6 secrets to a better sleep
Claire - Wednesday, March 05, 2014
Anyone with children knows that sleep deprivation is the worst form of torture. The only thing worse than being woken in the middle of the night by a miniature person with an urgent, indefinable need whose only means of communication is screaming; is waking up for absolutely no reason and then spending an hour thinking about all the things you can't fix at 2am.
So, why do we do that? What causes that annoying middle of the night worry session and how can we fix it?
1. Fix your dark deficiency
One of the biggest contributors to poor sleep is we keep telling our brains that it is morning at every hour of the day.
Our eyes, which are essentially just an extension of our brains, tell us what time of day it is by the levels of the different lights bands they register. In the morning the light we see is very high in blue light and much lower in the red end of the spectrum. In the evening, blue light from the sun is really low, but we see loads of the slower orange and red light. Think about the colours you see in an amazing sunset.
With the introduction of artificial lighting and particularly TV/computer/phone screens we bombard our eyes with blue light around the clock. This inhibits the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin. Our eyes keep telling us it is morning so not sleep time.
Some easy ways to fix this are:
• Get yourself a pair of yellow (blue-blocking) glasses to put on as soon as the sun goes down.
• Install f.lux, good sleep or any other app that puts a filter on your phone and computer screens at nighttime.
• Get into the habit of living by candle light at nighttime. This is the best option if you have serious sleep issues, suffer from chronic inflammation or weight issues*
2. Eat earlier
Another inhibitor of melatonin production is insulin. The easy way to remedy this is to eat dinner earlier. Optimally this would be 4 hrs. between eating and sleeping is best, but even 90mins can have a dramatic effect on your sleep.
Magnesium is required for making the hormone melatonin, unfortunately in this day and age we chew through our magnesium stores when we are stressed out as well as when we metabolise sugar and carbohydrates. Most people are magnesium deficient and a decent magnesium supplement can improve sleep quality significantly.
4. 1/2 Tortoise Pose
You may have heard yoga teachers say, "Thirty seconds in half tortoise pose is the equivalent to getting 8hrs sleep." What half tortoise does is stimulate your pineal gland in your brain. Can you guess where melatonin is made?
5. Eat fat and get cold
Eating good fats helps sleep on a number of levels, from lowering insulin levels and therefore allowing melatonin to kick in earlier, to setting up a hormonal chain of events that not only allows you to tolerate cold better, but use it as a super tranquilliser.
Cold showers or even ice baths can improve sleep, reduce inflammation, reduce chronic pain and even help you lose weight in the healthiest way possible. It is almost like a mini hibernation overnight.
6. Peak your sleep enhancing hormones at bedtime.
Ok, so we have spoken a lot about melatonin already, but there is one last way that is perfect for kick starting your hormones for sleep and that is, a little lovemaking.
When we make love (either on our own or with a partner) we release a cocktail of hormones that not only make us feel good, they also reduce stress and enhance the function of hormones that help us get to sleep and stay asleep.
So if you are wondering what to do with those 90 minutes after dinner when the lights are out, the TV is off and the candles are lit...