Who doesn’t want to sleep like a baby? When you look at them sleeping, wow, I don’t know you but me, I would like to be in their place!
In 1942, 8 hours of sleep was the norm, now 6.8 is the average. Altogether this worldwide amassed sleep debt is one large alarm bell.
New data from Sleep Cycle has now shown that no country in the world manages to achieve 8 hours of sleep on a regular basis. As the recommended range of sleep for an adult is 7-9 hours a night, this highlights a worrying lack of sleep throughout the world.
Maintaining adequate amounts of quality sleep is essential to optimal health and well-being.
If you are feeling run-down, struggling to focus, or feeling irritable for no clear reason, you may want to look into your sleep patterns. In a fast-paced environment, many people forgo sleep and overextend themselves to catch up on work and other responsibilities.
A good night of sleep is a balance between a certain amount of time (sufficient hours of sleep), a good quality of sleep (going through all the phases) and a timing (being synchronised with your circadian rhythms). And most of the time, we tend to forget about the latter.
Because it’s necessary to remind that, even if energy constantly bombards us in a variety of forms – light, sound, movement, and information, we have natural daily rhythms to honor.
For billions of years, the evolution of nearly all life forms on earth has been driven by the consistent rising and setting of the sun. This circadian rhythm governs our sleeping and eating patterns as well as the precise timing of important hormone secretions, brain wave patterns, and cellular repair and regeneration based on a 24-hour cycle.
Widespread sleep deprivation is one of the most destructive side effects of our fast paced, high-tech modern life.
Soon after it gets dark, your genes are programmed to release melatonin into the bloodstream - a process known as Dim Light Melatonin Onset (DLMO). Melatonin causes you to feel drowsy by slowing down brain and metabolic functions and allowing you to gracefully transition from wake to sleep.
Under ideal circumstances, the rising of the sun each morning, and your complete cycling through all phases of sleep, triggers a drop in melatonin and increased production of serotonin. Serotonin, aka the “feel good hormone,” boosts your metabolic function, mood, and energy levels, so you wake up feeling refreshed and ready for an active day.
This elegant process has been all messed up by modern life and other facilitators of excess artificial light and digital stimulation after dark.
Today, the sleep process is initiated when we make it dark, throwing us out of alignment with the sun and compromising our ability to fall asleep easily, sleep soundly, and awaken refreshed.
When artificial light and stimulation interfere with your circadian rhythm, you are vulnerable to hormonal stresses and imbalances that compromise your metabolism, cognitive function, mood stability, and overall enjoyment of life. Cortisol levels are sensitive to light, so activities such as staying up late to watch television or work on your computer might result in a "second wind" of energy and alertness thanks to the stress response. However, they also contribute to burnout when the stress response is called upon too frequently—as when you stay up late and engage in digital stimulation on many evenings.
The more artificial light and stimulus you throw into the circadian rhythm, the farther you get from optimal health. Poor sleep habits and excessive artificial light and digital stimulation after dark can compromise immune function, cognitive function during waking hours, mood and energy levels during waking hours, and also significantly hamper fat metabolism and efforts to achieve ideal body composition.
Sounds pretty bad?
But hey, I’ve got you covered and will share with you some of my tips that I’ve implemented in my life to sleep better!
The oft-repeated conventional wisdom is that we should obtain seven to eight hours of sleep each night, but the picture is a little more involved than just reaching an arbitrary number. For one, your sleeping habits should be adjusted according to seasonal sunlight exposure as dictated by latitude. In the book, Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival, authors T.S Wiley and Bent Formby recommend obtaining 9.5 hours of sleep for the six to seven months out of the year when days are shorter, and 8 or fewer hours during the longer days of summer. Of course, those who live in tropical regions will have less variation in sleep hours, whereas those who live in polar climates will have more variation within the summer and winter patterns. Shoot for a bedtime one to two hours after sunset in the summer months, and four to five hours after sunset in the winter.
One important tip is to maximise natural light exposure in the morning and daytime, particularly in the 2 hours after waking up. Take some fresh air during the day : do some breaks and go outside even if the weather is cloudy. I like to do several breaks while working, especially as I work at a desk : every 30 minutes I walk around and every 2 hours I take a break to refill my mason jar with water and do some technical things (if you know what I mean).
Electronic gadgets, from computers to televisions to all things digital, emit blue light, a sustained and vivid hue on the electromagnetic spectrum. The bluer the light, the more intense it registers on the Kelvin temperature scale. For instance, candle light burns at 1800K, incandescent indoor light burns at 3000K, ultraviolet sunlight at peak midday intensity burns at 5500K, and the blue light emitted from most computer monitors burns at 6500K! Such high levels cause a spike in cortisol, which inhibits sleep, encourages sugar cravings, elevates ghrelin secretion (which stimulates hunger), increases insulin production (which promotes fat storage while you sleep), and compromises leptin signaling (which can blunt satiety sensations and hamper fat metabolism)9. Exposure to excessive blue light over the span of a lifetime can cause degenerative eye disease, including cataracts and macular degeneration. Research shows that the accumulation of years of nocturnal blue light exposure can also increase one's risk of developing certain cancers.
Honor your circadian rhythm and take the cue to start mellowing things out when the sun sets. Minimize your light exposure, especially blue light exposure, when darkness falls. Low temperature light that falls in the red-orange-yellow spectrum, such as candle light or fire light, does not affect melatonin production. This type of light actually facilitates the relaxation of the central nervous system.
If you must work on your computer after sunset, take regular screen breaks to rest your eyes and brain. And don't forget to use your yellow-tinted sunglasses to cut down the blue-light exposure (and I find them so cool 😎 - the ones I use are the Swannies - not an affiliate link)! Also, download a free software program called F.lux and install it onto all machines you might use after dark. F.lux adjusts the color temperature (like brightness but not quite the same) of your computer display to synchronize with the ambient light in your environment. If you are working during the time sunset occurs at your latitude, you will notice your computer screen automatically change to a more mellow, pink-tinted hue at the strike of sunset.
And remove that TV from your bedroom!
Sleep in a quiet, tidy, cool, dark room.
By dark, I mean, you need to take out of your bedroom all light sources like alarm clock (or cover them while sleeping), TV screens and embrace the dark with blackout curtains especially if you live in a city.
You can swap your regular lamp with salt lamp or install yellow-tinted “bug” light bulbs in frequently-used lamps.
Use an old alarm clock like the ones from your grandparents (actually, you can find a cheap model at Ikea!) and don’t look at your phone during the night.
In a nutshell, keep your sleeping quarters relaxing, clutter-free, screen-free, cool (65-68°F/18-20°C) and as dark as possible.
or any other activity helping you to reduce stress, anxiety and “brain-busyness”. Limit high-intensity workouts on evening as they interfere with melatonin production.
At least 2 to 3 hours before going to bed. And if possible limit your alcohol consumption on evenings (well, limit your alcohol consumption as much as possible is a good piece of advice in general) as your body will work so hard to eliminate the alcohol from your body (it’s like a poison for him!) and he will not be able to relax before sleeping.
To conclude, I want to share what I’ve learned on one of my trip to US while doing camping.
I’ve noticed that when I went camping (especially in those national parks campgrounds with limited equipments and very little light sources around you), my body was completely connected to the rise and set of the sun. As I was dependant of the sun mostly (and because as a tourist I had no data on my phone), and spending days outside, walking, hiking, sightseeing, I felt asleep so well and slept soundly through the night.
It’s really something I will remember for a long time as the difference was huge than sleeping at home!
So embrace your true nature from time to time and why not explore some wilderness in your life?