How to sleep
Oh, for a good night’s sleep! We seem to be constantly bombarded about the dire consequences of not sleeping well.
Everything from weight gain to dementia seems to be linked to poor sleep. Why is it that we are suddenly not sleeping adequately? Is this cause or effect of chronic poor health? The correlation may go both ways. Furthermore, if you are generally well but have a desire to be more – perform physically and mentally at the top of your game, sleep is an important part of your training and recovery.
To quote Scott Carney, New York times bestselling author of “What Doesn’t Kill Us”, compared to previous generations, we have too much food, too much warmth and too much light. The technological advances making us comfortable, may in the end be making us less healthy. Combine this with a drive to achieve and the often-held belief that sleep can be minimized without affecting performance or long-term health and we have a perfect storm.
For a good night’s sleep leading to a better you, give yourself permission to indulge. Here’s how:
Your grandmother was right, eating before bed will affect your sleep. Aim to stop eating at least 3 hours before bed. This is especially true for eating protein and fat. Ideally your biggest meal should be during the day, with a light meal in the early evening. Most people should avoid snacking after dinner.
Coffee and caffeinated food and beverages. The generally accepted half-life of caffeine is around 5 hours. This means that it takes 5 hours for half of the caffeine to be broken down and leave your body, leaving you with the other half still to be metabolised. Caffeine has a direct effect on sleep by blocking an important sleep compound called Adenosine. Caffeinated food and beverages are thus best consumed before midday, provide you with an opportunity optimal sleep and performance.
This is a biggie! Occasional alcohol may actually benefit non-REM sleep. However, not only does this benefit wear off by the 2nd or 3rd night of drinking, but it definitely affects your REM sleep. This is when your dreams help you to process the day’s events and improve memory. REM is your creative brain, helping you wake up having solved a problem from the day before. REM sleep actually provides insights, during your awake time, into the social world in which you live. Basically, alcohol is bad for sleep and is bad for you.
Your bedroom is your safe-haven, your place of pleasure. Keep your bed for sleep and sex only. An uncluttered space allows your brain to relax. Make sure your bedroom is dark. Unless you are living in a remote area with no artificial lighting, looking out at the stars is likely to be a pipe-dream. Even small amounts of artificial light peeking in around the drapes can affect your circadian rhythm and sleep. Keep the electronics outside the bedroom. This includes TV, laptops, tablets, e-readers, mobile and portable phones. If you are living in a small space, such as a bed-sit, make sure these devices are turned off at the wall and that any LED lights have been taped over. Either way, reward yourself by not studying or watching Netflix while in bed. Keep your room no warmer than 18 deg C.
Invest in the following:
• a bed-side lamp that can take a low-voltage incandescent bulb that you can use for reading and writing.
• an old-fashioned battery alarm clock and make sure this faces away from you; never sleep with an electronic clock / radio next to your head as these emit a large amount of EMR.
• the best linen you can afford.