Medical News Today published an article on Sept. 11, 2017 about sleeping well at nights. The title was “Five ways to get a good night’s sleep”. As about 2/3 of adults in the US have insomnia problems, it is important to discuss this topic. 800 deaths occur every year due to accidents as a result of fatigue. What is the solution to improve our sleep habits?
Have a sleep schedule
We have a built-in internal clock, called the diurnal rhythm, which regulates our day and nighttime hormones and our sleep depth. If you go to sleep at the same time regularly every night, your sleep quality is better and you are happier during the following day and will feel more energetic.
Use more daylight to regulate your diurnal sleep rhythm
If you go out and expose yourself more to sunlight, you will sleep better. The sun programs a part of the hypothalamus, called suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) to reinforce a healthy waking and sleeping rhythm. It also regulates your body temperature. During the day sunlight blocks the release of melatonin until it gets dark.
Minimize blue light exposure for sleeping well at nights
Sunlight is the greatest source of blue light. But electronic devices also emit blue light such as TV screens, tablets, cell phones and computers. During the day blue light is good, but at night, when we are preparing to go to bed a few hours later, blue light interferes significantly with the day/sleep rhythm. The exposure to blue light at that time tells your body that you are getting up, and you confuse your diurnal rhythm. Your internal clock is being set back by about 2 hours. This means you won’t be sleepy at your regular bedtime, and this translates into a fitful sleep. It also affects your hormones that work together with your diurnal rhythm. Melatonin production is inferior when you expose yourself to blue light compared another person who does not.
Increase physical exercise and improve eating habits
There are two factors that will help you to regulate your sleep rhythm, balanced food intake, such as a Mediterranean diet and engaging in regular physical exercise. Outdoor exercise for 150 minutes or more per week seems to be the minimum exercise amount required to increase your sleep quality by a staggering 65%. Sleeping well at nights is possible with positive changes in your diet and by excising regularly.
Use relaxation methods for sleeping well at nights
Mindfulness meditation, self-hypnosis, meditation, Tai Chi and yoga have all in common that they can improve your sleep quality. These methods even help diminish restless leg syndrome.
In modern life sleep problems are common. But much of it is due to our own behavior. We live a fast-paced way of life that causes stress and anxiety. Our cortisol levels shoot up and tell the brain we are super-awake and ready for action. We expose ourselves in the evening to blue light emitting devices as I described earlier. As a result there is a disturbance in the rhythm between the daytime cortisol hormone exposure and the nighttime melatonin excretion. However, when we become more aware what we are doing to our sleep/wake cycle we can start normalizing it through better balanced meals, exercise and less blue-light exposure during evenings. We discussed the tools of normalizing our sleep habits and our sleep quality. Sleeping well at nights can be achieved when we put all these factors to good use.