It’s no secret that modern society is one that functions 24 hours. However, every night our bodies and brains rely on sleep to rest and replenish us with energy. There are literally thousands of benefits (some surprising) related to getting a good night sleep every night. But the fact is, Americans aren’t getting enough of it. The National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research has estimated that about 40 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders. An additional 30 million experience sleep problems sporadically. But there are extremely simple things that you can do, to significantly improve your sleep quality.
Melatonin and Sleep
Melatonin is a powerful hormone within your body that has a ton of benefits for the immune system. Melatonin has been shown to have anti-cancer, brain-age-slowing, and inflammation-combating properties. But what does it have to do with your sleep? Melatonin helps you fall asleep, by giving you a feeling of comfort and well-being. Many things, especially the ones listed below can throw your Melatonin levels off balance, making it very hard for you to fall asleep.
1. Limit Exposure to Light (At Night)
It’s no secret that our bodies have and operate on a 24 hour clock. This internal clock relies on several indicators to know when its time to feel awake and when to fall asleep. This cycle can be easily thrown off by introducing light at night when you should really have complete darkness. Additionally, this light hinders the production of melatonin. Our ancestors have spent many nights with firelight, which has yellow, orange and red wavelengths, which may be why it doesn’t suppress the production of melatonin as much as blue or white light. It’s important to dim the lights an hour or more before bedtime to prepare your body for sleep. Once in bed, your room should be in complete darkness.
2. No Electronics 1 Hour Before Bedtime
Devices such as TVs, computers and even your cellphones emit blue light. Blue light tricks your brain into thinking that it’s still daytime. Which may interfere with the process that occurs between 9PM and 10PM when your brain starts secreting melatonin. Additionally, cellphones emit harmful EMF (electromagnetic field) which can disrupt the melatonin production as well. Finally, we know that all these things stimulate our brain, and we all know how “easy” it is to go to sleep when your mind is racing from one thought to another.
3. Get Some Sunlight, Ya Vampire!
Research shows that just 10 to 15 minutes of direct (outdoors, no through a window) sunlight per day will send let your internal body clock know that its day time, which will make it less likely confused as you encounter some artificial light at night. Our circadian rhythms rely on sunlight to reset themselves. This is why you can stay up to 5am playing slots at the casino – no windows and bright lights make your bodies and brains confused. However, you don’t need to be at the casino for the same occur in your house. Direct sunlight has a host of health benefits attributed to it, and as you age, you need more, not less, direct sunlight.
4. Easy on the Coffee
Do we need to say more? Too much coffee at breakfast can keep you up even at night. So drink a small cup of coffee in the morning or take one that’s caffeine free. If you are a heavy coffee drinker you may have to eliminate coffee slowly over the next couple of weeks.
Bonus: Free Daily Sleep Guide
People are creatures of habit. We need to do something repetitively and consecutively for it to stick with us. Same goes for sleep, managing your sleep may seem hard but it doesn’t have to be. Researchers at Harvard Medical School have developed a sleep schedule which may be just the thing that you need to change your sleeping habits. We’ve made a printable version for your convenience.