Courtesy of Pure Pharma:
You have undoubtedly heard that you need eight hours of sleep per night, but the negative impacts of insufficient sleep are rarely explained. Inadequate sleep damages your health, weakens the immune system, negatively impacts mood, cognitive function and can wreak havoc on your metabolism and hormones (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
The health risks of inadequate sleep are undeniable and the effects can be experienced from head to toe. What many people neglect to think about when it comes to improving sleep is how their habits leading up to bedtime impact the quality and duration of their sleep. The hours leading up to your bedtime can make or break your sleep for the night and impact physical and cognitive performance the next day.
The habits discussed below will give you everything you need to know to bulletproof your sleep and make sure that you’re getting the most out of your time in bed.
Remove as many electronics as you can from the bedroom. Even small amounts of light from a text message or alarm clock can impact sleep quality (6). Get the room as dark as you can and cover any sources of external lights. Blacking out the windows can be very helpful in getting the room as dark as possible.
Hang a blanket over the window or head to the store and get blackout shades that block light entirely from coming into your room. For many people sleeping in a slightly colder room actually helps them fall and stay asleep but adjust the room temperature for your specific needs.
If you use an alarm to help you wake up, why wouldn’t you use one to remind yourself it’s time to avoid screens and start getting ready for a good night of sleep? Setting a bedtime alarm will keep you accountable to your new sleep routine.
One of the biggest offenders when it comes to sleep disruption in daily life is the constant bombardment of blue lights. From the moment you wake up until falling asleep you are literally bathing in blue lights from our cell phones, computers and TVs.
The light emitted from these devices is damaging to your sleep and health because of the melatonin-suppressing effect it has. Melatonin is a hormone that controls your wake and sleep cycles and is secreted by the pineal gland. Suppressed production of melatonin at night will lead to disrupted sleep patterns (7). Blue lights have the greatest melatonin suppressing effects of any light frequency encountered on a daily basis (7).
Unfortunately, the very devices you take everywhere: computers, tablets, TVs and phones are the richest sources of this sleep disrupting blue light. Avoid screens for sixty minutes before bed, if that seems like too much, start with fifteen minutes and work up to sixty.
A magnesium supplement has been a game changer for many of my clients. Magnesium is a very difficult mineral to get enough of in the diet and is especially important for highly active athletes due to increased demand with high-intensity exercise and the roles it plays in energy metabolism.
When taken at night magnesium has a calming effect that helps to enhance falling and staying asleep (8).
Our bodies are brilliantly designed and can handle short term acute stresses very well. During stressful situations, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) takes over to help mobilize energy and deal with fight or flight situations.
On the opposite side of the coin, our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is designed to help us rest, digest and recover. By stretching or doing mobility for 5-15 minutes before bed you will be able to shift your body into the PNS state which is much more conducive to relaxation and a good night’s sleep (9).
After trying this trick, a number of my clients with a history of sleep trouble swear by this. Try drinking four ounces of warm water with ½ teaspoon of sea salt in it 45 min before bed.
This is the one case in life when falling asleep while reading a book is a good thing! Avoid overly stimulating books such as suspense or mystery stories.
Use this as a review or debrief of your day. Write down one thing that went well and one thing that didn’t go well and how you played a part in each one. You can also use this as a platform to write down anything you need to get off your mind and on to paper before sleeping.
Try not to do this too close to bedtime because if there is something stressful or agitating it has the potential to occupy your thoughts and keep you awake as you try to sleep.
With the importance of sleep being widely recognized and the damaging effects of blue light, the market has responded with some great products to block blue light even if you’re using a screen before bed. The first is a free program named f.lux that you can download on your computer. It changes the amount of blue light your screen emits based on the time of day for your region. F.lux shifts the color from sleep disrupting blue light to an amber, which can be helpful if you have to get some late night work done or are watching a show on your computer.
The next would be blue blocker glasses. While they aren’t going to win you any fashion awards, these are highly effective for blocking blue lights. By putting these glasses on an hour or two before bed you allow the body to begin making melatonin which improves both sleep quality and duration. Blue blocker glasses are very inexpensive and can be found at most hardware stores or on Amazon.
Lastly, if you have an Apple phone or tablet, you can use the setting Night Shift Mode that reduces the blue light and shifts the spectrum to more of an amber color.
If you have another brand of smartphone or tablet, there are blue light shields that can be purchased and placed on the screen of your device like a screen protector. These shields block the blue light from your smartphone or tablet.
There are a number of ways to improve your sleep quality that take place in the hours before your head hits the pillow. Developing these habits will take a little extra work on your part but the benefits of sleep are worth it. Start by getting your sleep cave in order. Even if all the above pre-bed habits are in place without a good environment for sleep, you will still fall short.
Get the electronics out of the room, block the light and get the room the right temperature for your optimal sleep. After your sleep cave is organized, adopt a single bedtime habit to work on. By trying to change too much too soon with your routine it will only be a recipe for stress and overwhelm.
After you have that bedtime habit in place for two to three weeks, adopt another habit to get the best sleep possible.