 2022 Feb;176:106052. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2021.106052. Epub 2022 Jan 6. PMID: 34999224.
  • Refinetti R. Circadian rhythmicity of body temperature and metabolism. Temperature (Austin). 2020 Apr 17;7(4):321-362. doi: 10.1080/23328940.2020.1743605. PMID: 33251281; PMCID: PMC7678948.

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