A few months ago I wrote a post about how I was going to stop using an alarm clock. I have been doing that for a while now and my sleep patterns have gone through some drastic changes.
For one, I sleep a lot more. I also go to bed much earlier (because I’m tired earlier). I get up earlier too, usually between 4-6 am. I will sleep 7-9 hours every night and wake up feeling rested and energized. I’ve also noticed that my body clock has synched itself up with the sun. In the summer when the sun was up earlier, I was awake earlier. Now with less sun I actually sleep longer. I usually fall asleep instantly, and I’m dreaming a lot more. All these changes piqued my curiosity and I started doing some further research on the science behind sleep.
Apart from food, rest and sleep are an important part of holistic nutrition. I learned that before the electric light bulb, most people slept for up to 10 hours every night! Sleep disorders and conditions like insomnia have also been linked to nutrition, as has lack of dreams or poor dream recall.
One study found that 40 percent of people have little to no dream recall, and this was linked to a vitamin B6 and zinc deficiencies. When they were supplemented with these nutrients, they reported more vivid dream recall. Dreaming is important because it occurs during our REM (rapid eye movement) periods of sleep.
As we know, lack of sleep can be detrimental. We often stay awake because we feel there are things we must do, but our work suffers when we are tired. And studies have shown that sleeping actually makes us more efficient, not less.
Here are some tips I follow for a better sleep:
1. Sleep in a quiet, dark room. Even small amounts of light (from an alarm clock or a TV) can affect your brain’s ability to produce serotonin, resulting in a more restless sleep and possibly waking up in the middle of the night.
2. Sleep at a comfortable room temperature. Aside from comfort, this will also allow you to wear loose clothes that will help your skin move and breathe.
3. Avoid big meals before bed. Dinner should be your smallest, not largest meal of the day. After 7pm your body essentially stops digestion and your liver begins to start detoxing from a full day’s work. Straining your digestive system with a big meal with leave you at a disadvantage overnight.
4. If possible, avoid exercising late at night. Exercise is great and should be part of a daily schedule, but it triggers adrenaline and makes it harder to wind down at night.
5. Leave your bed for only sleeping and one other pleasurable thing. Don’t use it for homework, studying, or working. This will teach your brain to associate your bed with sleeping, and make it easier to go down at night. It will also minimize distractions.
6. To go bed by 10pm every night. I know this is easier said than done, but it really does make a world of difference when it comes to feeling rested. Every hour you sleep before midnight is equivalent to two hours of sleep that you get after midnight in terms of quality. The first three hours of sleep are crucial. This is when your body goes into repair mode and begins to cleanse and detox.
7. Manage stress levels. Stress alone can make you sleepless. Stress can be managed through exercise, deep breathing, yoga, other hobbies and friendships, or just learning to slow down.
8. Manage your blood sugar levels throughout the day. If your blood sugar levels are spiking and dropping all day long, it will be difficult to get to sleep at night. You can manage your blood sugar levels by avoiding white sugar and refined carbs. Instead, eat foods with a lower Glycemic Index that are higher in fiber and slower to release sugar into your blood stream.
These steps will go a long way to improve sleep quality and incidentally also help with weight loss. This is because your liver detoxifies overnight, and your liver is responsible for emulsifying fat. A more productive liver will help you process body fat more efficiently.