5 Simple Tips To Improve Your Sleep
Are you tired of being tired? Do you get eight hours of sleep every night but still wake up feeling exhausted and not refreshed? You are not alone! More than 1/3 of adults experience sleep disturbance (difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, poor sleep quality, etc). The truth is EVERY body system is affected by poor sleep, and inadequate sleep.
Your body goes through 5 different stages while you sleep. The first 2 stages are considered “light” sleep. Your heart rate drops, your body temperature drops, your body relaxes and prepares for deeper sleep. The third and fourth stages of sleep are known as the “deepest”, and most restorative sleep. During these stages your nervous system is restored, muscle and skeletal repair occurs, and your immune system is restored. The fifth and final stage is REM sleep. This is the stage where dreaming occurs, where memories are formed, and where your body and brain obtain energy!
A single sleep cycle lasts 90 to 110 minutes, and involves your body going through all 5 stages of sleep. The average person spends 5 to 15 minutes in each stage of sleep except during the REM stage. The length of time spent in REM increases with every sleep cycle, and the majority of REM is obtained in the later half of your sleep. Less hours of sleep means less REM sleep and ultimately less restorative sleep!
5 Simple Tips To Improve Your Sleep:
- Reduce alcohol intake – alcohol affects both sleep duration and sleep quality. It reduces the length of time your body spends in each sleep stage, and it blocks REM sleep. Alcohol increases our core body temperature, making it more difficult to enter the deeper stages of sleep. Lastly, alcohol intake can mean more trips to the washroom in the middle of the night!
- Reduce the intake of heavy meals before bed – heavy meals will result in your body focusing its attention on digestion rather than focusing on sleep!
- Ensure your diet includes food rich in Magnesium, Vitamin B6, and Calcium – all of these nutrients are required for the chemical conversion of tryptophan (an amino acid) into serotonin and melatonin. Foods rich in these nutrients include nuts and seeds, dark leafy greens, salmon, and avocado.
- Exercise – get your body moving but not too late in the evening! Exercise helps to increase alertness during the day and promote sleepiness in the evening. It assists with reducing the amount of time it takes to get to sleep, and lengthens the time your body spends in the third and fourth stages of sleep. Not to mention exercise is a great way to manage stress! High levels of cortisol (your stress hormone) can also impact your sleep.
- Reduce blue light exposure – blue light from cell phones, ipads, and lap tops enhance alertness and attention. Two things we don’t want before bed or while we are trying to fall asleep! Blue light affects our body’s natural ability to produce melatonin and disrupts our natural circadian rhythm. Turning off the blue light on all of your devices will help to reduce the side effects associated with blue light exposure.
Written by Dr. Katie Black, ND. Dr. Katie attended the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) in Toronto, where she obtained her Doctor of Naturopathy Degree. Prior to her medical training, she completed an Honors Degree in Physical Health and Education, with a concentration in Health Promotion. She is also certified to administer Advanced Cosmetic Acupuncture through the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
- Bedrosian, T, et al. Timing of light exposure affects mood and brain circuits. Translational Psychiatry. 2017 7:1 National Sleep Foundation
- Roehrs, T, et al. Sleep, Sleepiness, and Alcohol. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh25-2/101-109.htm