There are five things we can all do to make our potential for sleep improve
- Time spent outside will help to regulate our body clock. Throughout the day, regardless of the weather I believe it is crucial to get outside for at least 10 minutes at a time. One of the reasons is that daylight increases the production of the hormones serotonin and melatonin which regulates sleep patterns. Take a break and walk round the block, preferably leaving the phone at your desk. The world will not fall in while you are away. Time away in ‘fresh’ air (even in a busy city) will make you more productive. Air conditioning and un-natural light can play havoc with our natural clock. Mentally dial out as you walk around, look up – buildings are amazing up high. Look around you; take a moment to breath and gaze into the distance.
- What is your personal body clock? These patterns are down to our circadian rhythm*, our natural internal body clock. Unfortunately it is not always in sync with our unnatural daily needs. Essentially there are two different types, morning lark or night owl. If you are a morning lark you naturally wake earlier and tend to slump later in the day. If you are a night owl, you naturally take time to wake up but gain more energy later in the day. Recognising your type is important, firstly give yourself a break and secondly consider anything that you can do to work with your natural cycle.
- Less caffeine and alcohol. I am guessing the impact of caffeine on sleep is a well-known issue. If it wakes us up it is not going to let us sleep. Ideally not having any caffeine in the evening is ideal. Added to that, alcohol is a stimulant too; a useful go-to at the end of a tough day but it invariably affects our quality of sleep.
- Establish a regular bedtime routine: lights out. Our bodies respond well to routine, go to sleep at the same time each night. Wind down before beds with a warm drink, time out, darken the room: NO SCREENS. Let’s face it – electronics are a part of life in the 21 st century. Pros and cons to our increasing connectivity certainly exist; we are able to stay engaged with the world from the privacy of our own homes late into the evening. However, in doing so we are exposed to the light that our devices emit. This affects our production of melatonin affecting our sleep pattern.
- One of the key effects in the production of cortisol is the amount of light. Opening the curtains straight away produces natural light. The power of light is obvious when we think of the sun, but may be more difficult to appreciate when considering the light emitted from a tablet or smartphone.
What Is the Circadian Rhythm*?
Often referred to as the “body clock”, the circadian rhythm is a cycle that tells our bodies when to sleep, rise, eat–regulating many physiological processes. This internal body clock is affected by environmental cues, like sunlight and temperature. When one’s circadian rhythm is disrupted, sleeping and eating patterns can run amok. A growing body of research is examining the adverse health effects a disrupted circadian rhythm can have, like increasing the chances of cardiovascular events, obesity, and a correlation with neurological problems like depression and bipolar disorder.
*Circadian rhythm definition from https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/circadian-rhythm