Sleep is just as important for our health as nutrition and exercise. Culturally we tend value work over sleep. However, quality sleep can make a huge difference in the quality of the work you produce. Sleep affects every aspect of our lives and should be taken more seriously. Lack of sleep affects our mental health, our emotions, and our physical performance as well.
During the summer we get plenty of sunshine, and sunshine helps to produce quality melatonin, a hormone that helps to induce sleep. During the long days of summer we fall into a “summer rhythm” with our sleep. Come fall, the days start getting shorter and we get less daylight. So how can we adjust our internal clock to ease into the darkness and still get sound, quality sleep?
Your circadian rhythm is a 24 hour built-in biological clock. Sunlight exposure triggers the body’s hypothalamus to start producing hormones to regulate this internal clock. One such hormone, the most powerful for sleep, is melatonin. During the summer it’s easy to go out and get sunshine, but without sunlight, we don’t produce adequate melatonin. The best time of day to get sunlight and regulate the internal clock is early in the morning. This fall, try getting up early to go for a brisk walk; this is a great way to get better sleep at night.
During the winter months it isn’t as easy to get adequate sunlight during the day. However, it’s just as important! If you work in an office, try to work by a sunny window and increase your sun exposure by getting outdoors as much as possible, even if it means bundling up to spend just a little time outside. Cloudy days count as well! You still get melatonin-producing rays on cloudy days.
What are some other ways to help ease into sleep?
Magnesium is an important mineral to help ease us into sleep.
According to Shawn Stevenson, in his book 21 Proven Ways to Sleep Your Way to a Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success:
Magnesium is a bona fide anti-stress mineral. It helps to balance blood sugar, optimize circulation and blood pressure, relax tense muscles, reduce pain, and calm the nervous system. Yet, because it has so many functions, it tends to get depleted by our bodies rather fast.”
Stevenson suggests the best form of magnesium for easing into a good slumber is transdermal magnesium. When applied transdermally, the magnesium is able to go directly from the skin into the bloodstream. However, when taken orally, a large portion of magnesium is lost during the digestive process.
Reduce screen time before bed
Although we need sunshine during the day, we need darkness in the evening. In this technological age we are constantly viewing screens in the evening, spending our time looking at cell phone screens, television screens, computer screens, and even reading our books on screens. Blue light from these screens tricks our bodies into staying awake, and this makes it difficult to get quality sleep.
What are some ways to counteract blue light? Limit the use of any such screens for two hours preceding bedtime. Instead, get into a routine of taking a warm bath, reading a book, or doing some gentle stretching. If you do need to be on a screen before bed, you can wear special blue light blocking glasses or even blue light blocking screen covers.
When you are ready to sleep, make sure the room you sleep in is as dark as possible. You may need to use black out curtains if you are in a well-lit area. Avoid the use of nightlights, as any light can interfere with your precious sleep cycle.
Remember, getting quality sleep is a priority. As we move toward shorter days be sure to get out in the sunshine and let your body produce melatonin. Eat magnesium rich foods, and ease into a bedtime routine that does not involve blue light. Sweet dreams!