Have you ever had a really stressed out or extremely busy period of time in your life that wreaks havoc in your sleep habits? This usually comes in the form of big changes in your line of work, or just a larger-than-usual workload. Or maybe you’re an entrepreneur, and you’ve been having ideas coming in and out your head for several days now, in order to expand your business in some sort of way. Maybe you’re just plain stressed due to the accumulation of several totally different factors. This type of occurrence can seriously affect your sleep habits, by making your brain work more than it should, at times that it shouldn’t be working – thus keeping you from getting a proper night’s rest, which in return can seriously affect your health.
So, even if we can offer you peace of mind in regards to your property, it’ll never be true peace for you if you can’t have a good sleep due to other reasons. Because of this, I’d like to offer you some general ideas that you could find useful in order to get your rest back.
1.- Know your cycles
By know your cycles I mean you need to understand your circadian rhythms and what they are. So what is your circadian rhythm? It is normally a 24 hour rhythm in your body that involves your body changing temperature up and down. As your body temperature is in the act of rising you will feel alert. As your body temperature is in the act of falling you will feel sleep. If you body temparature flat lines as is the case with many shift workers you will fill numb and lifeless… neither alert nor sleepy. Most of your bodies processes sync up with your circadian rhythm so when you understand what it is you can change this and thus change many processes including sleep as well as day time alertness. Drugs and chemicals that cause you to be more or less sleepy effect your circadian rhythms however the biggest modulator of your circadian rhythm is the kinds of light you experience at different times of your 24 hour cycle. More on that later.
A healthy circadian rhythm involves your lowest body temperature at about 9 AM in the morning. Temperature will slowly rise during the day with a slight dip in body temperature around noon and then continued rising temperature till 9 PM when it peaks. Then as temperature falls during the night you will be more sleepy with a reverse dip at midnight where you might wake up and then continued falling body temperature until 9 AM in the morning again.
2.- Shower hack!
A part of your hypothalamus controls your circadian rhythm, and other factors like levels of lightness and darkness can affect it. At the same time, your body temperature goes up and down one or two degrees during 24 hours in concordance to your cycle. Now that we know this, one way to get your rhythm back into control is by manipulating your body temperature. One very useful hack is either getting a cold shower or hot shower right before you go to sleep. This change in temperature will cause a resetting effect on your body temperature cycle (circadian rhythm) and will get it mostly back in sync with the cycle it should be following, getting you ready to sleep.
3.- Lighting control
As we said before, your cycle can be affected by light and darkness. Certain frequencies of light can seriously mess up your melatonin production. Melatonin is basically the hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness in our body. Mainly this light will affect the body if perceived by your eyes, but also to some extent by your skin. If the production of this hormone is stopped or partially impaired, your body won’t be able to get ready for sleep. An example of these types of light frequency is blue light. As technology keeps advancing, we have surrounded ourselves with so many sources of blue light it’s ridiculous, especially during the evening.
One thing we can do to regulate the amount of blue light intake, is the use of special glasses that filter different amounts of that specific type of light. You can find these online as orange or red glasses, depending on the amount filtered, and you need to start wearing them about four hours before climbing in bed.
You can get blue light filter apps for your phone and your computer for late night use.
You can also get light bulbs that do not emit blue light.
In the morning it is helpful to get 30 minutes of unfiltered (unfiltered through a window or glass) sunlight even in the winter. Also doing this mid day will give you a nice boost and help your productivity as well as your sleep later at night. If you can’t get outside in the morning a 1000 watt halogen trouble light with the protective glass removed will help more than coffee to get you all woken up.
4.- Easy on the caffeine!
We are all familiar with the ritual most people have in regard to drinking a cup of coffee in the morning right before they start their day. This is not bad, and it actually brings to the table a whole series of benefits like antioxidants, increased focus, warding off depression, etc. These effects are probably something you’ve heard or read before somewhere – but the thing is, caffeine consumption is something that should be monitored closely depending on the person we’re talking about.
As a rule of thumb, if you have sleep issues you should never have a cup of coffee or any other caffeinated drink after 10:00 am – 12:00 pm depending on how bad the problem is.
Caffeine has a half life of 5 hours which mean that every 4 to 5 hours you will have half the caffeine you previously had in your blood stream. So if you have any sleep issues avoid any caffeine and learn how to be alert with out it. It may be rough at first but you will feel better in the long run.
5.- Mental stimuli
An exciting movie, a difficult argument unresloved or a nagging problem from earlier on the day?
Any of these things can add additional adrenaline into your blood stream and make it nearly impossible to sleep.
Substitute media with a time to journal, read a calming or boring book, meditate or pray.
6.- Sunlight and Walking
A couple other things you can do to help you regulate your health positively (including your sleep) is to simply go out for a walk for about 30-45 minutes per day. A moderate amount of sunlight and exercise is terrific when it comes to taking care of your body and regulating the systems in it. Remember, walking is not for wimps – it’s for smart people. It helps you think, focus, and just take a breather from whatever is going on at the moment. Try it, and you’ll notice changes like I did.
Maybe you’ve heard about this movement, maybe you haven’t. I find it pretty interesting. It basically seeks the improvement of human health through our reconnection with the planet. We’re talking about a physical and energy-based reconnection, getting in touch with the earth’s natural materials directly and “rewiring” ourselves with the planet’s natural energy flows. This movement is all about letting this planet energy to run directly into our bodies, producing all sorts of improvements in our health, by regulating certain frequencies of energy and cleansing our bodies off a whole different set of frequencies we’re constantly being bombarded by. This has also a huge impact in our sleep habits. Just google “Earthing” and you’ll find lots of useful information on the movement if you’re interested.
8.- Stress managing
Stress is one of the main causes for anxiety issues and sleep deprivation, and it comes from several different sources, but it is also one of the easier ones to control if we give ourselves the time. Along with the aforementioned 30-minute walks, we can do several different things in order to combat stress, most of these things are really small but when added up, really make a difference. Some small things you can use in order to regulate your stress levels are: weekly massages, a light and sound machine, therapeutically electromagnetic devices (special mattresses for example), music, warm compresses around your neck, moderate physical activity, or simply laughing at a joke or show. Try any combination of these that you are able to incorporate into your weekly schedule, and even if it’s just a couple times for a few minutes, it will definitely help reduce your stress and increase the quality of your sleep.
9.- Sleep apnea alternative
Many of us have suffered from sleep apnea and the negative effects this brings along with it. This is something that I was diagnosed with myself after struggling with sleep for years. Many of us have gone through the process of incorporating a CPAP machine into our lives with the sole purpose of correcting this. It works for many people, and it’s not that good for others. From a personal standpoint I’m not too keen on prolonged CPAP machine use, since it’s an external device, practically forcing you to breathe correctly, and I think something that is manipulating your body into working well can’t be ideal in the long run (though better than long term effects of sleep deprivation).
I’d like to suggest a different alternative known as the Buteyko Breathing Technique. This is basically a form of alternative physical therapy, used to treat respiratory conditions such as asthma. This method is based on the assumption that numerous medical conditions, including asthma, are caused by chronically increased respiratory rate or hyperventilation, and it offers a series of breathing exercises, designed to gradually correct these issues, some of which have helped me personally correcti sleep apnea. In my opinion, it’s something natural and worthy to look into if you’d prefer an alternative to a CPAP machine.
10.- Don’t mess up your sleep cycles on purpose!
This last bit of information sounds kind of obvious and redundant after everything we’ve gone through in this article but hear me out.
There’s a movement related to polyphonic sleep methods; this method seeks to split your usual long sleep sessions into several smaller ones during the course of 24 hours, getting down to 3-hour sleep total in a 24 hour period. At first, I thought of this as a very interesting and worthy idea, but after trying some of these as well as finding others who also had tried them it’s rare to find anyone is able to maintain them long term and most who tried them found them to be terrible for their health and productivity. You can find some people who barely sleep and can maintain high productivity but generally you will see these same people have some serious health issues down the line. Sleep research is pretty clear that even if you think you are getting away with less sleep, you almost always get enough reduced productivity to not make the gain in extra wake time worth it, not to mention the potential health issues that can happen due to chronic sleep deprivations.