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Everyone does it, but it’s clear that not everyone gets enough of it. And when you deprive yourself of this necessity, basically every part of your life gets worse.
That’s right, we’re talking about sleep.
Sleep plays a pivotal role in your mental and physical health. Every night, it basically hits a reset button that re-energizes the cells throughout your body and helps to clear waste from the brain. It also supports learning and memory by helping your brain organize your thoughts and experiences from each day. Prioritizing time for sleep can in turn increase your productivity and help you make better choices with it comes to food and exercise.
It’s clear that when you get consistent, adequate rest, your mind and body are able to properly recover from the day’s activities. You’re also setting yourself up to feel and perform your best the next day. On the flip side, sleep deprivation throws off your circadian rhythm (or body clock) and can put you at risk for a number of health issues, including but not limited to:
As it turns out, staying awake all night can also increase a person’s sensitivity to pain the next morning by as much as 30%!
It’s not so black and white. In fact, understanding your chronotype is a great place to start because every individual is different and your DNA can directly influence when you feel most energetic during the day.
What’s your chronotype? Take the quiz to find out.
It’s also extremely important to take a close and honest look at your daily habits to pinpoint what activities may be preventing you from getting the best sleep possible.
With that being said, it’s still important to take chronotype into consideration when you’re thinking about how much sleep you need each night. And consistency is key!
In order to maintain a regular sleep/wake schedule:
Note: If you’re getting enough sleep, you should wake up naturally without needing an alarm. If you find that you need assistance from an alarm (app or clock), then consider going to bed earlier in the evenings so that you can get the core eight hours that your body needs.
Let’s go back to the sun for a moment and why light itself is such an important concept for health. The sun provides a full spectrum of light that contributes to the biological functions of humans, plants and animals. The sun literally affects all of us down to the molecular level; sunlight acts as a nutrient that helps orchestrate your mitochondria to carry out specific functions at precise times throughout the day.
Over time, humans have evolved to live and work outside of the natural hours of daylight thanks to the development of artificial light sources. The LED and compact fluorescent lights (CFL’s) found in most of today’s homes, offices and other public buildings lack some of the key wavelengths that the sun produces naturally, and that our brains and bodies need for optimal biological function.
Unlike incandescent and halogen lights, which emit light similar to that during a sunset, LEDs and fluorescents eliminate most of the infrared, red, and violet light found in natural sunlight, and conversely emit a lot of blue light.
FACT: Most LEDs and fluorescents emit about five times the amount of blue light that are bodies are naturally equipped to handle.
Overexposure to artificial lighting confuses the mind and body, making it very difficult to decipher what time of day (or night) it actually is. Subsequently, there’s broken signaling that takes place between the artificial light sources all around you and your natural body functions. It’s no wonder then that after a full day of using digital devices with LED screens and sitting under artificial lighting, you may experience a “wired and tired” feeling as you’re getting into bed at night. It also makes sense that sleep deprivation then leads to fatigue the next day. This pattern between insomnia and fatigue becomes cyclical and can have profound effects on how you feel and show up in the world.
The key here is to take more control of the light in your environment by making healthier lighting choices. Consider swapping out any LED and/or fluorescent bulbs in your house to halogen or incandescents. More specifically, 15 or 20-watt bulbs are ideal because they emit warmer light that is healthier for your eyes, mind, and body — especially as your winding down for bedtime in the evenings. You can also opt to turn off the light fixtures around your home, or just use candles instead to keep an area lit with natural light. Dimmer is better because it more closely mimics the natural light that you would be exposed to outside as the sun descends at night.
While light in the morning signals to your brain that it’s time to be awake and alert, darkening your room at night conversely tells your brain, “Hey, it’s getting dark out. It’s time to wind down and get ready for bed so that you can be well-rested for tomorrow.”
There are some very simple, cost-effective solutions to help you turn your bedroom into cave-like environment:
It’s important to note that orange, amber (yellow) and clear lenses are not as effective as red lenses when it comes to helping you fall asleep at night time. Orange lenses are largely popular because that’s what the very first “blue blockers” used; however, orange-lensed blue blockers fail to effectively also block green wavelengths of junk light before bedtime. Read why here.
Clear and amber-lensed blue light blocking glasses solely block out blue light as well, and they are designed for reducing eye-strain as opposed to helping you fall asleep. The most amount of blue junk light they can block is 40% and 75%, respectively. Check out the chart below to see how different colored lenses stack up when it comes to blocking junk light!
Caffeine happens to be the world’s most popular drug, and it’s found in all of your favorite beverages (such as coffee, soda, and energy drinks). This substance is classified as a stimulant because it promotes alertness and blocks the (adenosine) neurotransmitter in your brain in order to keep you from feeling sleepy. More specifically, caffeine:
Note: when you consume caffeine daily, it becomes less effective as a stimulant because your body will build up a tolerance to it over time.
Many sources suggest that 400 mg of caffeine is safe and healthy for most adults to consume daily . This is equivalent to about 4 cups of coffee (or 10 cans of soda, or two energy shots). Unfortunately, there is such a thing as consuming too much coffee and, or caffeine. Possible adverse effects include:
Studies show that caffeine can remain in your system for an average of five hours, but it depends on your personal sensitivity to caffeine. Put this into perspective as your as you’re thinking about how to calm your body down enough to go to sleep at night on a regular schedule. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that if you are going to consume caffeine, then you should stop doing so at least six hours before bedtime. So if you go to bed at 9:00 p.m., you should have your last round of caffeine no later than 3:00 p.m.
After you’d have a chance to adjust some of the lifestyle habits that may be inhibiting your sleep, there are tools that you can use to actually measure both the quality and quantity of your sleep.
Wearables. Sleep trackers have been trending for the past several years. Wearables in particular are typically worn on the wrist or finger to measure sleep patterns and ultimately help you improve your sleep. They track things like: movement, heart rate, temperature, air quality, snoring, different sleep levels, as well as light levels.
The Oura Ring, for example, is a sleek wearable that you wear on your finger, and it tracks things happening in your body throughout the day (and night). It measures things like your heart rate, heart rate variability (stress level), body temperature and breathing rates. If you haven’t been active enough during the day, it will let you know. And if you want to see how much deep sleep you actually got the night before in comparison to your total rest time, the device will provide you with that information too. The great thing about the metrics and data is that they can be used to help inform our decision making the next day. For example, if you’re showing high heart rate variability than your stress levels are up. It may be a good idea to meditate or book a yoga session. If you’re waking up in the middle of the night, perhaps you’re going to bed too early, or you had caffeine too late in the day. The power is truly in the data, and Oura is giving you the chance to take more control of your sleep.
And psssst….if you use Coupon code: “truedark” at checkout, you can save $50 off when you purchase your own Oura ring.
Smart Apps. If you prefer not to wear devices on your body, smart apps are another great alternative that can help you track and improve your sleep. The SleepScore app claims to be the most detailed and accurate sleep improvement app. It uses the microphone and speaker from your smartphone to measure your breathing rate and body movement. When you wake up in the morning, the app then delivers an in-depth analysis into every stage of your sleep. Also, in case you’re worried about your personal information being shared, it’s comforting to know that SleepScore does NOT record or share your personal data.
Smart Mattresses. According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 30% of the general population complains about sleep disruption. Smart mattresses are among the newest innovations in sleep that allow you to track and improve your sleep habits. Eight Sleep, for instance, uses sensors to detect the user’s needs and adjust things like the pressure and temperature of the mattress throughout the night. Some smart mattresses can even be integrated with a number of smart home devices. You might find yourself asking, “Alexa, how did I sleep?”
5 Best Smart Mattresses – Buyer’s Guide and Reviews (2019)