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  • Carla Evans

Sleep...more please!

Are you sleeping like a baby?

I'm reading a great book on sleep at the moment so thought I'd share some of the highlights so far!

The body is remarkable in it's ability to co-ordinate different systems for sleep. From 7-10pm, four things are happening which together will promote sleep:

1. The brain chemical adenosine is increasing which makes us feel tired.

2. Light is fading which tells a gland in our brain to secrete more of the sleepy hormone, melatonin.

3. Our body temperature peaks around 7pm and then starts decreasing which promotes sleep.

4. Our alertness cycle is on the way down and will stay low from about 11pm-5am.

So how can we work with these systems rather than against them?

1. Avoid falling asleep watching tv before bed. This will decrease the adenosine build up just enough to make you feel less tired and therefore you might not feel like going to bed until later which will disrupt your sleep pattern. If you need a nap have one at your lowest alert point during the day (usually 2-4pm).

2. When the light is fading outside, use dim lights inside. Try warm light with orange glow rather than bright white light (think of a campfire). Turn off all screens, especially computers, phones and tablets with blue back-lit screens for at least 1 hour before you want to fall asleep. Bright light will inhibit melatonin production.

3. Have a hot shower before bed. As you get out of the shower the body starts to cool which mimics the natural decline in temperature with our circadian rhythm. This promotes sleepiness (as well as relaxes tense muscles!)

4. Minimise tasks or chemicals that increase alertness in the hour before bed. This could include work or thinking-based tasks, tasks with screens as mentioned in point 2, high-intensity exercise or stimulants such as coffee, some supplements and medications (ask your practitioner if you are unsure). Doing something fun after dinner such as watching a funny program, reading or listening to music will help reduce the stress hormones which increase alertness.

Want to know more? The book I'm reading is:

The Complete Guide to a Good Night's Sleep by Dr Carmel Harrington.

Peaceful sleeping :)


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