Updated: Aug 16, 2021
Tools and Tips for How to Sleep Better!
This week we will be talking about sleep! This is one of the three personal pillars of CCHS’s lifestyle modification model. Because of its effects on your health, I consider this the base from which all other health gains grow. This post will cover some basic tips and information regarding sleep to help you understand why it’s so important and how to sleep better. As always, we will bring this information to you in a digestible and easy to implement way!
First, the good stuff. How to get to sleep quicker and wake up less groggy! Let’s start with how light in the bedroom can be used to your advantage. Light is a primary influencer of your sleep. How? As light enters your eyes and passes through your optic chiasm, it stimulates your suprachiasmatic nucleus. These are nerve cells in your hypothalamus that act as regulators of your circadian rhythms ...aka light can influence your internal clocks! When they are activated by light they say CORTISOL TIME, wakeup!! (we know this as the stress hormone). And when the SCN senses darkness it hollers to the pineal gland to release melatonin and go night night. In other words, as many of us know, light wakes you up and the absence of light does the opposite. Here are a couple of links to fantastic articles if you want to read more and really surprise your friends! Suprachiasmatic nucleus Info, Blue light and circadian rhythms
Using this information we can recommend the use of light to control your sleep! To start, my favorite hack has been the purchase of Automatic Lights to automatically brighten up a room to wake up on a schedule that you decide. I do this (and we don't make any money off of recommending this) and it works just as well if not better than daylight through a window. I set it to brighten my room 5 minutes before my alarm and it makes me ready to go when I wake!
Once you are awake, it is also good to be exposed to natural blue light throughout the day. Aside from telling your brain what time it is, it wards off depression! Ask for the office with windows… Other ideas related to the daytime to sleep better are to wake up and go to sleep at a similar time each day, eat when you wake up, exercise, and interact with people. This seems like common stuff but your body's circadian rhythms are influenced by all of these things! It is for this reason that I keep a glass of water by my bedside to drink as soon as I wake up. It helps me, especially when I am adjusting to a new schedule.
On the flip side, to fall asleep early you should remove light from your eyes about 45 minutes before bed, especially blue light! There is a button on smart phones if you’ve never seen it to remove blue light. Personally, I read a real book with yellow light before bed and this gets me tired enough to conk out. When I’m feeling addicted to my rectangle lights, I will plug it in across the room before getting into bed to assure that I don’t have to reset my 45 minute no light clock. Really any tablet or device can decrease your melatonin production!
Aside from light, there are other tips too! For example, avoid napping mid day, use room for only sleep, do not exercise 3 hours before sleep, and avoid large meals close to bedtime. Most of these deal with your internal clocks and telling them that it is time to sleep as well as making helpful associations between your brain and bed. If you associate your bed with exciting thriller movies, fun phone games, and blue light to keep you awake, it’s going to be harder to tell your brain that that space is now to be used for the exact opposite.
Lastly, your bedtime routine can make a difference! This is a great way to build self care into your schedule as well. Hot showers or a bath 90 minutes prior to sleep has been shown to improve sleep quality! If you are a scent person, the smells lavender, valerian root, and magnesium can improve relaxation and sleep as well. Candles or those things that every other mom sells should do the trick.
But how much sleep should we get? Good question. Why We Sleep by the PhD Mathew Walker is a GREAT book on the subject of sleep as a whole, but we’ll try to give you the TLDR. You really should get 7+ hours per night, but more wont hurt you. If you have adolescents, they should be getting 9+ hours each night which is especially not often the case! But our mothers already knew that.
What they don’t tell you is what happens when you don't get enough sleep! Not getting the recommended amount of sleep increases your risk of weight gain, hypertension, heart disease, depression, impaired immune and brain function, increased pain sensation, and overall risk of death. YIKES. That’s a lot to lose when getting your Zzz’s is a good time if you ask me. We’ll save the details for a future post and keep this one primarily to actionable tips. With that, let us know what you think about these things and do yourself a favor (and CCHS) and tell your friends and family and social network friends about this wonderful health information. As always, we hope this helps you wonderful humans!
P.S. If you think that you struggle with room lighting affecting your sleep, we have some light blocking shades and automatic lights on our products page! We price them to help, not to profit!