Humans are hardwired for sleep. It’s an important part of our health. If you can’t switch off, there’s a few things you might be getting wrong…
Know Your Cycle
Everyone has different sleep patterns (aka circadian rhythms).
These are hard wired into us and are controlled by our hormones.
Our differing sleep patterns are known as our Chronotypes.
According to Michael Breus, you’re either a Lion, a Bear, a Wolf or a Dolphin.
Knowing which of these you are can really help you streamline your life. It can tell you when it’s best for you as an individual to eat, exercise, be intimate and even when it’s best for you to drink coffee.
Switch It Off
The blue light emitted by screens on phones, computers, tablets, and televisions, reduce the production of melatonin (the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle or circadian rhythm).
Reducing melatonin makes it harder to fall and stay asleep.
Mobile phone use for calling and sending text messages after lights out has been associated with sleep disturbances (short sleep duration, poor sleep quality, daytime sleepiness, and insomnia).
Set your sleep environment
Keeping connected with people is important, but scrolling your News feed isn’t if you struggle with sleep. More importantly, social media can cause stress before bed. Log out.
Make your bedroom sleep friendly. Books, relaxing music, sketchbooks, a podcast and your morning alarm of course.
Follow The Light
Humans go to bed far later than they are supposed to since the invention of artificial lights. The term ‘midnight’ literally means ‘the middle of the night’, so by 12pm, you should be half way through your sleep. This is unlikely to be true for many people in Western society.
You can combat this biological impairment by getting more natural daylight. Open your curtains wide in the morning, drink your coffee outside. Never wear sunglasses in the morning as this messes up your neurochemistry for sleep, wear them later in the day to prepare your brain for sleep. When it’s night time, turn as many lights off in your house as you can.
A popular option for some to help with sleep. Well don’t. Or at least go easy. It might help you drift off, but alcohol disrupts sleep. You sleep less, and get less of the important REM sleep which your body needs to heal itself from the day before. Not to mention a whole host of other physical health issues, low mood and stupid decisions if you’re a binge drinker.
Another popular option. Evidence suggests it does work in helping you drift off to sleep, and could be of help to insomniacs. But, like alcohol, it reduces your much needed REM sleep. You should always try getting your sleep naturally (keep reading for ideas), or look into CBD oil and it’s benefits for sleep.
The bottom line is don’t become psychologically dependent on something to get your sleep, be it alcohol, weed, sleeping pills, downers. They wont give you the type of sleep your body really needs. As soon as you withdraw from these, you might struggle to sleep even more.
Please Sir, Can I have Some More Serotonin?
Lowered levels of this hormone, leads to problems with low mood, sleep and insomnia.
If we can increase our serotonin levels, this should help us sleep.
5-HTP is a natural precursor to serotonin (our body creates it from an amino acid called tryptophan).
It comes in tablet form and can be bought over the counter to help with sleep. We can also get this help from our food (see Eat Better, Sleep Better).
Sometimes we go to bed in the wrong frame of mind. We’re still thinking about the events of the day, worrying about decisions we’ve made, things we’ve said, or worrying about what might happen (but probably won’t) the next day.
Meditation helps us slow down our thoughts and enter a state of relaxation. There are huge benefits of meditation, such as reducing anxiety and depression. It’s even been found to change the structure of our brains.
If you’re going to bed stressed, you’re not going to sleep as easily.
Learning to relax your mind reduces that stress and will hopefully help you to fall asleep more easily. You have to learn to allow your brain to reach that point.
Because of the internet and mobile phones which we never switch off, some of us have forgot how to relax.
Practicing meditation as part of your night time routine could help you train yourself into sleeping better. It will take practice and patience.