What is a full nights sleep and does it really matter that much? and WHY is your physio asking you about it?
Sleep is an integral part of our health and wellbeing and definitely worth taking a look at. It is your bodies recovery time and repair time. It's when everything else switches off and full focus is placed on fixing those tissues and systems that the body may not have time to fix whilst you're rushing around during your day.
A full nights sleep is usually classified as 7-9 hours of sleep, and we know that less than 7 hours on a regular basis has been found to be associated with increased pain, lower performance, sluggish mental performance, and other adverse health outcomes such as obesity, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, depression, and increased risk of death. So if you’re struggling in the bedroom, don’t ignore the issue!
So, how can you get a better nights sleep, or how can you take your sleep game to the next level if you're doing ok most of the time?
Change Your iPhone Settings to NightShift
This has been one of the biggest game changers for me. It's been found in multiple research studies that exposure to blue light (the kind of light that comes from screens like phones, tablets, computers and TV's) suppresses the production of melatonin, which is needed to make you feel drowsy and promote a deep sleep.
Think about when you're out camping (sans technology) - you probably feel sleepy not long after the sun has set, because for the past hour of sunset, your eyes have been exposed to the warm, orange light that promotes melatonin production, rather than harsh blue light that stimulates the brain.
Lucky for us, technology is catching up, and our phones can now help us. If you have an iPhone, go into your settings and turn on NightShift - ideally for the sunrise/sunset option, and the maximum warmth. It'll take you a little to get used to the much more orange screen, but you'll notice it in your sleep. If you use an Android, go and replace it with an iPhone, then do the above...(Or google, I'm sure Android has something similar)
If you use a laptop before bed, download the app "f.Lux" - this does the same thing for your laptop. If you watch TV before bed, and can't alter the warmth, try investing in a pair of blue light blocking glasses - there are plenty on offer these days!
Turn Your Phone (and any other electronics) to Airplane Mode
This has also been a big game changer for me. Every time I go to bed, I switch my phone onto Airplane Mode, set my alarms, and sleep like a baby. Why? Because when your phone is on normal mode, it uses electromagnetic radiation in the microwave range, which in turn slightly boosts your radiation exposure. This affects your deep non-REM sleep, which is the stage in sleep when your body is repairing your muscles and bones, and giving them back energy they lost throughout the day. So you can imagine that if that sleep cycle isn't as optimal as possible, your recovery and performance is going to suffer (here's a great blog post that goes deeper into this!)
The other bonus of airplane mode is that you're not being disturbed by any calls/vibrations, which can hinder your ability to fall asleep.
If you're someone who needs their phone to be on during the night in case of emergencies or calls, then at least have it as far from your bed as possible.
Download a Sleep Tracking App Like "Pillow"
This is not a necessity, and not something I recommend doing every night (as you can't have your phone on airplane for the apps I have found) but it is useful to do every now and then. Why? Because if you're not tracking your sleep, you can't be sure what the quality is like, or if it's improving. If you're going to track your sleep, perhaps do it once per week on the same night, and compare as the weeks progress.
Have a Regular Bedtime and a Wake-up Time
Listen, I'm not your mother....but a regular bedtime is actually a great idea. If you have a regular bedtime, your body will get into a rhythm and start to wind itself down, and start to feel sleepy at the right time for you. If you're going to bed at 10pm one night, then 1am the next, your body is going to have no idea what's going on. Likewise with your wakeup time - if it's regular, your body will start to naturally wake up at that time, and you'll rely less and less on jarring alarms. Just make sure that your bedtime and wake-up time allow for that 7-9 hours of sleep.
Have a Bedtime Routine That is Technology Free
Last but not least, this one goes along with the regular bedtime. I like to spend the last half hour of my night with my phone on airplane more, and I normally spend most of that time winding down with a hot shower and a read of a book. Right before I go to sleep, I ideally spend 10 minutes meditating, but not always (sometimes the pull of sleep is just too strong). This can take a while to get used to, especially if you're someone who checks their phone right up until they go to bed. But trust me, you're not missing out on anything on social media, and all those important messages and emails will be there for you to look at tomorrow.
So, in essence I want you to start thinking of sleep as an integral part of your self-care routine, and really prioritise it. Maybe even make it a challenge - look at your sleep now, and ask yourself "how can I do better". After just a few days of implementing a few of the above, see how you feel and how productive you become.
Now, time for an early night...
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