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, your brain processes impressions and information that you collected during the day and it changes (neural plasticity takes place).
These neural processes allow you to learn and properly adjust to your ever-changing environment.
So ideally, you want to fall asleep easily, sleep deeply and uninterruptedly, and wake up rested.
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 pattern each day.
All your inner rhythms are orchestrated by your brain. 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 larger yellow portion.
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.
It was shown that light exposure during sleep impairs cardiometabolic function. Therefore, it is crucial to keep your sleeping room as dark as possible.
3 Easy Rules for Restoring Sleep-Wake Rhythm
To restore healthy sleep, we need to give our brain the correct information about the daytime using its language – sunlight. For this:
- 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.
- 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.
- Stop using screens (TV, phone, tablet, computer) for 2 hours before going to bed.
It is essential to follow these simple rules consistently. And you will notice the results very soon.
There have been conducted experiments 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 completely in just a couple of days (only one weekend).
Your inner clock adjusts completely if you expose yourself only to natural light.
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 important 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 the safety of your eyes.
- Stop using screens and dim the lights two hours before going to bed.
The yellow light of the sunset can play for you 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. And 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 is difficult to wake up during the deep sleep phase. Whereas the brain in the REM phase is as active as in the waking state, you can wake up 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.
Best Sleep Time
Not just the length but also the timing of your sleep plays an important role. Even persons, considering themselves owls, admit that they feel better rested when they go to bed earlier. This is because our circadian rhythm is tied to the day-light as discussed above. Therefore, the rest and sleep time should ideally take place between sunset and sunrise.
Moreover, the sleep times need to be consistent.
As mentioned above your sleep consists of repeating cycles, but those 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 amount of growth hormone released in the first sleep cycle is needed for the renewal and healing of 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 the brain activities. A thorough clean-up of the debris is necessary for the normal functioning of the brain the next day.
Both the growth hormone release and brain cleanup take place 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 the thermal regulation of your body; 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 a good 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 it is better to find the root cause of the sleep issues and treat them.
How do I increase melatonin levels to have better sleep?
Being outside and viewing the evening sunlight will additionally influence your inner rhythms. The evening sunlight, like the morning sunlight, has a more yellow color. Viewing it will stimulate the melatonin release in the evening.
Keeping regular sleeping times will support the sleep and wake rhythm and melatonin release in the evening.
Can I have better sleep after meditation?
Definitely, a relaxing guided meditation can help to calm down and sleep better. Other options are breathing exercises or (self-)hypnosis.
Does daily exercise promote better sleep?
In the morning and during the day your body is meant to be active. 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.
- Good sleep determines the quality of your day 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 extremely helpful to follow three simple rules:
- Go out before 10 am for 10 minutes
- Dimm all artificial lights at night
- Stop using screens 2 hours before going to bed
- Hypnotherapy can be a great solution for sleep issues caused by psychological reasons.
Share here what helps you sleep well
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