6 min|Dr. Jam Caleda
A Good Night of Sleep Starts the Moment you Wake up in the MorningWellness
Sleep is Imperative to Our Survival
The cousin of death is not evil. I’m talking about sleep. Humans are supposed to spend about 1/3 of their lives in sleep. Almost all organisms in the animal kingdom have this preserved process that we share and is vitally important to how we operate in the world.
Seemingly purposeless, this incredibly important state is imperative to our survival. Though we don’t exactly understand all the components of sleep, we know that without it we put ourselves into severe states of dis-ease. As such we cannot underestimate the value of an incredible night’s sleep.
Sleep in Our Lives
Sleep is a force multiplier. When you get a good night’s rest it has the ability to make everything you do the following day exponentially better, however on the other side of that is that if you are deprived of it, it also has the ability to make everything exponentially worse. It’s not about the amount of sleep but the quality of how we get it.
There are many people who get 8 hours a night but still wake up feeling like a wreck. And so it’s important to understand that, wherever you fall on the sleep spectrum, the quality of sleep you get will greatly impact your life. Another interesting phenomenon is that our bodies like to find patterns.
Well how do we regulate our patterns? There is this hormone in our bodies called cortisol, which is known as our stress hormone. In health it has a lot of negative connotations in the sense that in this culture we have too high levels of it because of our stress, and it induces obesity, anxiety, depression, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and many more. It is the reason we go for the cookies in the junk food isle at the grocery, the reason we yell at the people we care about, the reason we can shed the extra weight, and the reason we can’t sleep.
However, we have to acknowledge that cortisol is one of a few master regulator of our daily patterns, our circadian rhythm.Through evolutionary biology we are supposed to have a cortisol rhythm that is in tune with our environment. We are supposed to have a peak in the morning and continue to go down as the day goes on. But there are many things that we do in our lives to assault this natural rhythm.
Another layer to this is that melatonin, our “get good sleep hormone” which allows us to get that rejuvenating quality of sleep, has an inverse relationship. So if our cortisol levels are off during the day it ultimately affects how we sleep at night. So we can exhaust ourselves to sleep but will reduce our quality of sleep.
Sleep Can Even Impact Our Relationships
For example the amygdala, a part of the brain that controls the primal functions of are body, becomes more activated when we are sleep deprived. What does this mean? It means that when we are sleep deprived we have a much higher tendency to fight with others, be more aggressive, and respond in the fight or flight mode. Research shows that couples who get a lack of sleep are 20% more likely to quarrel and not resolve the conflict with their partner.
A good night of sleep starts the moment you wake up in the morning
Exercise is a key component to health and especially sleep. But what is important isn’t that we just get exercise but to do it in response to our day. There was a study done in Appalachian’s University. They took exercise and broke them into three groups; group A exercised at 7a, group B at 1p, group C at 7p. Group A spent 75% more time in the deepest most rejuvenated stages of sleep than other groups.
So it’s important to exercise in the morning. This doesn’t mean you can’t exercise in the afternoon, but this is key, is that by exercising early in the day, it supports that morning spike of cortisol that is so important for regulating normal cortisol rhythm and the rest of your day. So, do a walk in the morning, do some squats, some pushups, a power yoga session; essentially anything that activates your body and puts it into an active mode and rhythm and this small change will already help in sleep quality.
And what I recommend is that if you do exercise in the evening, try to do it at least 4-hours before going to bed; or if you are really gung ho about it, you can help reduce your evening body temperature which helps with sleep, by taking a cold shower after your exercise.
Getting sunlight during the day will also help with regulating your hormones. Research shows that by getting early morning sunlight will actually help lower your cortisol at night. If sunlight is limited in the region investing in to a full spectrum light is very beneficial for this.
Timing sleep is like timing an investment. If you invest sleep at the right times you have the potential to get the most out of it. The research shows that the times for the possibility of the highest quality of sleep fall between 10p to 2a. This is because melatonin, human growth hormone, and reparative enzymes peak at this time during the night. So if we ignore this we can miss this window of the most regenerative sleep time. This is so normal, I even tend to get quite sleepy around 8p, but I push past it and distract my mind with watching TV, making a late dinner, reading, or other activities that by the time I check my watch again, it’s already 12 midnight and I’m not sleepy.
What this does is that it wastes that reparative and regeneration peak time if I go push passed the sleepiness in the evening. So I’m learning to listen to my body when it is sleepy and that helps in taking advantage of the most optimal sleep quality. What’s important is to go to bed within 2-3 hours of the sun going down, so it is in conjunction to the seasons.
Other things you can try:
- Sleep outdoors
- Reduce or stop electronic screen time 2 hours before bed. I understand that this can be a very difficult challenge for many of us, so as a substitute use programs or tools that reduce the blue spectrum of light that we collect from screens. This include a program called f.lux on the computer or blue filter glasses.
- Evaluate the room. Design a sleep environment that supports sleep. Reducing noises or other distractions, have a comfortable mattress and linens, and reduce electronic devices near or around the bed.