The science of getting a good nights sleep

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A huge thank you to Brian, a Thriver who asked me to look into this – and lots of you who over the years who have talked to me about sleep.   This is going to be a quick yet potent summary of the sleep research that is currently out there AND having tested it myself, I can personally say that it has helped me.   There are 3 main factors with sleep: 1. Our body temperature 2. Light exposure 3. How ready we are for sleep vs how stimulated we are.  

Think about how you might put a child to sleep…. When it approaches bed time do we ask them to play and or do things softly and quietly. We may read a story. We have a warm bath… towel dry… brush teeth…go into a darkened room…tuck them up and get comfy and unless there is some other unforeseen stressor, hey presto sleep happens.

It needs to be similar for adults, meaning: we need a sleep routine and a shutdown, turn off time (SRI is great for this!). An amount of time before we intend to sleep where we allow ourselves to slow down and wind down.

Ideally this should be the same time every day – so that we are in a rhythm of a time to wake up and a time to go to sleep. (I know this won’t be possible for everyone for various reasons, and doing our best to get in the rhythm we can makes a massive difference). The main things to be out of our wind down time are:   • Blue light from screens • Exercise (4 hours before sleep) • Caffeine • Alcohol – (this scientifically reduces the depth and quality of sleep) • Big meals

We need to sleep in a dark and cool room. 150 years ago we had daylight and at night times fire light (which is very mellow). Then shortly after that we had the electric lightbulb…and our DNA did not have a chance to adapt to this now constant source of light. Then 50 or so years ago we got televisions and a chance to have rapidly changing light available night or day. Then in the last 10 years we’ve had mobile smart phones with Las Vegas style neon blue light in our faces day and night. The reason this is harmful and why light affects our sleep is because our skin has ‘light receptors’ – essentially our skin can see in the dark… and light tells us that it’s time to be awake.

  Interestingly, insomniacs have a higher core body temperature, research tells us. Ideally our rooms should be between 18-21 degrees and it’s best not to be dressed like an Artic explorer! Light loose clothing is best – think cool, but not cold.

  Sleep is essential, it is not a luxury. 98% of our DNA is linked to the circadian rhythm of waking in the day and sleeping at night. That’s huge. Scientists suggest that less sleep is correlated with negative thinking and that negative thinking is related to depression. So it’s really important that we all get a handle on this area of our life.

Some great news is that napping works really well. As little as 6 mins can give us a recharge. Ideally nap for 6-20 minutes or 90 minutes. This way we get a full REM cycle and avoid the sleep lag feeling.

I can personally say that this information, again thanks to Brian, has improved the quality of sleep for me and my family. I believe that it is so important for us to notice how well we feel, how productive we are and how we act when we’ve slept well compared to when we have not. Moreover, we can go further and find strong reasons for us to get up early rather than stay up late… and really then commit to and enjoy living a life towards the life we really want.

Sleep well.