HIGH QUALITY SLEEP:
- Fortifies your immune system
- Balances your hormones
- Boosts your metabolism
- Increases your physical energy
- Improves the function of your brain
WHY YOU NEED SLEEP:
- The glymphatic system is the unique waste disposal system of the brain
- This waste disposal is critical to brain function
- During sleep the glymphatic system is 10 times more active
- Simultaneously your brain cells are reduced by about 60% while you are asleep to make waste removal even more efficient
- The inability of your brain to remove harmful waste products is believed to be one of the foundational causes of Alzheimer’s disease.
UNIVERSITY OF SURREY SLEEP RESEARCH
The Surrey Sleep Research Centre (SSRC) is home to forward-thinking multidisciplinary approaches to sleep research and offers a wide range of state-of-the-art equipment to monitor, record and analyse sleep patterns and sleep disorders.
Their sleep studies are published in high impact academic journals, academics frequently appear on television and feature in national and international newspapers.
One such study was on lack of sleep can affect and alter human gene activity, they found that:
- As little as one week of inadequate sleep is enough to alter the internal workings of the human body
- The results showed that a lack of sleep affects the activity of more than 700 of our genes, including those that govern the immune system, the body’s response to stress and our natural body clock
- Sleep deficiency can lead to a host of health conditions including obesity, heart disease and cognitive impairment
For those of you interested here is the link to the SSRC website and all their most recent publications.
One of the most important factors in how we sleep is our circadian rhythm. If you’ve ever noticed that you tend to feel energised and drowsy around the same times every day, you have your circadian rhythm to thank.
What is it, exactly?
Your circadian rhythm is basically a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. It’s also known as your sleep/wake cycle.
For most adults, the biggest dip in energy happens in the middle of the night (somewhere between 2:00am and 4:00am, when they’re usually fast asleep) and just after lunchtime (around 1:00pm to 3:00pm, when they tend to crave a post-lunch nap). Those times can be different if you’re naturally a night owl or a morning person.
You also won’t feel the dips and rises of your circadian rhythm as strongly if you’re all caught up on sleep. It’s when you’re sleep-deprived that you’ll notice bigger swings of sleepiness and alertness.
A part of your hypothalamus (a portion of your brain) controls your circadian rhythm. That said, outside factors like lightness and darkness can also impact it. When it’s dark at night, your eyes send a signal to the hypothalamus that it’s time to feel tired.
Your brain, in turn, sends a signal to your body to release melatonin, which makes your body tired. That’s why your circadian rhythm tends to coincide with the cycle of daytime and night time (and why it’s so hard for shift workers to sleep during the day and stay awake at night).
Your circadian rhythm works best when you have regular sleep habits, like going to bed at night and waking up in the morning around the same times from day to day (including weekends).
When things get in the way, like jet lag, daylight savings time, or a compelling sporting event on TV that keeps you up all night, you can disrupt your circadian rhythm, which makes you feel out of sorts and can make it harder to pay attention.
TIPS TO HELP SET YOUR CIRCADIAN RHYTHM
DURING THE DAY:
- To start resetting your circadian rhythm you need to get as much light as possible as early in the day as you can
- If you can get outside for 30 minutes at the start of the day, this will really help set your circadian rhythm
- Keep your curtains open
- Drive with the windows down
- Vitamin D supplementation (1sthalf of the day)
DURING THE EVENING:
- Switch off screens an hour or two before bedtime
- Consider wearing amber tinted glasses if using lights or electronics after sunset
- Blue Light filter on electronic devices
- Ideally you need to also limit artificial light at bedtime (although light in the morning is more important) keep indoor lighting to a minimum once the sun is down
- Try to read from a physical book at bedtime if you like to read (rather than reading from a screen)
- Pass on sugary snacks
Here are some other things that you can do that may be helpful over the next week:
- Warm bath straight before bed, the drop in body temperature as you get out of the bath helps bring on sleep
- Turn the temp down in your bedroom
- Journal before bedtime
- Blue light filter bulbs
- Blue light filter on phone
Healthy hormone production and maintenance is important to our overall health but also crucial to how well we sleep. Our body’s hormones are like chemical messages in the bloodstream, which cause a change in a particular cell or organ and surrounding tissues. They control many of the body’s processes, including growth, development, reproduction, stress response, metabolism and energy balance.
Hormones are linked with sleep in a number of ways. Sleep allows many of our hormones to replenish so we have the optimal energy, immunity, appetite and coping ability to face the day’s highs and lows.
So we need good sleep to replenish our hormones but we also need healthy hormones so that we can get good sleep, it all goes full circle.
HERE ARE SOME OF THE HORMONES THAT AFFECT/CAN BE AFFECTED BY SLEEP:
- Growth hormone
WAYS WE CAN KEEP OUR HORMONES HEALTHY:
- Talk to your pharmacist/GP if you are taking any prescriptions that may affect your sleep
- Increase the amount of activity that you get during the day
- Go for walks
- Play! (with your kids, pets or friends)
- Increase dietary fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids and medium chain triglycerides
- Consume a moderate amount of carbs (not too high and not too low)
- Eat organ meats and seafood
- Eat sulfur-rich foods like onion, garlic, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts
- Avoid snacking, especially before bed
- Try to avoid eating in the 2 hours before bedtime
- Avoid alcohol
- Limit caffeine intake (especially after noon)
- Try a magnesium supplement
- Consider a nap of no more than 20 minutes during the day if you got inadequate sleep the night before
EXERCISE FOR SLEEP
Movement helps set circadian rhythms, reduces stress and regulates hormones known to affect sleep quality.
There’s no one perfect exercise that will enhance your sleep – any type of movement is better than none – but these three specific activities are scientifically proven to help you get better slumber.
Activities that get your heart rate up, such as running, brisk walking, cycling, and swimming, have been shown to improve sleep and battle insomnia.
Even small bouts, such as 10 minutes, may help, though the goal is to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity (or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity) aerobic exercise each week.
Building muscle has been shown to improve the quality of sleep, and it can also help you fall asleep faster and wake up less frequently throughout the night.
So try doing exercises like shoulder presses, bicep curls, tricep dips, squats, lunges, calf raises, sit-ups, and push-ups that will make you stronger.
Yoga’s relaxing poses and stretches, as well as the calming breathing exercises that accompany them, may be especially helpful if stress is what’s keeping you from falling asleep.
Those with insomnia who do yoga daily for eight weeks are likely to fall asleep faster and increase the amount of time that they spend sleeping.
- Stuck at a desk all day? Use your lunch break for a walk, especially if you are allowed to eat at other times of work
- Taking a long phone call or business call? See if you can take it in a place where you can walk around or pace back and forth while you talk, or even try and take the call outside.
- Have a business meeting while you walk
- Shopping or running errands is a great time to get in some movement
- Take the stairs or walk the escalator when in the shops or commuting
- Park further away from your destinations and walk an extra 10/15 minutes each way
- Combine social time with movement
- When your kids want to play or you are out at the play park – join in!
“A well spent day brings happy sleep.”
- Many of us are deficient in magnesium, insufficient intake is linked to sleep problems
- It is an important mineral necessary for overall health
- Helps neurotransmitters that are responsible for calming the body and mind
- Acts upon the nervous system and contributes to deep, restful sleep
- May help treat anxiety and depression (both of which can affect sleep)
Try magnesium oil before bed, Epsom salts in your bath or a magnesium supplement
In 2017 there was a program on the BBC called ‘The Truth About Sleep’.
- Four million people watched ‘The Truth About Sleep’ and saw popular presenter Dr Michael Mosley curing his insomnia by taking a ‘prebiotic’ powder before bed.
- Previously, 75% of his sleep had been analyzed and deemed ‘good’ with 25% disrupted.
- After taking the powder – mixed with a hot drink – for five nights, his ‘good’ sleep jumped to 95%.
The prebiotic powder that he took was called Bimuno. I discussed this prebiotic supplement in more detail in the Week 5 ebook.
“Sleep – one of the sweetest things we can have in life, and it’s free.”
Sleep hygiene refers to taking the time to do certain things that will ‘clean up’ your sleep/bedtime routine to ensure you are able to get deep, restorative sleep.
Here are a few extra options that can help you to make your bedroom a lovely place to sleep and your bedtime routine something to look forward too.
- Make your bedroom cosy and inviting
- Invest in some new Pj’s or sleepwear
- Try sleeping on your back with your knees and neck supported with soft pillows or sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees
- If you are someone who gets hot at night, use cotton sheets and/or minimal cotton sleepwear
- Remove or cover up all lights in the bedroom at night (incl. LED’s, alarm clocks, and night lights
- Switch to a light alarm clock or ditch it altogether
- Consider the quality of your mattress
- Turn off WIFI – especially if it is in your bedroom
SLEEP APPS AND RESOURCES
You have already learnt about the benefits of taking some time each day to sit in silence or to try and meditate. For some of you meditating in the morning may not have felt like the right or perfect time to do this.
You might prefer to mediate before bed. Or even if you do enjoy meditating in the morning, it is worth trying out 5+ minutes each evening for this beneficial habit as well.
Here are a few apps/resources that you might like to explore during your bedtime routine to help you fall asleep easily whilst also enjoying the benefits of meditation and mindfulness.
SLEEPFULNESS APP – WHICH HAS TRACKS FOR:
- Going to Sleep
- Can’t Sleep
- Waking Up
There are also additional tracks to help with specific sleep challenges as well as customized insights to help you gain more control over your sleep life
You have already been introduced to both these apps – they are fantastic meditation and mindfulness resources and have specific tracks that can aid sleep and relaxation.
Here are a few links to some of my favourite YouTube tracks that have helped me with sleep and relaxation. They have the added benefit of also being free. Of course there are hundreds of options on YouTube so explore and let me know if there are any good ones you find.
- I choose to be happy – https://youtu.be/VVDtTqTU45A
- Floating among the stars – https://youtu.be/N4qCFFBrrgk
- Sleep relaxation music – https://youtu.be/FaRrq7cYu84
- Body scan by The Honest Guys – https://youtu.be/J2pCDbisNv4
The Honest Guys on YouTube also have a huge selection of meditations and mindfulness practises for any time of the day.
“Sleep is an investment in the energy you need to be effective tomorrow.”
HOW SELF-CARE CAN IMPROVE SLEEP
HERE IS AN EXAMPLE:
- Spending time outside in nature every day
- A daily walk
- Taking a relaxing Epsom salt bath before bed
- New cosy pyjamas
- Cup of herbal tea and a good book at bedtime