Sleep is universal. We all need it and when we don't get enough, we feel its effects. When sleeping well, our mood improves, we learn faster, our minds are clearer, and our bodies have more energy. Some recent studies even suggest that proper sleep habits are preventative against various chronic diseases. Counting sheep is actually the last thing you want to do to fall asleep. Here are five effective tips backed by science. You're doing incredible things with your life, and by getting better sleep, we know you can do more with greater effectiveness.
1. Avoid Caffeine in the Afternoon
We've all heard this one and it makes sense: Don't intake stimulants when you're trying to relax. But why? Caffeine causes your body to release more adrenaline and cortisol. This leaves our body in an excited state, ready to be active. Furthermore, caffeine blocks adenosine receptors and prevents the brain from decreasing arousal levels. This is why our minds stay active when we drink caffeine, even if our bodies are tired. So not only does caffeine promote an active mind, but it also prevents your mind from relaxing.
2. Only use your bed for sleeping
Just like dogs get excited when we pick up their leash, thinking they're going to go on a walk, our brains learn patterns quickly and anticipates those activities. So if we read or talk on the phone while in our beds, our brains conclude that when we get into bed, it's time to think and be active. We have to teach our brains that beds are for sleeping. By doing this, as soon as we get into bed, our brain knows that it's time to relax, unwind, and fall asleep. This is a simple trick, but it can have powerful effects.
3. Maximize the Power of Your Circadian Rhythm
There's a small part of our brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). This section receives direct input from the eyes and it's this little cluster of neurons that tells our body when it's time to sleep and when it's time to be awake.
It relies on light signals in our environment to establish a sleep-wake cycle that's roughly 24 hours long. Because we're exposed to man-made light long after sunset, our SCN can get confused. It's not practical to avoid lightbulbs after dark, but we can help our bodies out by not using devices with bright screens and by dimming the lights 2-3 hours before we go to bed. Getting plenty of direct sunlight in the middle of the day will also help our SCN learn what time of day it is, consequently helping us fall asleep and wake up when we need to.
4. Establish a Consistent Sleep Pattern
If we go to bed early and wake up early during the week, and then stay up late and sleep in on the weekends, our circadian rhythm can also get confused. By going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, we can train our bodies to do just that. It might take a little bit of planning and some diligence, but this habit change can greatly improve your night's sleep.
5. Help Your Parasympathetic Nervous System Take Control
There are two branches of our autonomic nervous system: the sympathetic (fight or flight) and the parasympathetic (rest and digest). When stressed out, we get stuck in fight or flight mode and it's extremely difficult for our bodies to calm down enough to fall asleep. This is why deep-breathing exercises help us fall asleep faster; breathing slowly convinces our bodies that it's safe to move out of the sympathetic state and into the more relaxed parasympathetic state.
If this last tip seems impossible, come talk to us! Our most frequently used therapies, RPSS (Repetitive Peripheral Somatosensory Stimulation), functions by increasing the parasympathetic nervous system. Because it treats a root cause and not just specific symptoms, its use and application are widespread. We'd love to help you start living your best life today.
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