Ruby Pryde - Jan 19 2021

The secrets behind what helps, and what hinders your sleep

Most of us are pretty well versed in the traditional do’s and don'ts of falling and staying asleep. But while this is all well and good, many of us don’t actually understand why these factors have a tendency to help, or hinder our slumber. 

First up, entrainment

Entrainment. The act of entraining or synchronising your body clock to a dysfunctional schedule.

Let us paint a picture.
Over the course of a week or two, you don’t manage to get yourself to bed before 12:00am. Deadlines required for your boss are proving hard to meet and you need to pull a couple late nights to ensure you get the job done. After the deadline is met, you try to get an early night, but have trouble falling asleep any earlier than midnight.

Why? Because you’ve trained your body clock to begin reducing cortisol and producing melatonin only marginally earlier than 12:00am, and as a result your body has not had a chance to catch up with your ‘early to bed’ new schedule.

And sure, in hindsight that seems harmless, right? Not exactly. Whilst you’ve adapted your body clock to work with your schedule, the rest of your physiology makeup isn’t exactly willing to budge for your deadlines. And so, each hour you’re missing out on sleep, your body misses out on some seriously important repair time, often leaving your energy reserves low, tissue, cell and muscle repair more or less non-existent and your immune system hasn’t had a proper chance to fight off any bad guys.

Blue Light and Electromagnetic Pollution

Boring, we know. But there’s a reason that we’re constantly being told to put down our devices, wear blue blocking glasses and turn on night mode. And whilst all of those tips can be ultra effective, sometimes the temptation to scroll through our phones, or chuck on our favourite flick when we’re really meant to be sleeping is, well, all too easy to give into.

When your eyes are exposed to light, your brain and hormonal system are signalled that it is morning. Irrespective of whether or not the sun is actually coming up. So in response, our bodies naturally begin to release cortisol in order to keep us awake and alert. Because duh, it’s morning?

So, it only makes sense then that if we’re being exposed to several different types of blue light too close to bedtime, our body is going to have a hard time deciphering when melatonin production is required and cortisol production is not.

Cortisol can also take several hours to be removed from your bloodstream, meaning that even if you start to turn off your devices half an hour before bed, it’s unlikely that that will be reflected in your cortisol levels come time to hit the hay.

But plot twist, your phone, computer and television aren’t the only things that contribute to your inability to sleep at night.

Things like wifi circuiting your home, power lines outside your house, electric blankets and even our regular household appliances emit a low level of electromagnetic frequency that can be disruptive to sleep.

And whilst some of these variables are out of our control, things like removing our beloved devices from our bedrooms and investing in an old school alarm clock, or even simply turning off our wifi before we go to bed are some of the simplest, and most effective ways to help us get the beauty sleep we need.

Turning off your router (and all those other devices) at night will not only be better for the quality of your sleep, but if you’re someone who struggles to turn off your devices before jumping into bed, it will help remind you to switch off too. 

The low down on stimulants

We all love a good pick me up when we’re feeling a little worse for wear. Whether it be energy drinks, cigarettes, coffee, alcohol or sugar. The list is truly endless.

What do all of these stimulants have in common? They all trigger the release of cortisol into our systems.

One of the most popular stimulants we consume these days is coffee. Coffee has become a part of our culture, and is (understandably) one of the largest traded commodities on the planet. And whilst sipping what some would call liquid gold is a soul fulfilling experience with an added boost of energy, it’s important to note that caffeine has a relatively long lifespan in the body, averaging a ‘half-life’ of about 6 hours.

This means, if you consume a coffee at 4:00pm, there will still be on average 150 milligrams of caffeine in your bloodstream by 10 *you know, when you’re meant to be getting that quality rest and repair*. By 4am, your body will still be producing cortisol with an average of 75 milligrams of caffeine in your bloodstream.

Assuming you rely on a morning latte to get you up and at ‘em, there’s virtually no time throughout a 24 hour period that your system is free from caffeine. Meaning that your adrenals are working around the clock to produce extra amounts of cortisol.

And before you turn your nose up at the screen insisting that you get your 8 hours just fine with your regular espresso consumed after lunch (trust us, we’ve been there), it’s important to note that there’s one hell of difference between passing out from exhaustion and deep cellular repair.

And then theres negative stress

Negative stress is a never ending cycle of balance that if not addressed or actively kept in check, can be ultra detrimental not only to your sleeping habits, but your overall health.

The way your body responds to stress is much like it responds to stimulants - producing higher levels of cortisol in order to keep up with the perceived threats, not only stressing you out, but keeping you awake.

Sleepless nights consisting of worry, anxiety and endless to do lists running through your head not only contributes to your inability to fall to sleep, but also your ability to stay asleep. Whether it be waking up through the night, tossing and turning, or waking up feeling just as exhausted as when you went to bed.

High stress levels, asleep or not, seriously hinder our ability to get quality, restful sleep.

Bed time rituals are key 

Humans are creatures of habit, and habits and routines are what keep us ‘in check’. They keep us organised, structured, focused and present and allow us to partake in everyday activities with greater ease.

Think about your morning routine for example - perhaps you wake up, hydrate with a couple of glasses of water, get in some exercise to start your day, followed by a protein packed breakfast to refuel, finishing up with getting ready for work. It’s a full proof routine that stops you from running out the door with your pants undone, right?

Well, the same can be applied for night time too. The only downfall here is that you can be a little less diligent with this routine, purely because the end goal is your head to your pillow, not your boss standing at your desk asking why you’re late (again).

So with that comes a little self discipline and a whole lot of romanticising your evening. Yup, we are asking you to romanticise your nighttime routine. But not in the way that you might be thinking! When we talk about romanticising, we are adhering to how your routine might look and feel. A heck of a lot of self care, your favourite book, a warm cup of tea or even a luxurious bubble bath.

In addition to the latter, you might also want an extra level of sleep support with the addition of supplements. Now when we say supplements, we are predominantly referring to those in which are naturally derived from the earth. They are the safest, most natural and the best for you.

And what might those look like?

Reishi Medicinal Mushroom
Reishi is renowned for its incredible abilities to support our bodies in a number of different ways including our heart and liver function, immunity, as well as de-stressing the mind and helping induce sleep. This herb gets its superstar status dating back to Ancient China, where Taoist monks used Reishi to transform negative energy in the body, cultivate spiritual energy, reduce stress and calm the mind.

One half to one teaspoon of this super herb an hour before bed may help induce a deeper state of calm and sleep.

Essential Oils
It’s no secret that essential oils are a major focal point of the health and wellness world today. But the array of benefits that these potent oils hold are seriously powerful. Investing in a couple of high quality, sleep inducing oils that will support you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, is a great natural option.

Our top picks for sleep are Lavender, Cedarwood, Vetiver and Roman Chamomile or a combination of the few. Whilst they are all different oils, they carry similar properties in their ability to calm down the nervous system, relieve anxiety and induce sleep. Diffuse in a diffuser or if you prefer to apply topically, use with the addition of a carrier oil to the souls of your feet, as well as wrists, neck and temples.

It’s no secret that tea has been used for centuries for what seems to be a never ending list of ailments. Whether it be physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually, there seems to be a tea for just about every corner of your health. Including sleep.
Drink a warm cup of organic chamomile, valerian root or passionflower tea (or a combination of all) an hour or two before bed. These three specific herbs have traditionally been used in the assistance of relaxation, supporting the nervous system and improving the quality of sleep.

Epsom Salt Bath
Running a hot bath before bed is one of the oldest tricks in the book to getting yourself to sleep. But like most things, we wanted to take it up a notch.
Magnesium is responsible for activating your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for putting your body into a state of calm, and promoting muscle recovery and relaxation. And because epsom salts are high in magnesium, it’s the perfect excuse to shut the world out, take out some tealight candles, pull out a good book and wind down for a nourishing and restful nights sleep.

Article credit :
How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy - Paul Chek