Sleep (insomnia) has been an issue for me since the birth of my youngest brother when I was just 14. I became more alert to the slightest of noises and slept much lighter once there was a new baby in the house.
Those who know me will know I love my technology so earlier this year I bought a Fitbit, not to count calories or steps, but to monitor my sleep. Whilst I don’t feel the Fitbit is 100 percent accurate, I do think it is consistent. Now that I could monitor my sleep, I started to take steps to improve it.
If you want to know how to sleep better its worth studying our circadian rhythm. An ancient body rhythm that arose early in the evolution of life, circadian rhythms are very important in determining sleep patterns and can influence sleep-wake cycles. They are affected by our environment, particularly light which influences the release of melatonin the ‘sleep hormone’.
So to take steps to improve your sleep go back to nature, embrace your circadian rhythm, and think like a caveman! Here are my 5 ways to better, deeper sleep ‘Caveman Style’.
1) Create Your Cave
Think dark and cool. To help sleep better and get deep sleep, make your bedroom as dark as possible. Black out all light entering the bedroom. Switch off anything generating light, such as clocks or the small light on a TV (in fact take the TV out altogether). Much like a cave, you should keep the room cool at night, experts say 18 degrees Celsius is the optimum temperature for better sleep.
2) Hunt and Gather
Our bodies are design to more! We are designed to be hunting and gathering food. Because in modern life we no longer need to hunt for our food it’s important we incorporate exercise into our lives. Cardiovascular, strengthening and stretching.
Many people go to bed feeling tired, only to find themselves awake 3-4 hours later. This is often because they are going to bed mentally tired rather than physically tired. Exercising regularly (and by exercise, I mean sweating) has shown to increase deep sleep. Nevertheless, avoid exercise late in the evenings as cortisol levels will increase, making you more awake.
3) Leave the Tablet Outside the Cave
Screen time should be avoided at least 30 minutes before bed. Light being emitted from screens, especially smart phone and tablets reduces the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy.
4) Keep Alcohol for Rituals
Studies suggest our prehistoric ancestor only used alcohol for ritualistic reasons and not for recreation. You don’t need to go all ritualistic but avoid alcohol in the evenings for better sleep. Yes, alcohol can make you feel sleepy and help you nod off, but after a while it acts as a stimulant resulting in a decrease in sleep quality and less deep sleep.
5) Stay Safe from Predators
Human survival over the centuries has relied on stress. Stress triggers our fight or flight response due to the release of various hormones particularly cortisol. Of course sleep is the last thing your body has in mind when its preparing to fight or flee. Therefore, it’s important to try and manage stress. One effective way I found to manage stress is meditation, try listening to some guided meditation designed to reduce stress and anxiety before bed (there are plenty on YouTube).
Doctor of Chiropractic, Clane Chiropractic.