Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
How is it that you can feel tired all day long, but somehow, once you hit the pillow at night, it becomes nearly impossible to nod off? Other days, sleep may come easily, but then you may wake, in the middle of the night, unable to find your way back to restful slumber. Chronic stress, lack of work-life balance and increased exposure to technology can all impact our sleep patterns. Put simply, our brains have not evolved as quickly as modern life and are maladapted to these stressors. When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, we need to work with the brain, rather than against it. Below is our guide to help you maximise both the quality and quantity of your sleep.
Unplug at least 1.5 hours before going to bed.
Our smartphones, tablets, televisions and computers emit blue light. Being exposed to this light in the evening can disrupt the body’s normal melatonin cycle by suppressing melatonin production (up to 50%). Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the brain, which helps to regulate the body’s circadian rhythms, including our sleep-wake cycle. Without the proper amount of melatonin, our sleep cycle becomes disrupted. We begin to produce melatonin around 8pm, which may be an ideal time to unplug for the day and read a book or magazine.
The darker the better.
Remove other sources of technology, which emit light, from the bedroom. Dim the light setting on your alarm clock or cover it with a towel to block out the light. Invest in blackout curtains or a sleep mask if you live in an area, which is affected by light pollution. Aim for total darkness to boost melatonin production.
Set your phone to airplane mode.
Eliminating distracting ‘alerts’ can help you resist the urge to respond to emails or check social media late at night. Not only can these distractions cause additional stress before bedtime, which can affect our sleep, but they can also cause us to, inadvertently, stay up later than we anticipated.
Keep to a sleep schedule.
Going to bed and waking up at the same time every helps to regulate and reinforce our circadian rhythms. Aim to keep similar hours during the week and on weekends.
Work with your circadian rhythms.
Sleeping at certain hours can help you exploit the benefits of sleep. Many hormones, such as melatonin, are naturally released in their highest doses between 10pm and 3am. Taking advantage of this, by getting to bed by 10pm or earlier, can help us get more regenerative sleep and feel more rested in the morning.
Routine and ritual.
In preparing for sleep, allow your body to relax. Take a bath, read a book, light a candle, do some restorative yoga, write in a gratitude journal or invest in some nicely scented pillow spray. Set the mood for sleep and give yourself the time to wind down, especially after a stressful day.
How do you get a restful night’s sleep? We’d love to hear your insights!