As Sportsluxe’s resident sleep specialist, it’s been a pleasure to raise awareness about why you’re sleep-deprived, the importance of diet for sleep and now, the scientific evidence of sleep solutions. You’ve probably heard of these, but without knowing the academic research behind it, you might be resistant to believe—and change. So that’s what I am here to deliver:
1. Reduce blue light in the evening
One study showed that 99% of people had their sleep delayed by 90 minutes after exposure to blue light. Yep. Get it out! What can you do about it?
Install F.lux on your computers —it’s free
Activate night mode for iPhone or similar for android
Buy orange glasses and orange bulbs, and actually use them
2. Put away devices 60 minutes before bed
The internet is addictive, literally. Each time you search and ‘find’ something on the night, researchers have found it activates the (dopamine) reward pathway in the brain, sending feedback to repeat this behaviour. Over time, this reward pathway malfunctions, meaning we are more reliant upon this action to feel good; and further, encourages feelings of disconnection, low self esteem and high stress. How many times have you said ‘just one chat’ or ‘just one TV show’ or ‘just one scroll on Instagram’ and then found yourself barrel deep in a scroll hole which you’re checking out some person in New York’s latest trip to Greece? We’ve all been there (guilty). Replace this activity with another activity which similarly activates your all of your feel good hormones, such as serotonin and oxytocin too. Anything that genuinely connects you to others or genuinely connects you to yourself—real life conversations, being intimate with your partner, journalling, self reflection. By doing so, you’re more likely to cease the activity sooner (getting you to sleep faster) because it doesn’t purely focus on the dopamine reward pathway, which leads to addictive behaviour. What do you:
Set an alarm on your phone for 9.3pm, signaling to you to switch off devices. Label the alarm ‘feel great tomorrow’ or ‘wake up refreshed’ to remind yourself why you are switching off.
Have another activity planned—but make sure it brings you pleasure, like sex, chatting or journalling.
3. Learn to meditate
Recently, a study showed that after eight weeks of meditation, previous non meditators had changed their brain—their amygdala had shrunk, reducing reactivity to stress; prefrontal cortex, governing decision making, emotional control and rationalization, had strengthened—improving concentration and attention respectively. Yes—this is the reason yogi’s seem so zen! Biochemically, their thoughts are calmer, more rational and well organised. Meditation also helps reduce cortisol levels which, by the way, is the key reason you wake around 3-4am as this is the time it begins to peak. What you can do:
Meditate at least 20 minute daily for the next 8 weeks, with 10 minutes in the evening as your last thing before be
As a standard meditation, I love the Headspace app. For longer meditations, I love Michael Sealy on YouTube
During the day / over the weekend, enhance your calmness by meditating more—personally I go for walks on the treadmill (slowly!) or do yoga while meditating
Stick at it—it’s like riding a bicycle; you will get better over time
4. Curb your caffeine
Note I said CURB not CUT. Caffeine is a highly potent stimulant which heightens (stress hormone) cortisol, energy and attentiveness—which can be a great vessel to accelerate us along our day. However, considering sleep, these are not qualities we would like to possess. See, excessive cortisol inhibits the production of melatonin, which makes us sleepy. S Studies showed that drinking it within 6 hours of sleep still contributed to a sleep loss of 1 hour for participants—so cut it out for the afternoon, and at absolute latest, 2pm. If you can, do something called ‘Caffeine cycling’—where you detox for 72 hours and the drug (yes, it’s a drug!) completely leaves your body. As a result, the next coffee will create that intense buzz like you were a first time drinker. What to do:
Curb caffeine after 2pm, ideally in the afternoon all together
Caffeine sources to avoid: coffee, black, green or matcha tea, cola and non cola sodas, chocolate, pre-workout powders, energy drinks
Cut caffeine completely out of your system, ideally once a fortnight, for 72 hours
Enjoy caffeine free alternatives such as tulsi or valerian root tea – both are high in antioxidants and have shown to boost memory, concentration and attention
Go for a brisk 10-minute walk when you’re feeling fatigued—enhancing the flow of oxygen through your body will naturally wake you up.
Need help sleeping? Sign up for my FREE 21 Days of Sleep Tips Series, highlighting a sample of the physiological, psychological and nutritional changes you can make to improve your sleep tonight, and energy levels tomorrow. Or, email me at [email protected] to find out more about my program, The Sleep Solution, and how it can transform your sleep, and restore you to your best self, inside and out.