How can I optimize my sleep time?

How can I optimize my sleep time? I have asked myself this question many times…Maybe you have too. Maybe you spend long stressy hours at work and don’t seem to be able to wind down. Maybe you love staying up past midnight, eating and watching your favourite TV series on Netflix and can’t seem to get up in the morning. Maybe being busy parents all day long, you just feel tired and drained all the time. Whatever the case, lack of sleep or a night of poor sleep, can lead to inflammation, lack of energy, brain fog, and inhibit creativity, memory and cellular regeneration.

So, during my trip towards my 100th birthday, a good night’s sleep has become one of my most important travelling companions on the road to becoming a centenarian.

What does it mean to crack the code on sleep? In today’s blog, I will cover a few simple habits that you can implement before bedtime and what to do to limit the damage of a night of poor sleep.

Dog waiting for owner to wake up

How to prepare for a good night sleep?

1- Hack your sleep environment!

  • Your bed has to be comfortable!! Ensure your mattress is not too old.  Experts recommend changing it every 8 years to keep your sleep and rest quality in optimum condition.
  • Make sure to have comfortable pillows and a diffuser/ humidifier that gently releases soothing and relaxing essential oil fragrances. If you don’t have a diffuser just put a drop of your preferred essential oil under your pillow. Lavender works wonders for me. It slows me down immediately. Recent research found that lavender increases slow-wave sleep, instrumental for slowing heartbeat and relaxing muscles. Subjects slept more soundly on a lavender night and were feeling more energetic the next morning. 
  • Keep your bedroom cool or even chilled. I sleep with the window open even in winter as it helps me to sleep better. If you live in a cold climate, keeping the window open may not be a good idea and if you live in warmer countries you could sleep with a chill pad. 
  • Others like a weighted blanket, like our grandparents, had!! Those heavy quilts would pin you down to the mattress and prevent you from moving.
  • If you live in warmer climates having mosquito nets at the windows or over your bed could drastically reduce sleep disturbance. Living in Mallorca, this a necessary precaution if you don’t want to be up all night chasing those annoying flying creatures.
Sleep disturbance
A big meal before bed could disturb your sleep

2- How light affects your sleep?

It is so important to respect your body’s natural rhythm, the sleep-wake cycle, also called a circadian rhythm. This is a biological clock that is controlled by a part of the brain called the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus, a group of cells that respond to light and dark signals.

Going to sleep at the same hour every day is so important! This will send a regular message to the body’s internal clock and will optimize your sleep quality. In practice, this means that you need to go to bed when you feel tired and wake up naturally at first light. Ideally, we should sleep between 7 to 9 hours every night, and whenever possible I like to be in bed by 10.30/11 pm in order to wake up at 6.30/7 am. This is not so easy to fine-tune but it is worth spending some time working on this to optimize your sleep quality. 

As you wake up, it is a good idea to go for a light to moderate walk for 10 to 20 mins. This very simple habit will get you moving and quick start your serotonin production. During the day, as you increase your sunlight exposure, your levels of serotonin rise in order to keep you awake and sharp until night time. Melatonin is the sleep hormone your brain produces when it is dark in order to regulate your sleep/wake cycle. As night time approaches, the production of melatonin increases to make you sleepy until it is daytime again. The precursor to melatonin is serotonin, so the more serotonin you produce during the day the more will be converted into melatonin at night, and the better you will sleep.

At night, avoid bright screens for at least 1 hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted by your phone, tablet, computer screen, TV etc, prevents and/or delays the production of melatonin. So make sure your bedroom is a dark, restful place, and that no electronic devices are allowed in!

If you must stay up later than usual, wear blue light blockers. These special glasses block this blue light. It does take a few days to get used to the orange glow of those glasses, but once you have, you will notice a soothing and calming effect on your vision and eye muscles coupled with a slight mellow feeling.

Finally, stop watching TV and turn off any bright lights two hours before heading to bed. This last recommendation might make you smile…I have to admit, ever since we have Netflix, I haven’t been able to stick to this one. So I wear my blue blockers!

3-How Smells Affect your Sleep

The smell cells in our nose are directly linked to the limbic system. This is the oldest part of the brain and governs emotions, behaviours and long term memory. In a study held at the University of Heidelberg, participants that were exposed to pleasant smells (flower scents) had positive dreams, and those exposed to unpleasant ones (Sulfur lead) had bad dreams or nightmares. So why not use our sense of smell to improve your sleep quality?

Lavender, Rose and bergamot are 3 natural olfactory compounds that induce relaxation as they activate the “rest and digest “ parasympathetic nervous system ( PNS). Once activated, the PNS inhibits activity in organs related to the “fight or flight” response and excites organs used to “rest and digest” in order to calm and relax you.

coffee expresso
I would not include this expresso smell on the following list…

These scents can help you sleep better 

  • Rose: The smell of roses can actually lower blood pressure and the number of breaths you take per minute, which makes falling asleep easier.
  • Lavender: A classic soothing smell, lavender has been proven to lower anxiety, stress levels, pain and more by reducing your heart rate.
  • Geranium: If you are worried or nervous about something before going to bed, Geranium has a relaxing effect on the mood and is often named as a natural antidepressant.
  • Clary sage: Clary sage is different from regular sage, specifically regarding its effect on sleep, as it is considered to be more calming. A study also found clary sage had antidepressant effects for menopausal women.
  • Sweet marjoram: Once a staple fragrance of upper-class ladies, sweet marjoram is one of the most pleasant and classy scents around. There are multiple forms of marjoram, sweet marjoram being recommended specifically for insomnia due to its calming qualities.
  • Jasmine: Another bedtime classic, Jasmine has a rather sweet scent that studies have linked to reduced anxiety levels and higher sleep quality.

I love the smell of Lavender, it’s my all-time calming smell and to be honest one drop is sufficient to help me to drift off and breathe my way to a better night’s sleep.

4-How Sounds Affect your Sleep

As the saying goes, silence is golden. Sleeping in a noisy space not only disrupts the quality of your sleep, but it can also leave you feeling less satisfied with your overall sleep experience and unrested. At some point, you’ve probably laid awake, listening to the distant sound of sirens, barking dogs, noisy neighbours, and a myriad of noises that encroach in your nighttime sleep.  Part of the reason is that during sleep, the brain continues to register and process sounds, affecting everything from heart rate to blood pressure, which in turn can trigger you to wake up.

One of the most effective ways to dampen all those noises is either earplugs or special wrap-around headphones that can play relaxing nighttime sounds to lull you to sleep. 

Binaural beats are another sound hack for enhanced sleep, as they trick the brain into tuning to a specific frequency that will induce a state of sleep.

Coffee can help you stay awake

5-How a cool room improves your Sleep!

Ever since I started the Wim hof method, I am a great advocate of cold showers before my bedtime. This works wonders, especially if I had a big meal, or if I stayed up later than my normal time. As you probably know, the body temperature drops by as much as 2 degrees Cº while you sleep. Your core temperature is high during the day and drops at night. As you sleep your metabolic rate falls and you generate less heat.

So after a busy day of going to meetings, working out, eating too much, etc, it is important to have a cool down time to lower your body temperature before bedtime.

Other than the cold shower, some people prefer a warm shower, a hot-cold contrast shower ending on cold, cold air, or the use of chilipads. These Chilipads use water to generate a cool surface to sleep on. Just slip the pad underneath the sheets of your bed, “ et voila” you have an immediate cooldown effect… Whatever you use, just cool your body before sleep!

How to limit the damage of a night of poor sleep?

1- The first thing as you get up and start your day, is to rehydrate. Your cells need both water and minerals to maintain an aqueous balance, especially after a night of poor sleep. So it is important to drink plenty of water, consume good quality sea salt, and some sort of trace mineral drops.

2-Get moving out in the sun! One of the best ways to reset your biological clock is to get outside and catch some rays of sunshine and start moving. Whether you do a yoga session, a light aerobic workout, or simply a long walk, it’s all good! The subtle combination of daylight, light exercise and vitamin D will help to realign your circadian rhythm.

3- 20 min nap! So if you have missed a chunk of your ideal 7 to 9 hours of sleep, napping can be a good solution to help you get through sleep deprivation. It is advisable to limit your nap to 20 mins. Any longer and you run the risk of interfering with your next sleep cycle. If you feel one nap is not enough, take a second or a third one, as long as you keep it under 20 mins. This works for me, however, some sleep experts advise against it! I suppose because we are all different, the best you can do is try it!

4Limit your caffeine intake! After a night of poor sleep, your first reflex might be to consume large amounts of coffee. I have done that in the past and think” the more coffee the better”! Wrong! Although one to 2 cups of coffee might help your state of alertness, overconsumption of caffeine will interfere with your next night’s sleep, and will only contribute to deepening the sleep deprivation cycle.

5- Eat well! Avoid at all costs opting for refined carbs and fats. This will only make you more tired. Instead consume veggies, nuts and seeds, berries, eggs, porridge, fresh fruits, and if at all possible replace coffee with green tea. 

Sleeping
Sleep what a wonderful gift…

How can I optimize my sleep time FAQ

A-How can I get maximum slepp in less time?

Tips to sleep less

  1. Give yourself time to wind down. The goal here is to train your body to fall asleep when you’re tired. …
  2. Turn off your electronic devices. …
  3. Limit alcohol consumption at night. …
  4. Avoid caffeine late in the day. …
  5. Cooldown your bedroom. …
  6. Reduce noise. …
  7. Stick to a routine. …
  8. Buy a new pillow.

B-How long does it take to ajust to your sleep schedule?

Make adjustments in increments.

If you have less time to prepare for your new schedule, try 30 minutes, she said. (But no more than that.) Give yourself at least three or four nights to get comfortable with the new schedule. If it’s going well, on the fourth or fifth night, shave off another 15 minutes.

C-How can I fall asleep in 10 seconds?

The military method

  1. Relax your entire face, including the muscles inside your mouth.
  2. Drop your shoulders to release the tension and let your hands drop to the side of your body.
  3. Exhale, relaxing your chest.
  4. Relax your legs, thighs, and calves.
  5. Clear your mind for 10 seconds by imagining a relaxing scene.

D-Is sleeping naked better for your health?

Lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes

By sleeping naked, you may increase your ability to fall asleep faster and stay asleep, which could make all the difference when it comes to your health.

E-Is 4 hours of sleep enough?

For most people, 4 hours of sleep per night isn’t enough to wake up feeling rested and mentally alert, no matter how well they sleep. There’s a common myth that you can adapt to chronically restricted sleep, but there’s no evidence that the body functionally adapts to sleep deprivation.

My take on Sleep

For many years I haven’t paid attention to my sleep simply because I was able to slip under the duvet, close my eyes and drop off like a log. Ever since the first lockdown, I seem to have lost this magical ability. I suppose these uncertain times are a cause for worries and possibly have contributed to me having a lighter sleep than before. 

Nonetheless, after applying some of the strategies listed above and paying attention to my pre nighttime routine, this has been a game-changer for me. Sleep is so important, and it’s not until you experience poor sleep that you appreciate how really essential sleep really is.

With my new revised pre-sleep routine I feel ready to have much more quality sleeps before my 100th birthday.

Take care my friends, and until next week I wish you sweet slumber!!

Smart Living To 100.

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