HOW TO SLEEP WELL. Part 1
By Dr Beverley Lewis, Clinical Hypnotherapist
Put simply, this is a guide to restoring your natural rhythms of getting to sleep, staying asleep and waking up refreshed – in two steps.
STEP 1 is to gain some more understanding of how sleep naturally occurs.
Sleep research highlights the fact that our bodies rely on the natural rhythms of day and night to enable us to self-regulate our waking and sleeping patterns. However, for many of us, in today’s technological world, it is all too easy to over-ride these natural patterns, consciously or not.
Having scientifically-based insights into how best to induce sleep can enable you to create the sorts of sleeping patterns that may have been eluding you at times.
STEP 2 allows you to target specific ways of preparing for sleep so that you can restore sound restful patterns.
How to sleep well is essentially a step-by-step process where small, strategic changes can make a big difference over time. Once you understand how you can make use of your own natural body rhythms you can have far more control over your ability to sleep than you might have imagined.
So, here is a summary of the most effective ways to create sound sleep and why :
◦Anchor your “master clock” with adequate outdoor light exposure during the day.
This may sound like a surprising way to set up better-sleeping patterns!
The Simple Facts
Natural light intensity serves as a major synchronizer of your “master clock” which is a group of cells deep in your brain behind your eyes (called suprachiasmatic nuclei) whose function it is to keep you “in sync”, literally, with your environment.
Outdoor light exposure is called “anchor light” as it anchors your body rhythms so that artificial light exposure at night has less ability to shift your rhythm.
Like most people, today spend large amounts of the day indoors they tend to be in a state of “light deficiency” that reduces their ability to maintain their healthy “master clock timing” and hence to sleep well.
The Simple Strategic Target
The first 30 – 60 minutes of outdoor light exposure each day creates about 80% of the anchoring effect. So going outside for half an hour, say at lunchtime when the natural light intensity is usually greatest, can provide you with the majority of the anchoring light you need to maintain a healthy daily body rhythm
(also known as circadian rhythm) that is the precursor to restoring good sleeping patterns.
It is no wonder that this is a major strategy in overcoming “jet lag”. Not to mention the many additional health bonuses it offers for the majority of us who may have sub-optimal vitamin D levels – however, that is a subject for another day.
◦Limit your exposure to artificial light before bed.
The Simple Facts
Although you may not have thought about it this way before, we have within us our own “internal pharmacy” that is manufacturing and dispensing chemicals specially formulated for our needs – 24/7.
The natural “darkness hormone”, melatonin, is produced within our bodies, in this case by the pineal gland at the front of our brain (just behind our eyes), in response to diminishing light. So, under instruction from our “master clock”, melatonin in the adult brain begins to be released slowly into the bloodstream at around 9 pm each night.
It is the release of melatonin that creates changes within the body that induces sleep.
The Simple Strategic Target
It is a good idea to observe the tell-tale signs of increasing melatonin concentrations in your own body: yawning; your body “feeling tired” and your ability to concentrate becoming diminished. As you notice these changes, it is optimal to “take the hint” from your body and begin to make your preparations for bed.
Based on melatonin build-up, around 10.30 pm, is a good time to be thinking of turning the lights off altogether and comfortably settling down into bed for a good night’s sleep.
If you are not quite ready for bed, dimming lights and turning off unneeded lighting represents sound preparation time as it allows the concentration of melatonin to increase in your bloodstream to levels that trigger sleep naturally.
It is important to recognize that artificial light, including backlighting from TV monitors and computer screens, cell phones, and Tablets etc. act on the nerves of the eyes to suppress melatonin production. In particular, computer devices emit a high intensity of short wavelength “blue light” which markedly suppresses melatonin production. This makes going to sleep more difficult as there is not enough melatonin in the bloodstream to signal to the body “that it is time for sleep”.
It is therefore strongly recommended that you reduce your exposure to “blue light” and do not watch TV or read from backlit computer screens for at least one hour before sleep.
More on the strategies that invite sound sleep and how to overcome the obstacles might get in the way in Part 2 >>>>…………..