Sleep is one of the mysteries of human and animal evolution that will probably have us guessing for years to come. Scientists and medical professionals constantly ponder questions like “What is the optimal sleep pattern?” and “How much sleep is enough?”
The sleep industry is huge and all the big players in this space claim to have the secrets to a good night’s rest. The truth is that as humans there is a general range of total hours sleep within which most of us fall. Then there are outliers who can survive on 3 hours a night. Others need 10 hours a night or more. Find out how to sleep better and have more energy for life.
How Does Sleep Loss Affect Us?
Sleep loss can result in all or any of the following conditions
- Attention impairment
- Increased chance of heart disease and heart attacks
- Lack of libido
- Skin ageing
- Loss of memory
Sleep deprivation is one of the modern world’s most damaging conditions. It’s preventable but thanks to our busy lifestyles and technological advances, it’s also difficult to remedy.
Sleep, like diet, is an individual thing. Your routines, habits, and quota of sleep hours will be different from almost everyone you compare with. But there are some general guidelines to follow that will help improve your sleep, and boost your energy levels, productivity, and health as a result.
#1 Switch Off
Ten years ago, this advice would not have been on the list. But the complete takeover (in some cases) of our lives by mobile devices has negatively affected our sleep. The blue light or glow that emanates from your phone, tablet, or laptop mimics daylight and confuses your brain. We are still governed by our evolutionary instincts and daylight means ‘wake up’ to your body.
Sunlight exposure early in the day tells your body to produce serotonin, a mood-enhancing neurotransmitter that promotes alertness. Melatonin, which could be considered the opposite of serotonin, helps control our sleep-wake cycles. Melatonin is affected by light exposure to the eyes.
If you must use screens late in the evening you can combat some of the effects of the light by using specially tinted glasses. Ski goggles work great too, but they aren’t very practical and look a little strange if you wear while reading in bed. Another option is to use software such as flux on your laptop to reduce the glow gradually at night. The iPhones ‘Night Shift’ mode is a similar technology.
#2 Create a Sleep Zone
There’s a time and a place for everything and this applies to the bedroom also. Beds are for sleep and sex. Typing away on a work project while sitting in bed will set you up for a restless sleep. Using the bedroom as an office, PlayStation zone, or hobby area will also ruin the sanctuary of the bedroom. Your brain and body need to understand then when you are in bed you are ready for sleep. Sleep better by removing anything that isn’t slumber-related from your bedroom.
#3 Cool it Down
Temperature plays a big part in how well we sleep. Again this will be an individual thing but your bedroom should be cooler than any other part of the house. But don’t go to extremes! Shivering all night won’t help and anyone that’s been to a hot country will know how difficult it can be to sleep with oppressive heat.
Your body temperature drops as you sleep. Creating a lower temperature atmosphere sends signals to the brain that it’s slumber time. So, try to sleep in the coolest room of the house or create a cool zone by using an air conditioner to lower the temperature before you go to sleep.
#4 Cut the coffee
Coffee, the world’s most popular beverage, is one of the biggest sleep inhibitors. Some people can knock back a double espresso before bed but for most people, a shot of coffee in the evening will seriously affect their slumber.
A little chemistry lesson: Coffee has a half-life of around 6 hours. What that means is that if you drink 100mg of caffeine at midday, there is still 50mg of caffeine in your system at 6 pm. That same cup of coffee enjoyed at 6 pm means that by midnight you have the stimulating effect of a half- cup of coffee flowing through your veins.
If you have trouble sleeping at night this might be one of the first habit changes to make. Try to have your last cup of coffee around lunchtime and refrain from drinking tea or carbonated beverages after lunch also.
#5 Get a Massage for Sleep
According to the American Massage Therapy Association, massage therapy can help improve sleep. The many studies referenced by the association point to a number of different sleep related issues benefiting from massage. “Pain, stress, anxiety and poor sleep quality may be improved by massage therapy.”
If you have pain or discomfort which affects your sleeping patterns, why not try massage therapy and see how it can help you sleep better?
Is my Lack of Energy the Result of Poor Sleeping Habits?
One of the side effects of sleep deprivation is a lack of energy. If you get fewer hours of shuteye or you wake constantly at night then your low energy level might be caused by sleep. But it’s best to check with a doctor first. The root cause could be something else entirely. Sleep is extremely important to our wellbeing but the quality of sleep is more important than the time we spend in bed.