Love Your Brain – Part 2: Sleep More
In Part 1 of Love Your Brain, I talked about the best brain foods. Today I’ll focus on sleep, which is as important as nutrition for your well-being and for brain wellness.
Today’s lifestyle deprives us of sleep: we’re constantly busy, we’re distracted by social media and technology, and we find ourselves working late at night, only to start another day the next morning after sleeping just a few hours. Can you relate? I used to do the same, and this lead me to burnout. Not fun.
Many of my clients have the same routine, and they don’t know how to stop this vicious cycle. When we start working together, we replace bad habits with a new positive habit little by little. At first, they can’t believe that, by sleeping more, they will create more time for family, work, and for themselves, but this is how our body works 🙂
Being able to sleep 7-8 hours every night allows your brain to recharge, and you will be more productive the next day. No need for coffee to increase your energy and meet your deadlines!
Sleep is not only a resting phase (as many think). Sleep is also a restorative phase in our daily life: it’s needed to encode memory, to keep our immune system strong, to reduce inflammatory levels in our body and in our brain, and to cleanse our cells. Thanks to the glymphatic system, the brain flushes out toxins that build up during the day. Isn’t that brilliant? The brain is such an amazing organ …
The secret to wellness lies in the circadian rhythm. This is our internal clock that regulates our sleep-wake cycle every 24 hours or so, and it’s instrumental to keep our body (and brain) in tune. It tells us when it’s time to sleep and to wake up, and it also regulates hormone release, body temperature, digestion, blood pressure, and more.
For instance, poor sleep is associated with a decreased level of leptin and higher levels of ghrelin, two hormones that control appetite (leptin tells your brain when you’re full, ghrelin tells your brain when you need to eat). If you add increased levels of stress hormones and increased resistance to insulin when you don’t sleep enough, you can see how this process might contribute to weight gain.
How the sleep-wake cycle works
When the evening (dark) comes, the eye’s retina sends a signal to our brain that it’s time to rest. This signal initiates our body’s physiological process to get ready for a good night’s sleep. Your muscles begin to relax, you start feeling sleepy, and your body temperature drops. Melatonin (the “sleep” hormone) gets produced and its levels keep rising through the night, then they fall during the early morning. That’s when the eye’s retina detects light and sends a new signal to the brain that it’s time to wake up. When that happens, cortisol (the “stress” hormone) is produced, and this gives us the energy that we need for the day. Cortisol levels will slowly fall during the day, and another cycle will start in the evening.
A disrupted sleep-wake cycle (either caused by sleep deprivation or working night shifts), unfortunately, is very common – more than you think. This can cause dangerous consequences, in the long run. It can increase stress levels, it can negatively impact your immune system (and you may be more prone to getting sick), it can increase high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, and more.Love Your Brain: Sleep more – Why and How? #LifeWorkBalance Click To Tweet
How to improve your sleep
- Avoid screen time 1-2 hours before you go to bed: turn off your TV, your computer, your tablet, and put your phone away for the night. Why? Because the light from digital devices contains blue light, which is a short wavelength (the opposite of red light). Blue light prevents the production of melatonin, therefore, it disrupts your sleep-wake cycle. If you can’t resist from binge-watching before you go to bed, buy blue light blocking glasses
- If you need to work at the computer late in the night, install a software called Flux. This wonderful tool changes the screen color based on your time zone to adjust / tint with red as the day progresses. If you have a PC with Windows 10 look for Night Light Settings
- Remove TVs or computers from your bedroom, and cover up any LED screens such as your alarm clock
- If you use your phone as an alarm clock, then put it in “Airplane mode”. This will reduce radiation from electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in the bedroom which can disrupt your sleep and limit the production of melatonin
- Keep your bedroom as dark as possible. Dark drapes are recommended to block the outdoor lights and the early morning sunlight entering from your window
- If you absolutely need a source of light during the night (maybe you need to go to the bathroom or maybe your little child wakes up crying) then you can use a nightlight, but make sure it has a red bulb. Red is a long wavelength light and it’s been shown that it’s less disruptive to sleep than other light wavelengths. You should put the nightlight in a hallway or another room, if possible
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even during weekends. Your internal clock will work better if you are consistent. Also, don’t think you can catch up on sleep during weekends; once your sleep is gone, it’s gone …
- If you drink coffee or tea, make sure you stop in the afternoon. Caffeine produces an excitatory effect, and you should stay away from it at least 6-8 hours before bedtime
- Exercise can help with your sleep patterns but don’t exercise later in the evening. This may cause problems falling asleep because it’s a stimulating activity
- Relaxation techniques can also help, either during the day or before sleep time: try yoga, breathing exercises, or meditation
Next week we’ll be talking about Exercise. Get ready for some fun activities!
Do you need help to optimize your brain with sleep? I’m here to help! Schedule your FREE Clarity Call with me HERE
Holistic Life Coach, Brain Fitness Coach, and Life-Work Balance Strategist for busy professionals. I blend well-being principles with neuroscience, biohacking, positive psychology, stress management, and mindfulness techniques to implement effective behavior changes.