Sleep is vital for ALL humans (and animals). Our bodies need sleep in order to function properly. It is easier to look at what happens when we don’t get enough sleep in order to understand its importace. Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain, decreases the efficiency of the imune system, impairs your decision making and problem solving abilities, makes you more prone to have trouble controlling your emotions, learning or remembering things, and can even lead to increased blood pressure, increased stress hormone levels and irregular heartbeat. If you want to learn how to get better night sleep, you came to the right place!
The abount of sleep one needs varies with the age. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this is the indicated amount of sleep one needs during a 24 hours interval.
|Age||Sleep during 24 hours timeframe|
|0–3 months||14–17 hours|
|4–12 months||12–16 hours|
|1–2 years||11–14 hours|
|3–5 years||10–13 hours|
|6–12 years||9–12 hours|
|13–18 years||8–10 hours|
|18–60 years||7 or more hours|
|61–64 years||7–9 hours|
|65 years and older||7–8 hours|
The needed amount of sleep can also vary with each individual: there are adults who perform great after just 5 or 6 hours of sleep, just as there are some who need 10 hours.
The quality of sleep is also very important, so it is very important to do your best and take full advantage of the time spent sleeping. There are many factors contributing to sleep quality, but I will present here a few very important ones you can control and implement easily.
1. Get in sync with your internal clock
Your circadian rhythm (also known as your body clock) is a system that regulates the ups and downs of biological patterns, including the release of hormones, body temperature or blood pressure. This complete timekeeper is controlled by an area of the brain that is stimulated by light, which is why you feel more alert while the sun is shining and feel sleepy when it’s dark outside.
It is important to establish a regular sleep/wake schedule. This means going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time, even on weekends. Try to wake up at the same time even after you go out in the evening! It is often tempting to grab some extra sleeping time especially on weekends, but this can throw off your body clock for several days.
Try to get some direct sunlight exposure as soon as you wake up. If you can, get out for a short walk in sunlight. If not, at least 10 to 15 minutes of sunlight on your face through an open window is also good. Just make sure not to be behind the glass. This will reset your clock, inhibit melatonin production, and give you more energy.
2. Control your exposure to light
The human body has evolved to rely on the sun in order to tell it is day or night. Technology had a great impact on our ability to stay in sync with nature, as artificial light can easily fool this mechanism. Controlling our exposure to light during the evening, especially blue light (generated by electronic screens) is critical for a good circadian rhythm pattern. Establishing a no screen hour (ideally two hours) before sleep has a huge impact on the ability to fall asleep as well as the quality of sleep you will get. More than that, you can wear blue light filtering glasses in the evening.
If you have to use your laptop in the evening, try using a light-altering software like f.lux. For phones or tablets, newer systems offer a night mode that limits the blue light emitted. Try your best to avoid watching TV late in the evening!
Melatonin is the hormone that regulates your sleepiness. When it gets dark, the brain triggers the melatonin secretion and you start to feel sleepy. There are many melatonin pills that help you sleep, but I would suggest only using those in extreme situations, like trying to adjust to a new timezone.
3. Use your bedroom for sleep (and sex of course)
Keep electronics, books, food and other stimulating activities out of your bed. Your brain will learn to associate bed with sleep and it will be a lot easier to fall asleep once you go to bed. The brain always tries to find associations and queues, so make sure you help it associate bedtime with sleep.
Remove all electronics from the bedroom. If possible, leave your phone in another room. If you absolutely need to be reachable during the night, leave the phone in the room, but turn off the Wi-Fi, mobile data and Bluetooth, and place it face-down so there are no visible lights.
Once you get used to getting up at the same time you will not need an alarm clock anymore, but until you do, you can get one of those classic alarm clocks. Also, if you use a sleep tracking gadget like Fitbit, you can use its silent alarm to wake you up.
4. Make sure your bedroom is dark
Remove all light sources from your bedroom (or cover them), including any electronic devices that have small LEDs or any type of light.
Use blackout curtains or shades to make sure no light enters from outside. If you can’t block external light, try using a sleep mask.
If you wake up during the night and have to go to the restroom, don’t turn on the light. Try using a red night-lamp or any dim light-source. It will make your falling back to sleep a lot easier. If you expose yourself to bright light, your brain will think it’s morning and it will inhibit melatonin secretion and start waking you up.
5. Caffeine and alcohol consumption
After drinking it, caffeine only needs about 45 minutes to be absorbed by the body. In humans, the half-time for caffeine ranges between 4 and 6 hours (some need up to 8 hours), so try to avoid any caffeine consumption after 2 pm.
When it comes to alcohol you also need to be very careful. One small drink can be processed in about one hour. A pint of beer needs 2 hours, while a large glass of wine takes 3 hours to be processed. Besides trying to limit yourself to a single drink, it is recommended to stop drinking at least 3 hours before going to bed.
There’s nothing more effective than exercise to improve the quality of your sleep. Even a very short session of only 5 minutes does wonders to your body.
The researchers at the Appalachian State University conducted a test to determine how the time we exercise impacts our sleep quality. They concluded that people who exercise in the morning tended to spend more time in deep sleep, had more efficient sleep cycles, and experienced a 25% greater drop in blood pressure during the night. Even if you are very busy in the morning and think you can’t fit a 30 minutes exercise in your schedule, you can still take advantage of this benefit by doing even 5 minutes of exercise in the morning.
Meditation is also a huge topic in the biohacking world, so there it will certainly have a dedicated article. Studies have pointed out that meditation is equally effective as some of the best sleep medications, but it is free and comes without the dangerous side effects.
Meditation can improve sleep by promoting relaxation. Research has found that relaxation techniques like meditation can be a useful behavioral approach for treating insomnia. Meditation may also help enhance sleep by reducing symptoms of other health conditions. Meditation can decrease the severity of anxiety and depression, both of which frequently interrupt sleep.
8. Food and sleep
What you eat is extremely important to your brain, your whole body and of course for your sleep. it is a very long discussion that will be the focus of another article. The bottom line is to eat real food you recognize as food, avoid anything processed or “just put in the microwave” meals.
For now, I will only mention two core elements you need in order to enjoy a good restful sleep: vitamin C and Magnesium. Make sure your diet has optimal levels of both magnesium and vitamin C.
The Bottom Line
We spend about a third of our lives asleep. Sleep is essential – It is as important to our bodies as eating, drinking and breathing, and is vital for maintaining good mental and physical health. Sleeping helps us to recover from mental as well as physical exertion.
You simply cannot achieve optimal health without taking care of your sleep