How much sleep do you get a night?
Sleep is often over-looked in terms of its affect on health and mood – if you’ve ever suffered from irritability or craved sweet foods or struggled to lose weight then adjusting your sleep pattern might be the easy fix. It’s one of the few things we can control easily and has the potential to significantly alter your health. Sure, there are nights when sleep is compromised – noisy neighbours, crying baby or snoring partner, these are all common factors and I’m sure you’ve felt sub-optimal as a direct result – but when you prioritize sleep you WILL be a healthier & happier human.
If I had to pick the most important factor in the bid for health it would be sleep…hands down!
Why do we need sleep?
Good sleep will promote a reboot of our immune system and will allow our gut to ‘rest’ from digesting food matter, not to mention encourage a decrease in systemic inflammation. Sleep allows our body’s to take the foot ‘off the gas’ and turn its energy to cellular cleansing and detoxification.
Cells will accumulate dead components, damages components and toxins which will need to be eliminated for continued good health – when this ‘cleansing’ is unaddressed then it can become problematic.
Our modern, busy, stressful life agitates the sympathetic nervous system – one which is characterized by flight or fight.
Historically, this pathway would have only been activated infrequently (hunters & gatherers) but these days it activated when we are simply walking through our busy day-to-day…factors including traffic, shitty emails, timelines and presentations all trigger the sympathetic nervous system.
In contrast to our sympathetic nervous system is the parasympathetic nervous system – see this as the ‘rest and rejuvenate’ pathway.
No time in history has there been an imperative need to focus on sleep to help us unwind, restore and rejuvenate.
What are some of the ways to optimize sleep to maximize health?
1. Tech Detox
Avoid technology for the last 2 hours of your day prior to sleep. The blue light given off from devices such as phones and laptops will interfere with your normal circadian rhythm (your internal body clock) and will disrupt sleep. There are blue light filters you can run on devices these days…I suggest you get them. Blue light will stifle the natural production of our sleep hormone melatonin - which ‘should’ begin to roll-out at sunset when remove distractions. It’s possible to get an app on your tech devices that emit green or red light which will have less impact on our physiology and hormones.
It will also help to have your phone in another room, wifi off or at least on ‘flight mode’
2. Hot & Cold Showers
Alternating between hot and cold (finishing on cold) will help to promote good quality sleep.
How to do hot/cold showers to illicit better sleep:
- Shower at your usual temperature
- Gradually raise the temperature to the point in which it uncomfortable – ensure your whole body experiences this temperature
- Lower the temperature to the coldest possible (not hot tap running) and exposure all body parts to this
- Raise the temperature again (if you can tolerate a higher temperature than before do so)
- Lower the temperature again – repeat a further 6 times
- Start on hot and finish on cold
- Only spend time in each extreme temperature long enough to expose all body parts – particularly the hot shower
- Jump into bed