Get ready for take off to good sleep
Here’s another hack, or there are actually two hacks, that I have come to swear by and in the long run. I think they are real sleep savers andy you guys know I’m serious about sleep. I like to call sleep the best recovery and the cheapest performance enhancer there is, and that goes for both the brain and the rest of your body.
You know how different people who might not live by the same cycle of day and light that you do, will try to get in touch with you at the most inconvenient times? So after you have gone to bed or before you are ready to wake up, you phone keeps pling-plong’ing with messages or e-mails.
This is why I L.O.V.E (no exaggeration whatsoever ) putting flight mode on! Why on earth should my sleep, and ultimately my day, suffer just because someone lives by a different rhythm than I do. It is really not my problem that you choose to go to bed at 1am, when I have to go to sleep at 10 pm! The same thing goes for getting up early, which is when I will possibly be the one bothering you!
You could strongly argue that I should buy a good ol’ fashioned alarm clock and turn of the attention consuming phone, but I love to use the Bedtime-setting in my iPhone. In the iPhone bedtime setting you set what time you want to go to bed and wake up by setting how many hours of sleep your are aiming to get. Not that you can’t count, but the visual feedback on the amount of sleep you are getting is going to make your more conscious of it.
When I was doing a “in bed by 10pm”-project I would forget the time and suddenly it was two minutes to 10 an I had to rush off to bed! Needless to say that the transition to sleep wasn’t always the best. A great thing about the bedtime setting is that it kindly reminds you that you need to go to bed in half an hour. That way you have 30 nice minutes to start your calming evening rituals.
Big yay for technology, guys! You can shut out the world and track your sleep nonetheless. For your own sake I strongly recommend this if you have an iPhone or phone with similar functions!
Transition to sleep
How many times have you lay in bed and the chatter in your brain just will not stop? You don’t even have to have a lot on your mind for this to occur. Maybe you just had a busy day or week, perhaps you saw something disturbing on the evening news that upset you or maybe this is the only time during the day where you got to gather your thoughts. The longer you lay a wake the more stressed out you’ll get about the fact that you have to get up in a couple of hours, which is not helpful of course.
Unfortunately, good sleep is not something that will magically happen just because you lay under the covers and switch flight mode on. The transition to sleep is also very important for sleep quality. If you want to read up on sleep science in a fun and easy way I really recommend the book Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson. I chose the fabulous audio version where Shawn himself is reading. Also Ariana Huffington’s book Sleep Revolution is excellent and both the books are very well referenced.
These are some things that I do or don’t do the last hour before getting a good night sleep:
- DO take a hot, soothing shower
- DON’T watch action TV or the night news. Who wants to take depressing news or violent scenes to bed?
- DO read a good book.
- DON’T do rigorous exercise. Adrenaline down and melatonin up, right?
- DO drink a hot, caffeine free camomile or lemon-ginger tea.
- DON’T work on the computer. Blue light disturbs your circadian rhythm, so if you have to work at least install f.lux
As you can see all the tips are about de-stressing and calming down the body and mind, in order to lay the perfect foundation for the right concentration of especially the “sleep hormone”, melatonin (1), as well as the concentrations of serotonin, adrenaline, noradrenaline and dopamine. In you body, melatonin levels rise gradually when you turn off the lights, it reaches a peak around the middle of your night, and slowly decline during the second half of your night to reach lower day-time values near the time when lights comes back. Light is actually the dominant factor that controls the making of melatonin. In this way, melatonin serves as a potent signal of darkness in the body, affecting the brain structures associated with the circadian cycles (1).
With that I wish you a very good night!
1) Gorfine,T & Zisapel, N.(2009).Late evening brain activation patterns and their relation to the internal biological time, melatonin, and homeostatic sleep debt. Hum Brain Mapp. 30(2),541-52.