Lack or sleep is associated with several health concerns. Depression, memory problems and metabolic issues are just a few. Recent in-depth studies show that adults require between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Younger people including college age people need more but unfortunately we are all getting significantly less. We see an increase in inflammation, obesity and emotional stability in those who are chronically sleep deprived. If there is one thing you can do to improve your health getting more rest and sleep may be the most important. Cardiovascular disease and cancers are also linked with insomnia.
Light exposure affects our circadian rhythm and our quality of sleep. Waking up feeling rested and energized indicates a proper amount of deep sleep has occurred. Black out blinds and a cool room are helpful. So is reducing light exposure after dark especially from screens. F.lux is a tool to reduce the blue light rays of screens if they must be used. Wearing orange coloured glasses is another option. Turning down lights in the evening and using this time for quiet activities and rest is important.
With electricity we work longer hours and have less time outdoors. Getting adequate daytime bright light anchors our circadian rhythm. Time zone travel and shift work are especially difficult for our bodies to adapt to. Alternating shift work is the worst. For travel you can take melatonin at the time you will go to bed in your new location. This helps you adjust to the new time zone and mitigates the discomforts of jet lag.
Melatonin also has an important regulatory effect on immunity. Those with adequate exposure to darkness are less likely to develop cancer than those with more artificial light. Anyone with chronic infection or autoimmune disease ought to focus on getting enough sleep as part of their treatment plan.
Allow more time to sleep than you need and wake up without an alarm whenever possible. Evening is not a time for stressful conversations but instead a time of unwinding from the day. The bedroom needs to be kept clear of electronics of all sorts.
Diet plays a role in insomnia. Studies show that not enough fat or carbohydrates contribute to poor sleep. Carbohydrates are needed to increase tryptophan in entering the pineal gland. Protein and fat are more satiating and this carries through the night. Often insomnia is a blood sugar issue. Sleep deprivation can lead to insulin resistance and weight gain.
Caffeine can contribute to sleep loss days after it is consumed. Fifty per cent of people don’t metabolize caffeine and for those with sleep problems reducing or removing caffeine completely is important. Not consuming any caffeine after noon is best.
Aerobic exercise can help with deeper sleep, depression and anxiety. It protects against the harmful consequences of stress if not overdone. Signs of too much exercise include insomnia, muscle fatigue, waking up not rested, poor recovery and a decline in cognitive function and performance.