For some, sleep is labelled as a daily commodity, slotted in somewhere during the day. For others, it is a luxury. We all have created a relationship with the non-waking state where we allow drifting away from the daily chores of life and move into a world of rest and recuperation.
Our sleep cycles are intertwined with our biological clock, our internal mechanism regulating the 24 hours cycles. So-called circadian rhythms, it is these consistent patterns of rising and falling of hormones indicating that sleep is soon upon us or whether we are permitting light to enter our eyes. For some, the term “night owl” suits better, while others prefer that “early bird” definition. As individuals, we all have our preferences and our way to hit that paralysis state and dream the night away.
While sleep is seen as a stand-alone event in these 24 hours by society, our body builds up and drops out of these sleep cycles even when you have just woken up. Yes, preparation for sleep is a 24-hour process, even if you do not realize this.
But one thing is for certain. There is no doubt in our minds that a night of sleep can make or break our day. While we aim for a decent amount of hours, it is often not easy to clock those hours in the way we want to. Catching up during the weekend is often the conclusion due to several obligations we must adhere to.
The science behind sleep is solid. Very solid. As nutrition and movement are primary components of good health, sleep is the master controller. Underestimating the importance of your sleep, you may put your health onto some slippery slopes. There are ample benefits to one’s health when sleep works its charm, including weight loss.
But what if you have issues with sleeping? The incremental statistics of sleeping tablets brands and over-the-counter solutions are on the rise as a temporary means to get back into the sleeping rhythm. Emphasize “temporarily” as nothing of this nature should be taken long-term. Humanity is spending millions and millions of chemical solutions when sleep eludes them yet hardly checks in what can be done with some simple measures that do not cost a thing?
Here are three things to check out when you encounter sleep issues.
Inconsistent sleeping times
Our body loves rhythm; 7 days a week. The trend of sleeping in and staying up late during the weekend to compensate for the shorter nights sounds like the trick of the trade-in catching up on some shut-eye. But, it does not work to the advantage of our bodies. We believe that weekdays and weekends have their place in our sleep calendar. However, our internal work does not know the difference between a Wednesday and a Saturday.
More often, it takes our body to play catch-up a couple of nights before finding its natural rhythm before it is thrown back into irregularity. It may be tempting to binge-watch a television series as a reward for a hard day’s work; you really don’t do yourself any favours.
Browsing through your mobile in bed
Your eyes are an extension of your brain, and these are sensitive sensors. The lights emitted from your mobile disrupt the hormone melatonin – an essential chemical messenger that makes you sleepy – and temporarily shuts down your sleepiness when light reaches your eyes when bedtime arrives. This hormone is tightly connected to how your circadian cycle is working – your 24-hour body clock – and regulates the wake and sleep states.
Turn off any mobile device at least 1.5 hours before bedtime to let melatonin do its job. I even suggest removing digital alarm clocks and your television out of the bedroom when trouble sleeping is controlling your life.
Eating just before bedtime
Sleep is where your brain needs to be active, not your stomach. During sleep, a plethora of cleaning, sorting and deleting is controlled by our brain, and this requires energy. To deliver energy to the brain, blood has to flow from and to the brain primarily, thus leaving the intestines and stomach at ease.
A full stomach means digestion and thus requires energy. While the processes of metabolising food are ongoing, the actual chemical compounds that are food are happening mainly in the stomach. When sleeping, this is what you want to avoid as your brain needs all the focus and attention to do its job.
Recommend having your last meal, including snacks and drinks, around 3 hours before bedtime to allow your body to process the food so that the blood flow is streaming more efficiently to your brain.
There are many other tips and tricks to set you up for a good night’s sleep without heading over to the chemist in buying a quick fix. Things you can control without digging into expensive compounds or having that famous nightcap to ease better into slumber are within your reach.
Through analysis of your daily habits, a lot of the sleep issues in the world can be alleviated. It can happen when you are aware of your environment. It may not be obvious for you as a busy executive: it is for these reasons a sleep coach may give you some pointers to turn in in time, and awake feeling rested, ready to attack another day.
| Niels Steeman
As a certified health and wellness coach, my mission is to accompany people to fulfil their personal and thriving potential. If you feel you are "off your game" and struggle to lose those extra kilos, welcome to reach out and explore together how I can guide you.