Master Your Sleep Cycle and Wake Up Refreshed

Do you frequently experience restless nights and wake up feeling tired? Don’t worry; we have expert tips to help you improve your sleep quality and ensure you wake up feeling rested. Sleep is as essential for survival as food and water. Without sleep, our bodies wouldn’t last much longer than if we stopped drinking water.

Getting a good night’s sleep has numerous benefits. It boosts our immune system, which is particularly important during the winter months, regulates appetite-controlling hormones, enhances our mood, and facilitates a cleansing process in our brains. During sleep, the space between brain cells expands, allowing cerebral spinal fluid to flush out accumulated toxins.

Despite being aware of these extensive benefits, many of us are not getting enough sleep. Research indicates that people are sleeping nearly two hours less than they did in the 1960s. Studies conducted by Silentnight and the University of Leeds reveal that 25% of Brits sleep for five hours or less per night.

The demands of modern living, characterized by overwork, excessive caffeine consumption, and an obsession with gadgets, are wreaking havoc on our sleep routines. Urban areas have switched from traditional street lighting to eco-friendly LEDs, and we spend hours binge-watching TV shows on laptops and iPads, resulting in increased exposure to sleep-disrupting blue light.

While exposure to bright light in the morning is essential for setting our sleep/wake cycle, artificial light at night can adversely affect brainwave activity, glucose and insulin levels, and hinder our ability to fall asleep.

Interestingly, around 3% of the population possesses the short sleep gene, enabling them to function on minimal sleep.

Insufficient sleep is not only a common trend but also a health time bomb. Studies indicate that just one night of inadequate rest increases the risk of catching a cold fourfold. It also impairs reaction times, motivation, empathy, concentration, and learning abilities. Lack of sleep can lead to long-term health problems such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, obesity, depression, and heart disease. According to Harvard Medical School, individuals who sleep less than five hours per night for five consecutive years face a 300% increased risk of hardened arteries.

The question remains: How much sleep do we actually need? Sleep expert Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan explains that the required amount varies from person to person and depends on various factors such as age and development stage. On average, 7.5 hours of sleep divided into five 90-minute cycles is recommended. However, Dr. Ramlakhan emphasizes that sleep quality is equally important. Having five or six hours of deep, uninterrupted sleep is preferable to seven hours of fragmented sleep. Each 90-minute stage consists of four phases of non-REM ( Rapid Eye Movement)  sleep, progressing from light to deep sleep, followed by a fifth REM stage. During deep sleep, the body undergoes a healing process, with each sleep period targeting a different organ.

The adage “beauty sleep” holds true as well. Sleeping five or fewer hours per night can make you appear four or five years older, according to research from Harvard School of Public Health.

If you struggle with sleep, sleep physiologist Dr. Guy Meadows provides some useful tips to help you overcome common sleep dilemmas:

  • Waking up at night: Instead of battling with racing thoughts and anxiety when you can’t fall asleep, practice acceptance and commitment therapy. Acknowledge the negative thoughts without engaging with them and focus on mindfulness activities like feeling the texture of your duvet or observing your breath. Avoid getting out of bed and worrying about the day ahead; learning to be okay with being awake and anxious is crucial.
  • Difficulty falling asleep: Create a 30-minute wind-down routine before bed. Avoid using your phone or electronic devices before bedtime as the blue light emitted by these devices can interfere with melatonin production, which regulates sleep/wake cycles. Dim the lights, engage in calming activities like packing your bag for the next day or brushing your teeth, and prepare your body and mind for sleep.
  • Waking up tired: If you feel like you’ve slept well but still wake up feeling exhausted, it could be due to sleep-disrupting factors like snoring or sleep apnea. These conditions can fragment your sleep without your awareness, leaving you feeling drained. Consider weight loss to alleviate pressure on your airways, sleep on your side to keep them open, and be mindful of any dairy intolerances that could contribute to excessive mucus production. Additionally, certain medications like antihistamines and alcohol can cause muscle relaxation and disturb sleep.

Now, let’s explore some do’s and don’ts from sleep expert Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan to help you achieve better sleep:

  • Consider the half-life of caffeine: While reducing caffeine intake is commonly known to improve sleep, it’s also essential to understand the half-life of caffeine. If you consume a caffeinated drink at 5 pm, half of the caffeine will still be in your system by 10 pm, potentially interfering with sleep.
  • Avoid commuting on an empty stomach: Skipping breakfast and relying on adrenaline energy can lead to shallow and restless sleep. Eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking up to provide your body with sustained energy throughout the day.
  • Boost your vitamin B6 intake: Adequate levels of vitamin B6, found in wholegrain cereals, sweet potatoes, and chicken, along with the amino acid tryptophan, found in eggs, fish, nuts, and seeds, can increase the production of sleep-inducing hormones serotonin and melatonin.

While sleep apps can be useful for some individuals, they may cause anxiety in sensitive sleepers or disrupt sleep in light sleepers. Dr. Ramlakhan suggests using sleep apps for comparative purposes to track improvements but emphasizes the importance of listening to our bodies and understanding our own sleep needs.

To enhance your sleep experience, here are some recommended sleep aids:

  • Twilight app (for Android) and Night Shift feature (for iOS devices): These applications reduce blue light emissions from screens, while the Bedtime Mode on iOS devices also limits notifications, promoting a better sleep environment.
  • Clipper Snore & Peace Chamomile Lemon Balm and Lavender Infusion: This calming tea blend can induce a sense of tranquility before bedtime, thanks to ingredients like chamomile, lavender, and lemon balm.
  • Noise-Masking Sleepbuds: If external noises such as sirens or a snoring partner disrupt your sleep, these small headphones play soothing sounds to mask unwanted sounds and promote a more peaceful sleep environment.

In addition to these tips, here are some interesting numbers and facts related to sleep:

  • Exercising in the morning can lead to better sleep at night, as it reduces nighttime blood pressure and encourages longer and more restorative sleep cycles.
  • The ideal bedroom temperature for optimal sleep has been found to be around 18 degrees Celsius, as a slight drop in core body temperature signals the body to prepare for sleep.
  • Andrew Weil’s breathing technique, known as 4-7-8 breathing, helps induce relaxation and clear the mind. It involves exhaling through the mouth, inhaling through the nose for four seconds, holding the breath for seven seconds, and exhaling through the mouth for eight seconds.
  • Spending time outdoors can add an extra 46 minutes of sleep, with morning light being the most beneficial, as it helps reset the body’s internal clock.
  • A power nap of around 30 minutes can provide rejuvenation without leaving you feeling groggy. If possible, try to take a power nap around 2-3 pm when it is less likely to interfere with your nighttime sleep.

By implementing these strategies and adopting healthy sleep habits, you can master your sleep cycle and enjoy the benefits of restful nights. Remember, sleep is not just a luxury but a vital component of overall well-being.

So, take charge of your sleep routine and prioritize good sleep hygiene. Create a calming pre-bedtime routine, optimize your sleep environment, and be mindful of factors that can disrupt your sleep. Listen to your body, and if you are consistently experiencing difficulties with sleep, it may be beneficial to consult a healthcare professional or sleep specialist for further guidance.

With a little effort and commitment, you can transform your sleep patterns and wake up each day feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to embrace life to the fullest. Sweet dreams!



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