Sleep Friends and Enemies

by
Anna Uvarova

Few of us have never experienced the feeling of waking up sleepy, agitated, and tired. And most of us have had at least one awful night's sleep at some point. As a one-off occasion, this may seem like nothing to worry about, but if repeated consecutively over several nights, it might be indicative of a more severe problem. In our Western, high-paced society, many take pride in consciously depriving themselves of sleep and getting by on only 4-6 hours of shut-eye every night.

But what are the consequences of chronic sleep deprivation? Lack of sleep decreases our immune system response, decreases memory and learning abilities, decreases focus, and slows down our reactions. If sleep is that important, then how can you improve the quality of your sleep? Look out for these friends and enemies of sleep in your lifestyle and follow these simple tips to change your lifestyle.

Avoid caffeine. Coffee, tea, most sugary drinks, and chocolate– they all have caffeine. Caffeine works as an antagonist for adenosine – a molecule that our body recycles throughout the day that may contribute to feeling sleepy.Caffeine works fast and loud, reaching the apex of its effect in the first 1-2hours. However, caffeine itself also takes quite a long time to leave our system. The half-life of caffeine is about 4-6 hours, meaning if you had your last coffee at 4pm, you would still have about 50% of caffeine circulating your system at 10pm. Even if you can fall asleep successfully, the quality of your sleep will be severely affected. 

Skip the alcohol. Are you thinking about a nightcap to help yourself to sleep? Alcohol is a sedative, meaning it makes us feel relaxed and even sleepy at times. However, to assume you are actually sleeping after having a drink or two is a big misconception. The brainwave activity during the "sleep" under the influence of alcohol is actually much closer to light anesthesia rather than a dreaming state. Most importantly, alcohol robs you of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep – the phase of sleep that is correlated with certain types of learning, memory formation, and dreaming. In addition, once the sedative effect of the alcohol wears off, we start to wake up – disrupting our rest and making us even more tired in the morning.

Build a consistent sleep schedule. One of the easiest and most effective ways to improve your sleep quality is to go to bed and wake up at the same time day after day. Humans are creatures of habit, and once you've created the pattern which can fit your schedule on weekdays, endeavor to stick to it even on weekends. Unfortunately the research shows that making up for sleep on Sunday won't do any good.

Relax before bed. Make sure you leave enough quiet time in the evening before going to bed. Create a routine to switch off from the day and the outside world. Turn off all your blue light-generating devices (phones, tablets, and laptops) and instead, pick up a good book or meditate. Taking a hot bath or shower might also be a great tool to bring you into a sweet slumber, faster.

Create the right environment. Make sure your bedroom is sleep ready. The best temperature for sleep is just above 18 degrees Celsius. Ensure your room is as dark as possible, as any light pollution from the outside or even your gadgets will affect your sleep quality and quantity. And if blackout curtains are not the best option for you, opt for a good quality sleeping mask.

Schedule regular chiropractic care. Ensuring your spine is in optimal health and alignment will help you release muscle tension, which could make it hard to otherwise find a comfortable sleeping position. Most importantly, chiropractic adjustments help to bring your nervous system to its ideally functioning state. Shifting your body from fight-or-flight response into rest-and-digest, chiropractic care might help you manage anxiety or high stress levels, which often prevent us from falling asleep.

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