To sleep, perchance to dream, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come…
To a foreign observer, a sleeping person looks strange. Why would we need to be unconscious and vulnerable for one-third of our lives? Why would the insanity of our dreams dictate the sanity of our lives? Well, scientists have been researching about sleep for as long as we have had scientists, we have still known little about this mysterious occurrence. One thing we do know however is, how important it is for a healthy, productive and enjoyable life.
For a long time, there was thought to be three pillars of health, sleeping, nutrition and exercise. Now we know that sleep is the chief pillar that all other pillars rely on. Without adequate sleep, no bodily function will operate as well as it should.
Sleep science has evolved a lot over the years and we now understand a lot about the prerequisites to getting a good nights rest. Light and temperature are the two of the main factors to a night of good sleep.
Light from the sun has long dictated our sleep and wake cycles. This universal alarm clock has tuned our bodies and brains to a specific rhythm. Since the advent of artificial light, this has wreaked havoc on our sleeping cycles. There are highly sensitive photo-receptors behind our eyes that turn specific switches on and off in our brain. These switches tell our brains and bodies whether its time to hunt or time to rest.
During daylight, blue wavelengths of light can be beneficial, playing an important role in setting circadian rhythms, boosting attention and mood. But we didn’t evolve to be exposed to it as much as we are. In addition to the ample blue light in sunlight, most of the light we are exposed to via digital devices is also blue. For example, the most common type of LED used in electronic devices is a white-light LED, which actually has a peak emission in the blue wavelength range (400 – 490 nm). Moreover, the eye’s cornea and lens are unable to block or reflect blue light.
Increasing evidence suggests that blue light has a dark side. At night, it can suppress the secretion of melatonin and wreak havoc on our circadian rhythms, and recent studies have shown that extended exposure to blue light can damage the retina. To start communicating a better sleep pattern to our brains and taking better care of our eyes, we need to have the room as dark as possible. The lights in the evening should be more orange or redshifted. This allows our eyes and brains to adjust to the setting of the sun and sync our circadian rhythms accordingly.
Contrary to popular belief your body should be slightly cold in order to fall asleep properly. As nighttime approaches, our body temperature naturally drops, signalling that it’s time to slow down and get some rest. By keeping your bedroom cooler, you’re reinforcing your body’s natural instinct to sleep. If the room is too hot, it could potentially block that signal and cause it to take longer for you to fall asleep.
Your body temperature bottoms out right before bed, and will rise naturally as you get closer to waking. This rise in body temperature can cause people to feel like they’re “sleeping hot.” If you’ve ever woken up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat, you know how disruptive that can be. If you keep your bedroom cooler and regulate the temperature throughout the night, you’ll find that your overall sleep quality improves.
Another way that keeping your room cold can improve the quality of your sleep is by stimulating melatonin production. It turns out that rooms with temperatures in the range of 16 to 24 degrees (Celsius) stimulate the production of melatonin, which encourages sleep.
At the end of the day, sleep is our most vital and necessary function for not only survival but living active, healthy, cognitive lives. We all know what it feels like to have a bad night sleep and how much the next day is impaired. Creating a sleeping routine or sleep schedule should be very high up on our priorities.
There are many other factors to take into account but hopefully, this has helped.
If the mind is not right, nothing else will be but that is for another post 🙂
Holistic Nutrition & Lifestyle coaching with coach Tidy Dave.
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