Using the science of sleep.
By Ashima Sethi
In our modern society, it’s safe to say that we glamorise ‘hustle culture’ far too much. Unless you’re doing way more than the next person, whether it’s working longer hours or having multiple side gigs, it seems like nowadays you’re simply ‘not doing enough.’ As a result of this ‘rise and grind’ mentality, we’ve been forced to put things like down time and sleep on the back burner, which makes us all the more prone to developing long-term consequences for our physical and mental health. Without sleep, we’re more vulnerable to developing Alzheimer’s disease, mental and emotional instability, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems, stroke, reduced immune system function, and even obesity,so really, sleep is imperative if you’re hoping to remain healthy well into old-age. To better understand the science of sleep and what you can do to improve our sleep cycles, we’ve put together this guide to embracing things like sleep hygiene, thermoregulation, and nap optimisation. Check it out
Food and Sleep
Your choice of diet can have a big impact on the quality of sleep you getas certain foods can affect things like blood sugar. Eating a balanced and consistent diet, such as the ‘Mediterranean diet’ that provides a stable source of vitamins and minerals can promote better sleep. Moreover, avoiding things like caffeine, limiting alcohol intake, and not eating food late can aid with minimising acid reflux and can lead to a more comfortable sleep. Beyond these points, science suggests that there are some foods that can promote better rest. They are as follows:
- A variety of nuts like almonds, pistachios, and cashews can be beneficial for sleep as they contain melatonin (a hormone that helps with regulating circadian rhythm) and other essential nutrients such as magnesium and zinc, both of which are known to aid people who suffer from insomnia.
- Drinking tart cherry juice has proven to help with sleep efficiency. This is believed to come from the fact that sour cherries have high concentrations of melatonin and are packed with antioxidants that can detox the body while you rest.
- Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, trout, and mackerel are packed with vitamin D and healthy omega-3 fatty acids that can aid with fighting inflammation, boosting brain health, and according to research, promoting deeper sleep.
- Increasing your intake of magnesium-rich foods can help with quieting the nervous system and regulating the production of hormones that can promote good sleep. It is believed that the majority of people do not consume the recommended daily allowance of magnesium, so it is important to make it a point to eat more of these foods. Examples include black beans, pumpkin seeds, lentils, and spinach.
- In regards to Indian food, avoid heavy curries, especially late at night. These kind of foods are not only calorie-ridden, but are spiced and therefore contain high levels of capsaicin. This chemical can elevate body temperature, thus interfering with thermoregulation and disrupting sleep.
- In contrast, an Indian staple you should embrace before bed is turmeric milk. It is loaded with vitamins and minerals that can promote rest, contains anti-inflammatory properties, and can help settle the stomach and promote digestion.
‘Sleep hygiene’ is the term used to describe the environment and routines you can embrace to promote consistent, healthy sleep. This ranges from changes you can make to your bedroom to keeping a stable sleep schedule throughout the week. These are some things to consider:
- Having a set schedule to normalise sleep. This includes having a fixed wake-up time for the weekday and weekend, to get you in a rhythm; making sure to prioritise sleep over other aspects of your life; don’t suddenly change your sleep time, make step-by-step adjustments by an hour or two; and do not over-nap, keep them short and limit them to the early afternoon.
- Keep your pre-bed routine consistent (this includes showering, changing, brushing your teeth etc.); have a 30minute wind down period where you put your phone away and enjoy some light stretching and relaxation exercises(not anything too stimulating); dim your lights to encourage melatonin production; if you cannot sleep after 20 minutes of trying, get up and walk around or do breathing exercises, and then try again.
- Foster good day-time habits. You can do this by getting enough sun; being physically active; reducing nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine consumption; and eating early and avoiding snacks before bed.
- Optimise your bedroom. This includes investing in a great mattress and pillow, bedding that matches your needs; fine-tune your bedroom temperature; block out all light and noise; and use scenting to relax.
Technologies to improve sleep
- The Lumie Bodyclock Luxe 750DAB– this medical device uses gradual lighting to foster a healthy sleep pattern. Its different settings (sunrise/sunset) can aid you with feeling energised in the mornings and then ready to wind down in the evenings. It also has settings to help fight the effects of blue light.
- Morphee Sleep Aid-a small gadget storing over 200meditation sessions that you can use before sleeping. The first knob lets you choose a theme, the second the session, and third, how long you’d like to listen to it for.
- A Hybrid Duvet-this blanket, made from 100 percent recycled plastic, has built-in temperature regulation that traps heat when you’re too hot, and then releases it when you begin to get cold, keeping your thermoregulation just right, all night.
- Dodow-this device can aid with your breathing and thus, getting you relaxed enough to sleep. It emits a gentle blue light that contracts and expands, which you can follow in order to slow your breathing down enough.
- Smart earplugs- you can now buy earbuds that block out external sounds. Some, like the Bose Sleepbuds II have preloaded sleep sounds to help you lull off.
- Adjustable bed base– this allows you to adjust the bed frame, choosing to raise your feet or head to help improve things like circulation and digestion. Some even have built-in massage options.
- High-tech mattresses– there are a range now available with options to help with targeted body support using things like memory foam and Cloud Air Technology.
Optimising your naps
Naps are great…when you do them right. Do them wrong, and there’s a good chance you’ll wake up feeling super groggy instead of refreshed. Here’s what you can do to ensure you’re getting the most out of nap time:
- Nap in the early afternoon and not beyond this point. This is when your body naturally reaches a lull in its circadian rhythm so it’s easier to sleep. However, napping too late isn’t a good idea. Mid-afternoon naps combine light sleep with REM sleep; however, later in the day the sleep becomess low wave, which isn’t ideal for a nap.
- Limit your naps to 20 minutes to reap the benefits of a nap without the grogginess. If you have time then a 90 minute nap can also be beneficial, but anything in-between can impact what is known as sleep inertia or sleep cycles.
- Taking a ‘caffeine nap,’ which involves drinking some caffeine before settling for a short nap. This means you’ll wake up even more alert. A brand gaining popularity right now for doing something similar is Napjitsu, producers of a caffeine pill that also has known nootropics that will help you wakeup more focused and awake after a nap.