4 Tricks to get a Better Night’s Sleep
One of the most neglected aspects of health and wellness is our sleep. People do not realize that they could have the best workout regime and nutrition and not see results because of poor sleeping habits. It is the blissful 6-8 hours of your day where you get to make effortless gains. It is our natural way of repairing and recovering the body and preparing us for the next day. With more caffeine, harmful light exposure, and increased daily stress creeping into our lives, we are putting this crucial part of our lives at risk, and thus putting our own long-term health at risk. This week we want to share with you why sleep is so important, and the quick fixes you can make to improve your sleep!
What Happens When You Sleep?
Your brain cycles through 5 different phases throughout the night, each varying in brain activity and varying levels of “deep-ness” (ie. how difficult it is to wake you up). The most important phases of sleep are the deep sleep phase, where your healing delta waves occur, and REM sleep, or rapid eye movement sleep. During REM sleep we are temporarily paralyzed, allowing us to experience dreams, working through situations and emotions, without moving the body. Deep sleep, as explained in this TED Talk, is the most important phase of sleep as it is the phase that includes the delta waves. Studies have shown that delta waves are associated with repair and recovery in the brain (1) . Individuals who experience longer bouts of deep sleep wake up feeling energetic and rejuvenated, whereas those who experience fewer cycles of deep sleep can suffer from learning impairments, poor memory, and emotional instability.
What Can You Do To Improve Your Sleep?
Vitamin D: In this study, participants in a double-blind study were either given a placebo, or a vitamin D supplement and their quality of sleep was monitored. In the group that was given vitamin D, their sleep quality improved significantly. Where the placebo group took close to an hour to fall asleep, the group taking vitamin D took an average of 39 minutes to fall asleep. The length of time they slept also improved after taking vitamin D. For the individuals supplementing with vitamin D, they were taking 3,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily.
Melatonin: Your sleep and wake cycles are controlled partially by the melatonin production in your body. Your exposure to natural sunlight, as well as your leptin and ghrelin levels all affect how much melatonin your body produces naturally. This is why avoiding late night munchies is important for good sleep, as well as getting sufficient amounts of sunlight when possible. If you work shift work, or find yourself trapped inside a building all day with no exposure to the sun, supplementing with melatonin 1-2 hours before you plan on going to bed can help boost your melatonin production and make it easier for you to sleep.
Blue Light Filters: Some of you may have noticed on your phones a built-in feature called a blue light filter. All of our devices – tablets, laptops, and mobile phones – emit a blue light. This blue light is the kind of light used in happy lights to help our bodies “phase shift” into an awakened state. When we use these devices late into the evening, our brain registers the blue light as a signal that it is still daylight outside and therefore does not produce melatonin in sufficient quantities to put us to sleep. Turning on the blue light filter on your phone/tablet/laptop blocks this blue light and enables our brain to respond to the decrease in blue light by increasing our production of melatonin, and therefore preparing us to sleep.
Manipulate Leptin & Ghrelin: As mentioned previously, leptin and ghrelin work with melatonin. Ghrelin signals the body that we are hungry, and leptin is released when we are satiated. After a certain number of leptin secretions paired with a decrease in exposure to sunlight and blue light, the body starts to ramp up its production of melatonin. If we are eating late into the evening and are not turning on that blue light filter, then our body does not know that it is supposed to be preparing for bed. Aim to eat your last meal of the day 1 hour after you turn on your blue light filter.
There is a lot of research on how sleep is incredibly important to our overall health. Try using a few of the tricks mentioned in this article and let us know in the comments if they help you get a few extra z’s!