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  • Writer's pictureDr. de Castro

How To Get Better Sleep

Updated: Oct 30, 2020

The 4 things we need to live.

Oxygen, water, food and sleep.

Without those 4 things, people die. (This is pretty simplified, but for the sake of this article, work with me).

Sleep impacts our ability to perform, to heal, and to overall live our lives. In general, us humans are tired. Short sleep duration, or sleep less than 7 hours a night, is very common. Obesity, smoking, drinking alcohol and inactivity can lead to this short sleep.

So what can you do to help improve your sleep...and therefore, your overall life? Keep reading!

Circadian Rhythm is Important

We humans have a 24-hour circadian rhythm. This happens regardless of environment, so even if light, time or social cues don't exist, this rhythm will still exist. That being said, when we do have these external cues in our environment, our bodies will adapt the rhythm to accommodate the environment. For example, light in humans is a powerful cue that can change our 24 hours cycle. The suprachiasmatic nucleus in the hypothalamus is a major part of our internal sleep regulation. This part of the brain is connected to the retina (in the back of the eye) via the retinohypothalamic tract.This direct and powerful connection shows just how important light is for controlling circadian rhythm.

Stages of Sleep

Sleep is divided into two forms – non-REM and REM. Non-REM sleep is further subdivided into 4 stages.

During non-REM sleep, brain activity is low, metabolic rate and brain temperature are at their lowest, heart rate decreases, blood pressure lowers, and muscle tone and reflexes are intact. Compare that too REM (rapid eye movement) sleep where brain activity is similar to that of the awake brain. In REM sleep brain temperature and metabolic rate rise and there is complete loss of muscle tone with the exception of the diaphragm (so you can breathe), the eye muscles, and some muscles within the inner ear.

The Adverse Effects of Blue Light

How many of you use some sort of device in the hour before bed.

I'm just as guilty. What does that have to do with sleep you ask? The short-wavelength light given off by these devices can suppress melatonin (the sleep hormone), it shifts the circadian rhythm, and it can increase alter ness and arousal. Combining these things can make it harder to fall asleep.

How does the light do this? Remember how we said the retina of the eye had a direct connection to that part of your brain that regulates the circadian rhythm? This blue light will cause a high rate of firing from the eyes to the hypothalamus, which will change hormonal and circadian rhythms.

Things you can do to avoid this sleep distribution include limiting or avoiding all tech an hour before bed, or you can try a blue blocker filter on your screen. Another option is to find high quality blue blocking lenses.

Some other things to think of before sleep that can aid in your restorative powers:

  • Bedtime routines-this triggers your brain and body to know its time to slow down and prepare for sleep

  • Sleepy time teas: Things like chamomillie and valerian may help the body calm. Avoid caffeine past 2pm in the afternoon.

  • Aromatherapy: Make you bedroom smell like a dream with calming scents like lavender

  • Darkness: Keep your bedroom as dark as possible. If stubbing your toe or stepping on your dog in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom is a concern, look for motion detection night lights, or softer red-tone nightlights.

  • Temperature: Having a slightly cooler room temperature has been shown to be ideal for sleep

  • Mattress and pillow: Being in pain is a common reason for bad sleep, which just leads to more pain! Making sure you setup isn't too old, too soft or too hard is imperative

If you need help on how to get the best night sleep, book a consultation with me and let's get a plan together!

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