19 Tips for better Sleep
I am known for talking a lot about sleep. Why? It is just a wonderful and fascinating topic, since sleep can have a drastic impact on your life.
Why do we sleep?
There are a lot of different theories on why we sleep and what it does to our body and especially to our brain. From an evolutionary perspective it doesn’t make sense at all. Why would nature knock us out for hours, in which we are then not able to protect us, look for food and reproduce?
A new study suggests that it has something to do with the detoxification of our brain. Just like we cannot be stressed and relaxed at the same time, the body can only detoxify, ones it shuts down our conscious mind.
Physiology of sleep
During the day adenosine (not adenosin from the DNA) is accumulated in your brain as a metabolic waste product. Whenever there is a lot of adenosine in your brain you have trouble staying awake and your brain stops working as efficiently as it could.
Also there is something called melatonin, which a lot of you probably already heard about. It is thought to induce sleep. A lot of people even think it is responsible for making you fall asleep, but it is not. It is only there to make you feel tired. The accumulation of adenosine then makes you fall asleep. BUT: Whenever Melatonin is blocked (eg. by blue light) it might happen that you go to bed way to late, so you do not have enough time to recover. This can sometimes lead to a Vicious cycle, because you feel tired during the day, then start drinking more caffeine and thus have trouble falling asleep at night. So before discussing how you can improve your sleep, let us talk about the phases and benefits of sleep.
REM sleep – REM stands for “Rapid Eye Movement”. This is the sleep phase in which we dream and which is characterised by rapid eye movements. REM sleep is important for the formation of memories, creativity and the recovery of body and mind. It accounts for 5% to 50% of total sleep time.
Light sleep accounts for about 50% of total sleep time for an adult. While deep sleep is considered the most regenerative sleep phase, light sleep also helps your body recover.
Deep sleep is very important for the general regeneration of the body. When you are in deep sleep, your blood pressure drops, your arm and leg muscles are relaxed and it is harder to wake up. During deep sleep, your muscles grow and regenerate, your immune system recovers and your brain detoxifies. On average, adults spend 15-20% of their sleeping time in deep sleep. This percentage usually decreases with age.
Benefits of Sleep
- improves your memory and learning (by facilitating the formation of new neural networks).
- helps you to learn new motor tasks.
- facilitates recovery and regeneration of the body.
- helps you process the day and filter out the important information.
- detoxifies the brain of metabolic products.
- reduces stress.
- reduces inflammation.
- helps loosing weight (the hormones ghrelin and leptin, which regulate appetite, are disrupted by a lack of sleep).
Advice for better sleep
Luckily, if you are not a good sleeper or haven’t been sleeping well lately, there is a lot that you can do to improve your sleep.
- Cut down on caffeine. Caffeine has a longer half life than you might think. For the average person it makes sense not to drink caffeine after 3pm. And be careful! Energy drinks, mate and tea also have caffeine or similar substances.
- Reduce your Screen time before bed. The blue light emitted from your devices limits melatonin secretion, so you feel tired later than you usually would. A solution might be to download an app that filters out blue light, so your body can get back to its natural day night rythm.
- Get sun light. This also helps with the day and night rythm and it helps with the production of vitamin D, which is important in a lot of different metabolic processes.
- Eat enough protein. You need protein, so you can synthesize all hormones and messenger molecules.
- Sleep in a dark and cool bedroom. If your body cannot cool down properly, it will effect sleep quality.
- Establish a regular bed and wakeup routine. Especially waking up at almost the same time every day is super important, so your inner clock can adjust itself properly.
- Only go to bed when you feel sleepy. You will be able to sleep faster That helps with developing the right mindset and beliefs like “I am able to fall asleep easily”.
- Never lie in bed awake for a prolonged time, rather go out and do something until you feel sleepy again.
- Avoid daytime napping, if you have trouble sleeping at night.
- Reduce anxiety provoking thoughts (eg. meditate or write them down). In general: Write down all the things that are on your mind, especially if it is stuff you are afraid to forget (E.g. “I have to buy milk tomorrow”)
- If you sleep in a noisy environment, try out listening to white noise.
- Wear warm socks while sleeping. This helps you to relax, cools down your bodies core temperature and get more restorative sleep. I swear it helps!
- Take a warm shower before bed. This also reduces your bodies core temperature.
- Get enough exercise during the day. But do not exercise too close before bedtime.
- Do breathing exercises to relax during the day, so you activate your parasympathetic nervous system.
- Get your nutrients in, so your body can function right.
- Do not eat too shortly before you go to bed, so your digestion has time to process the food.
- Get lots of sex. This helps you to relax and the hormones, that are released, boost restorative sleep.
- Do not drink alcohol shortly before going to bed. It messes with your deep sleep.
If you have trouble falling asleep: Counting helps for a lot of people. Or a method I particularly like: Visualize going on a travel you have been on before – in as much detail as you can. Imagine what you wore, how your apartment looked, when you left, which kind of baggage you had with you, how you closed the door and turned the keys, how you walked down the stairs… Imagine it as detailed as you can. That will certainly keep you brain busy. And it might effect your dreams in really nice ways.
Hope one or the other tip helps!
All the best