Time Changes and Sleeping Woes
When we spring forward and fall back each year our Circadian rhythms are derailed and sleep often become difficult for many, but did you know that you can improve your sleep by following a few sleep hygiene guidelines?
First and foremost our use of lighting indoors can confuse our brain into thinking it is midday when in reality it is 10 pm at night. Over head light mimics the sun at midday. The brighter and higher the light source the more awake most people report feeling. So dim down the lights in the evening using soft light with warmer tones and keep it to the sides of the room. This recreates a "sunset" or glow of candle feel and helps trigger melatonin production in the evening which a bright overhead light would not allow.
Speaking of light sources our screen time greatly impacts our Circadian rhythm. Watching tv, staring at your phone or computer late into the evening again causes your brain to believe that it is daytime and decreases your ability to produce melatonin and fall asleep. Ways to combat this are glasses with blue light filters that can be worn in the evening hours when the sun begins to fall behind the horizon if you choose to used continue working or relaxing reading your screens. An other option is opting for the "night mode" "blue light filter" setting which removes the blue light from your electronic screens past a set time each day.
The Circadian Rhythm is our bodies way of mapping out when certain hormones are needed to trigger hunger, digestion, energy release, and yes sleep. When we keep to a routine of waking and sleep as well as when we eat it helps keep our bodies synchronized and reduces hormonal dysregulation. Keeping a bedtime routine can also help trigger a cascade of hormones and neurotransmitters that further amplify the effects of melatonin. Essentially you are teaching yourself if A event plus B event happen then Sleep should follow making it easier to fall asleep.
Routines that include sipping a relaxing cup of tea at night can be helpful as well. Valerian Root or Chamomile teas help ease the body into a more relaxed state. Having a non-caffeinated tea as part of your bedtime
ritual can help give your body antioxidants, and minerals essential to rebuilding and repairing your body during its rest cycle, as well as keep you hydrated.
But beware the effects of caffeine. As much as I can appreciate a good cup of coffee it comes at a price. For many caffeine is a very potent stimulant that will interfere with sleep. Caffeine has been shown to increase cortisol levels in some individuals which can cause further dysregulation of hormones. Dysregulation of hormones can cause increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes , thyroid dysfunction and increased weight gain. Limiting caffeine consumption can be very beneficial to those that have an increased sensitivity to its effects. If you experience Jitters, heart palpitations, increased sweating, and are unable to focus for extended periods of time after ingesting caffeine these are all signs that you may be more sensitive to its effects.
Another aspect to living indoors is often in our controlled climates we forget that naturally in the evening temperatures decline. This also helps to inform the body that it is time to rest. Cooling rooms at night helps aid sleeping . Lowering the thermostat as much as 5 degrees can help trigger sleep and help sleepers that normally would become hot at night stay cool and asleep.
Sleeping hygiene is just one way to address sleeping disturbances and decrease sleep quality if none of these options seem to help it might be time to talk to your doctor as sleep is important to your health. If you are not sleeping you are not allowing your body a chance to rejuvenate and repair.