Healthy diet and sleep are interwoven in the fabric of a healthy lifestyle. To move to the next level of well-being or only improving cognitive capacity, one of the easiest things to do, is follow a few sleep hacks to improve your sleep hygiene.
The ideal: fall asleep easily at a similar time each night, sleep through the night without waking, and wake in the morning feeling rested, energetic and ready to face the day, mentally and physically restored and rejuvenated. To do so, in line with previous article, a few sleep hacks should include.
- At the same time every day, get a morning dose of sunshine. The quality of your sleep starts when you wake up in the morning, not when you go to bed at night. To establish a healthy rhythm, your brain needs a powerful signal that it’s daytime, and sunlight is that signal. Within an hour or two of waking, get at least a half hour of sunshine, no matter where you find yourself.
- Eat enough high quality foods (sweet potato, loads of greens and anti-inflammatory organic vegetables and fruits) – and especially carbohydrate at night. Carbohydrate suppresses the waking signal in the brain and its for this purpose, you want to eat your carbs in the evening. Eating protein at dinner can stimulate the waking signal in the brain, and constantly eating high-protein meals can flood your bloodstream with other amino acids that make it harder for tryptophan to get into the brain. Protein also sits in the gut for most of night and as such your system does not get to rest from digesting foods. With the rapid increase of colon cancer and other stomach cancer, it is best to eat foods that move through the digestive system quickly while nourishing the body.
- Avoid blue light at night – The spectrum of sunlight is cooler during the day, with more blues and greens, and warmer at night, with more reds and yellows. Our brains therefore use cooler light frequencies as a sign that it’s daytime. The brain expects three things from our environment before it will relax for bed time. These are a lower intensity of light, a warmer spectrum of light and 2-4 hours of darker, warmer lighting to get prepared for sleep. Medical researchers in 2001 made it simple for humans to return to twelve hours of melatonin production with little change in lifestyle. Two research groups, one in the US and the other in the UK, simultaneously showed that it’s mainly blue light that suppresses melatonin production by the pineal gland. A study by the University of Toronto found that those who wore glasses that blocked blue light wavelengths produced more melatonin than those who didn’t during night shifts. Other studies have found that blue wavelengths suppress delta brainwaves, which induce sleep, and boost alpha wavelengths, which create alertness.
It’s now known that blue light is the primary culprit that causes melatonin suppression. When using low blue lights in the hours leading to bedtime, you will promote maximum melatonin production which will improve your sleep & overall health.
To achieve this it’s recommended that you construct your environment in a way that delivers on all three expectations. Two to four hours before your bedtime, implement blue-blocking. At level 1 stay away from looking at any electronic screens unless you have apps installed to dim the blue light, such as f.lux on Mac, f.lux beta for Windows, Nightshift for iPhone, or Twilight on Android.
The next level involves greater blue-blocking. This would include specially designed low-blue amber-colored light bulbs in your environment.
Two to four hours before bed, shift to amber ambient lighting. Turn off all your regular lights and turn on all of your low-blue lights. Make sure your blue-blocking apps are set to warm the screen around the same time.
Healthy sleep requires that your body has a well-entrained circadian rhythm, and regularity is key to making that happen. Pick your ideal bedtime and start the blue-blocking 2-4 hours before it. While doing so, it is also recommended making your room as dark as possible.
- Sleep in a Cool Environment – The body naturally cools off when you sleep. It’s easier for your body to evolve your own heat into your environment if your environment is cool, so if it’s too warm your body can struggle to cool off. That struggling can keep you awake. On the other hand, if you’re uncomfortably cold, that can keep you up too.
- Sleep With Silence or White Noise – try ear plugs to block out noise. Try the form that can adjust to the shape you need and gently stick into place without creating any pressure.
- When you wake to go to the loo – stick to 100% blue-blocking on the way to the bathroom and back.
- The use of an alarm clock that wakes you up at the same time every day is not ideal. An alarm clock, beside disturbing the primary regulator of your circadian rhythm, wakes you up when your body has not yet decided that it has had sufficient sleep.
Good sleep isn’t good if it doesn’t come in the form of a regular rhythm. Studies show its best to get to bed a few hours before midnight. This is better for you than getting to bed after midnight and sleeping later. The ideal goal to optimize sleep would be between 22:00 to 05:30.
Allow yourself to regain and take back what has been lost over many years. Sleep is your key to every other aspect of one’s being, and especially well-being.