Don't Sleep on the Power of SleepMar 22, 2022
You can sleep when you're dead. We’ve all heard this phrase used throughout our lives, and for decades that sleeping less and working harder has been associated with success. However, by now most of us have heard how crucial sleep is for good physical and mental health.
In Matthew Walker’s book Why We Sleep, he dives deep into all things sleep and the fascinating research that surrounds this topic. Regardless of age, reduced amount and quality of sleep is associated with reduced ability to learn, increases in mental health disorders, more physical ailments, and higher rates of all-cause mortality.
Unfortunately, it's known that as we age it’s harder to achieve good sleep. Here are a few simple and practical steps that can be implemented to start improving your sleep now:
1. Refrain from dozing off for that post work or mid-afternoon nap
There are 2 main components to our sleep cycle: circadian rhythm and a chemical in our brains called adenosine. After waking up in the morning, your body begins accumulating adenosine. More adenosine = more sleepiness. Your circadian rhythm is like an internal clock located in your brain telling your body when to sleep and when to wake. When you take a nap you reset the amount of adenosine that had been building up throughout the day. This can cause difficulty falling asleep a few hours later when you’re getting ready for bed.
2. Consistent bedtime
Ever heard of night owls vs early birds? This is because individuals’ circadian rhythms
aren’t the same. Some individuals’ peak wakefulness comes earlier in the morning while
other’s come closer to lunch time. Along with this, your peak sleepiness comes earlier in
the night if you’re an early bird while night owls will find it very difficult to fall asleep
that early. Your bedtime doesn’t need to be the same as your peers. However, find a time
that works for you and your schedule still allowing 7-9 hours of sleep and do your best to
stick to it!
3. Don’t consume caffeine past 12 pm
Caffeine likes to bind to the same receptors in our brains that adenosine does. Even
though adenosine continues to build up in your body when caffeine is present, caffeine
blocks adenosine from binding to its’ receptors and therefor blocks the signal of
sleepiness from being sent out. Caffeine takes about 5-10 hours to be cleared from your system, so stop consumption early enough in the day that it won’t interrupt your bedtime!
4. Put your phone down 30 min before bedtime
Now it’s time to talk about the infamous melatonin. Melatonin is another signal of
sleepiness that is sent throughout your body. However, this signal is halted by light.
Staring at our phones for a half hour before bed actually prolongs the time it takes for
melatonin to be released therefore prolonging the time it takes to fall asleep.
5. Diaphragmatic breathing
Diaphragmatic or “belly” breathing is a simple technique that can be added to your
bedtime routine. It helps to reduce stress and heart rate, while at the same time inducing
relaxation. It is a way to voluntarily suppress you sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous
system and turn on your parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system. To perform
this technique, lie flat on your back in bed with one hand resting on your belly. Take a
deep breath in through your nose counting to 5. You want to breathe into your belly
instead of your chest so that you feel your belly fill with air. Then take a full 5 seconds to
slowly blow the air out through your mouth. Repeat 5-10 times.
It can be overwhelming when healthcare professionals everywhere are telling you you need to sleep more, exercise daily, cook nutritious food, work a full day, and spend time with your family all in a 24-hr period. I hope this information gives you some simple strategies to improve your sleep without taking too much time out of your day! If you have any questions or want to know more, please leave a comment or reach out to us!