I am sure you have heard many people say ‘make sure to get your 7-8 hours of sleep each night’. The problem is that just doing that isn’t enough! You’re still waking up feeling tired, sluggish and frequently exhausted during the day, your mind is slow and foggy and you are unable to fall asleep at night even though you are exhausted.
Good sleep is not just about the number of hours you sleep but more about making the hours you do sleep a remarkably restful, restorative and rejuvenating sleep – a term called sleep efficiency.
Poor sleep efficiency does not just decrease your energy levels and increase daytime sleepiness and fatigue but also affects your immune system, stress hormones, metabolism, memory and mood. Studies have shown that even partial sleep deprivation has a significant effect on mood. Sleep does not only affect mood, but mood can also affect sleep. Can you relate to a time where you might have been more anxious than usual and found it hard to get to sleep at night?
So what is causing the lack of or poor sleep efficiency?
Our natural body clock, our built in system - our circadian rhythm is our innate internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, which generally repeats roughly every 24 hours.
Our bodies are designed to be alert and awake during the day and to sleep at night when the sun goes down.
Instead, we are getting way too much ‘daylight’ at night when we shouldn’t be getting it, and not getting enough daylight during the daytime when we should be getting it. Our modern society that provides 24-hour access and lifestyles linked to modern technologies makes for a disrupted circadian rhythm.
Sleep becomes one of the first things we sacrifice and becomes the leftover hours of our days instead of our priority with stress, work, late night socialising, social media scrolling sessions, kids, the new TV series on Netflix etc. Then a lot of people try to improve their sleep with sleep hacks and tricks to fix their issues. Unfortunately, that is not the way it works long term.
A healthy circadian rhythm IS the foundation for a deep restful sleep, and therefore a HEALTHY mind.
How to get better sleep? Here are 3 proven healthy habits to do everyday to reset, recalibrate and optimize your circadian rhythm to get better sleep.
Get Bright Light at the beginning of the day
Getting bright light at the beginning of the day within the first 30minutes of waking helps signal our brain that it is daytime and boosts orexin, your energy and wakefulness neurotransmitters. Ideally, get outdoors, sunlight in the face for 10 to 20 minutes or if that isn’t possible, stare at the sky and watch the sunrise.
Reduce Light Exposure 1-2 hours before Bed
Turn off as many artificial lights as possible after dark and opt for warm lamps instead. Avoid watching TV, using the computer, tablet or phone at least an hour or two before bed to reduce exposure to the blue light from your devices and technology. Doing this helps your brain understand it is night time and prepares it for sleep and allows your body to start releasing melatonin, your sleep hormone.
Sleep in Complete Darkness at Night
This is absolutely critical as sleeping in a room with even a little light from from outside street lights or porch lights filtering through the gap in the window blinds, night lights or lights from electronics can disrupt your natural circadian rhythm as light is a powerful signal to your brain to be awake.
The best way to ensure complete blackout is to install black out blinds or even easier still wear an eye mask if you cannot control the external environment of your bedroom.
Just using these 3 healthy habits are enough to give you the kickstart you need to optimise your circadian rhythm, get better sleep and move in the right direction towards transforming your health, your energy, your mood and your happiness.
You can do this and it doesn’t need to be a sprint! Simply do what you feel is best for you and then build from there working towards including a holistic approach to include gut health, lifestyle factors and the built environment as these also help us get better sleep and a healthy mind. And know that if you are already taking steps forward on your health journey but still feel like things are not coming together, that it is OK to ask for support.
Time to head to your comfy bed!
If you would like to connect with me further on any of the above information, please get in touch via the contact page.