OUR MODERN LIFESTYLES
On a basic level, the importance of sleep is instinctive to us. We don’t need science to tell us that sleep matters!
Despite this innate sense, our modern lifestyles have pushed sleep well down the priority list, so now we actually need science to hammer the point home.
In 99% of people, excessive exposure to stimulating blue light from screens i.e. phones, tablets & p.c’s in the hours before bed, suppresses melatonin onset & duration by 90%. Melatonin is your sleep hormone that controls your sleep cycles.
This blue light exposure also messes with sleep quality, by increasing the time it takes to enter rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and increasing non-REM brain wave activity.
Cortisol is also affected by light, or rather, lack thereof: lack of exposure to natural light during the day, raises cortisol levels, which is associated with depressive symptoms.
And while the focus here is sleep, lifestyle goes hand-in-hand with everything, so it would be foolish not to mention the impact that the daily stressors of our modern lives have on our cortisol levels.
Work, money worries, relationships, the pace of life, you name it: we have more daily stressors now than ever before. It is estimated that life’s pressures have increased by 30% since 1983.
This is important, as the cortisol disruption caused by stress, in turn, increases the desire for, and intake of, hyper-palatable, high-calorie foods (salty, fatty, sugary). Basically, when you’re stressed, you eat like crap.
Feeling groggy in the morning despite 7-8 hours of sleep might be the best indicator you have, that your internal body clock is off. To top it off, just add in some stressful work deadlines, and you have the perfect cortisol stress mess, to have you horizontal on the couch by 7 pm, reaching for your phone & the takeaway menu.
WHAT TO DO?
1. Maximise Daytime Light Exposure
The first option is to make sure you get 15-30 mins outdoors in the morning or at some stage during the day. Walk or bike to work, or eat lunch outdoors when the weather permits.
But given the Irish climate, the outdoors option isn’t always practical. So the second option is light therapy.
2. Specifically, blue light therapy. Philips ‘GoLite Blu.’ emits 4 different blue light intensities, equivalent to a clear summer’s daylight level.
You don’t stare into it, so you can have it by your bed timed to light in the morning, which beats an alarm. You can also just have it on your laptop while you work.
Use it for 15 mins a day, increasing up to 30 mins. Along with avoiding blue light in the evening, it’ll help reset your circadian rhythm, especially if you’re in an office all day. It can also be really beneficial for mood in the depths of winter when it’s dark from 4 pm to 8 am.
3. Bed-time supplements worth considering:
• Magnesium If your diet lacks magnesium, supplementing before bed may reduce the time to fall sleep and increase your sleep quality. How do you know if you might be deficient? Take 400mg before bed: if it knocks you out, that’s a fair indication! An Epsom Salt bath is another great relaxing way to get your magnesium + relaxation.
• Lemon balm while not directly related to sleep, lemon balm induces calmness and nervous system relaxation, thereby promoting sleep.
• Theanine: The amino acid made famous by green tea, theanine promotes alpha brainwaves, a state of relaxed awareness Drink Pukka Tea – Relax or Bedtime Variety