As you would have read in my part 1 of this blog post series, I’ve been having my mind blown by listening to the Huberman Lab podcast, and thought I’d share some of the insights from his podcast here.
Last time I spoke about how poor sleep is linked to the creation of pain. What I’d like to talk about here are some simple strategies that you can implement in your life which may help improve the quality of your sleep.
There are of course a bunch of strategies that most people are aware of, such as not having caffeine too late in the day, and not watching screens too close to bedtime. I want to focus on a couple of other ones that you’re less likely to be aware of, but which are equally important.
1. Try for regular bed times (but don’t stress it if this doesn’t always happen)
With our modern way of living, and the way we have a work week and weekend, it’s easy to have a routine that changes from day to day. The ideal recommendation is that you have a consistent routine, going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day of the week. The idea is that every time you adjust your bed time, or waking up time, you are signalling to your body that a different timing is required for the hormonal systems that fire us up in the morning, and help us settle down and fall asleep at night. Keeping to regular a regular bedtime and waking time means we aren’t constantly having to adjust our internal rhythms and will help with the quality of our sleep.
It is important not to give yourself a hard time if you’re in a period of life where regular routines aren’t remotely possible (kids, deadline at work etc). The stress that comes from worrying about not doing the right things will make it harder to sleep, and is counterproductive. As always with health and wellness, sometimes we just need to get through where we are as best we can, and then implement healthy habits once we’re back to a place and time that supports us in those habits.
2. Light at dawn and dusk
Light plays a large part in how our bodies know which hormones to release to help us wake up in the morning or start settling down for to go to sleep. A simple thing to do is to try and get outdoors for a short period at dawn and at dusk to take in the sunlight that comes through at those times of day.
The way we take light in is of course through our eyes. There are specialised groups of neurons in our eyes (which are the only part of our brain exposed to the world outside our skull) which help to regulate our day/night cycle. Doing this for 2-10 minutes at dawn and dusk (depending on how overcast it is) will help your brain get enough light to trigger to firing up, or settling down processes in your body which help contribute to falling asleep at night, and wakefulness during the daytime.
3. It’s not about how much you sleep, but about having the same amount of sleep each night
While it’s generally recommended that we get about 8+ hours a night, there is some data to say that it’s not about how much you sleep, but getting a regular amount of sleep each night. We go through different cycles of sleep each night, and have more of some types of sleep early in the night vs later in the night. That being said, it seems that people who consistently sleep the same amount each night, even if it’s only 4-5 hours a night, appear to still go through the same cycles.
While ideally you should aim for 8+ hours a night, if you find yourself in a period of your life where you are unable to do this then you should aim to sleep the same amount each night, preferably at the same time each night.
We love feedback, so let us know if you try any of these stratergies and how they worked for you.