Part 1 - Your Circadian Rhythm
Would you like to spring out of bed in the morning, with the energy to get stuck into your day, play with your kids, perform better and make better choices?
Do you hit snooze on your alarm? Drag yourself out of bed? Avoid everyone until you've had that morning coffee? Well, you're not alone.
According to a recent Australian study only 49% of women report having a deep sleep and just 65% of men. We also know that after a poor night's sleep we consume on average an extra 300-400 calories the next day. These things have significant implications to our life and our health.
Watch the video below or keep reading...
Video 1 - Your Circadian Rhythm
In my clinical practice, I often see patients who are struggling with poor sleep. It's having an effect on their energy, their recovery, mood, relationships and the quality of life that they want. I want to get these easy to implement tips out there to support people improve their sleep, improve their health and get more out of their life.
If you can relate to this then keep reading because I'm going to explain how you can improve your sleep, wake feeling more refreshed and spring out of bed in the morning. Let me touch on some background information so that you can understand why this is so important...
Our bodies are amazing machines. They have an intricate system of clocks, called the circadian rhythm, that signals many of our body’s natural functions. When this system is disrupted, it can manifest in many different ways, including sleep disorders, mood issues, blood sugar irregularities, poor recovery from exercise, depression, anxiety and many chronic health disorders. By modifying our light exposure and other behavioural techniques, we can optimise our circadian rhythm to improve our health issues and enhance our health.
There are two key hormones that help regulate this sleep-wake cycle. One is melatonin, the other is cortisol.
- Cortisol - one of our stress hormones that gets you up in the morning. When you open your eyes in the morning, the light that enters your eyes signals the brain that it's day time. Cortisol levels should steadily rise over the 30 minutes after waking, then gradually decline throughout the day.
- Melatonin - an anti-inflammatory that is essential for sleep. When the brain detects a reduction in the blue light entering our eyes, it stimulates the release of melatonin, which is at it's greatest from 9pm-2am and then decreases until dawn. As dawn approaches, our body can shift back into activity mode as cortisol rises and melatonin drops.
While we’re asleep, a whole array of internal housekeeping activities can be switched on. From 10pm-2am we can undergo significant physical healing…if we are asleep. If we are awake at this time, we’re missing out on a key healing opportunity. From 1am-5am we can benefit from more mental healing.
Many of us are living, eating, sleeping and working at hours that are at odds with our biological clock, leading to disruption in this rhythm. Exposure to blue light at night suppresses melatonin production which can exacerbate sleep issues, cause difficulty in getting to sleep or staying asleep and reduces overall sleep quality. Poor sleep can have such significant impact on our life. It can affect the quality of our work, reduce sport or gym performance and slow our reaction time, contributing to more accidents and falls. It can also affect our interaction with others, influencing relationships. It can even reduce our healing capacity, mental clarity and thinking and influence our food choices.
Can you relate to any of these? I know I certainly can.
It is crucial to establish and maintain consistent sleep routines and cycles...your health depends on it. Making just one change per week can allow you to gain momentum in moving towards great quality sleep, improved healing, improved body maintenance and ultimately, better health.
Part 2 - 5 Timing Tips for Improved Sleep
Video 2 - 5 Timing Tips for Improved Sleep
Here are 5 tips to improve your sleep and optimise your circadian rhythm.
- Maintain regular sleep cycles. Sleep and wake at the same consistent time each day, even on weekends.
- Go to sleep as close to sunset and wake as close to sunrise as is practical.
- Prioritise sleep from 10pm-2am. This is when our main physical healing happens...if we are asleep.
- Spend the first 20 minutes of your day outside in the sun, preferably without sunglasses. The light that enters your eyes in that time signals your brain that it’s day time.
- Spend 10 minutes outside just before sunset. As the blue light dwindles, the body receives a signal that it is wind down time.
Make sure you integrate at least one of these into your routine to reset your circadian rhythm and improve the quality of your sleep.
Part 3 - 5 Home Lighting Tips
Video 3 - 5 Lighting Tips for Better Quality Sleep
Here are 5 tips to improve your sleep by making some small changes to the lighting environment in your home.
- Turn off or down bright lights in the evening as the night progresses. Use lamps where possible.
- Eliminate screens, TV’s, iPad’s, phones etc. after sunset. If it's not practical, turn off your screens as far from bedtime as possible.
- Read a physical copy of a book or magazine after dark rather than from a device.
- If you must use screens or bright lights after dark, wear blue light blocking glasses.
- Place light filters on your screens. Install F.lux on computers and brightness filters on smartphones and devices.
Start with the easy changes and add to them every week. It is quite amazing the differences these things can make.
Part 4 - What & When To Eat
Video 4 - What To Eat & When To Eat It
Here are our five tips to improve your sleep by manipulating your diet.
- Eat during, or as close to, the hours the sun is out.
- Eat at regular times each day, even on the weekends.
- Eat your last meal well before you go to sleep. That's four hours for a large meal, three hours for a moderate meal, two hours for a smaller meal and one hour for a snack.
- Reduce the portion size of your evening meal, especially the amount of meat.
- What to eat? Include some natural carbohydrates with your evening meal. That could be sweet potato, potato, vegetables or wild rice. Avoid sugar, caffeine, alcohol and other stimulants, especially towards the evening.
Which change(s) are you going to make to commit to improved sleep and better health?
Part 5 - Optimise Your Sleeping Environment
Video 5 - How to Change Your Sleeping Environment for Better Sleep
5 ways to improve your sleep by making some simple changes to your bedroom.
- Create a bedroom that encourages sleep, that's relaxing, that you are comfortable in.
- Create a bedroom that is dark, quiet and sits at a cooler temperature.
- Wake up using a sunrise simulating alarm clock, only if you need an alarm.
- Maintain fresh air flow in your bedroom by opening a door or a window.
- Keep your room technology free. Keep phones, TVs, computers out of the bedroom.
Part 6 - Your Wind Down Routine
Video 6 - 5 Things To Add To Your Wind Down Routine
5 tips to improve your sleep by bringing in a wind down routine:
- Practice active relaxation or meditation. One very effective relaxation technique is called progressive muscle relaxation. It involves contracting and then relaxing groups of muscles at a time, moving sequentially from the feet up into the head.
- Try different breathing exercises. One of the most impactful I find for most people is lengthening their breath, especially the exhalation. My favourite way to do this is to breathe through your nose, four seconds in, two second hold and eight seconds on your exhalation breath.
- Reserve activities that don't require screens for before bed, such as stretching, meal prep, showering, journaling, meditation etc.
- Try journaling or reading a relaxing book before you go to sleep.
- Apply relaxing essential oils to your neck, bottom of your feet or your pillow. Great sleep support oils include lavender, camomile, marjoram or cedar wood. You could also use a magnesium oil or have a magnesium salt bath.
Thank you for joining me in this 6 part video series. I hope you found it helpful. Please see other articles in our library for more information and tips on how to tweak your lifestyle to live your best life.
Written by Dr. Jess Harvey B.Sc. (Anat, Phys), B.Ap.Sci (Comp. Med.), Ma Osteo., Registered Osteopath and Director of Head 2 Toe Health.
We provide Osteopathy, Acupuncture, Massage, Life Coaching and Counselling in Springwood (Brisbane) and Oxenford (Gold Coast). "We aim to get you as well as possible, as fast as possible, permanently." We believe in a thorough approach to restoring and maintaining health and address many aspects of our lifestyles that can contribute to pain, stiffness, dis-ease and disease. For any further information, please contact us on email@example.com or 07) 3208 8308.
This information is intended as a general guide only and is not specific for any particular condition or situation. This information is for educational purposes only. Please seek specific advice for your individual circumstances.