We all know that sleep deprivation causes us to be unfocused, tired, and unproductive in our daily lives. We make promises to ourselves that we will get on a better schedule, or make up for the loss of sleep the next day. However, the side effects may be much more serious than most people are aware. Here’s a fact: Poor sleeping habits cause both brain damage and brain shrinkage, and may even accelerate onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Lack of sleep has also been linked to obesity and hormone alterations.
One animal study found that chronic exposure to light at night prevented reproductive organ development in male blackbirds. More research shows that your body clock plays an important role in chronic inflammation and the accumulation of body fat.
Misuse of sleeping pills is on the rise. Emergency room visits involving the sleep aid zolpidem (ambien) nearly doubled between 2005 and 2010, reaching 42,274 visits in the year 2009-1010. Maintaining a natural rhythm of exposure to sunlight during the day and darkness at night is one crucial component of sleeping well/
Here are some Helpful Tips to Improve your Sleep
To get good sleep, you need to have properly aligned circadian rhythms, and achieve that, you need to get daylight exposure, ideally around solar non, for at least 30-60 minutes or more each day. Then, in the evening, you need to dim artificial light sources. In particular, you want to avoid the blue light wavelength. Research shows that exposure to bright room light before bedtime suppresses melatonin production in 99 percent of individuals. This can effectively rob you of sleep by preventing sleepiness.
Use blue-blocking light bulbs, dim your lights with dimmer switches and turn off unneeded lights. If using a computer, install blue light-blocking software like f.lux. Also keep in mind that digital alarm clocks with blue light displays could have a detrimental effect.
To optimize sleep, you also need to make sure you’re going to bed early enough, If you have to get up at 6:30 am, but fall asleep after midnight, you’re just not going to get enough sleep. Fitness trackers such as the UP24 can track both daytime body movement and sleep, allowing you to get a better picture of how much sleep you’re actually getting. Chances are, you’re getting at least 30 minutes less sleep than you think, as most people do not fall asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillow. Besides maintaining a natural circadian rhythm, there are a number of additional ways to help improve your sleep if you’re still havign trouble. Below are half a dozen of my top guidelines for promoting good sleep.
1. Avoid watching TV or using a computer at night–or at least about an hour or so before going to bed. TV and computer screens emit blue light, similar to daylight. This tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime, thereby shutting down melatonin secretion.
2. Sleep in darkness. You don’t to sleep in total darkness; the intensity of light has to be at a certain level(different levels depending on the spectrum) to suppress melatonin production. However, complete darkness is optimal. I recommend covering your windows with blackout shades or drapes, or use an eye mask. Also avoid using night-lights, and cover up the display on your clock radio.
3. Keep the temperature in your bedroom below 70 degrees F. A reduction in core body temperature is a part of the sleep-initiation and sleep maintenance process. A room temperature that is too warm or too cool can prevent your core temperature form lowering to its ideal place for sleep. Aim to keep you bedroom temperature between 60 to 68 degrees F, and identify the best room temperature for you through trial and error.
4. Take a hot bath or shower 30 minutes before bedtime. The hot bath increases your core body temperature, opening up the blood vessels in your limbs. When you get out of the bath, heat can leave your body easily (if the temperature is cool), abruptly dropping your core body temperature, making you drowsy and ready for great sleep.
5. Check your bedroom for elecro-magnetic fields (EMFs). These can disrupt your pineal gland and the production of melatonin and serotonin, and may have other negative effects as well. To do this, you need a gauss meter. You can find various models online, starting around $50 to $200. Some experts even recommend pulling your circuit breaker before bed to shut down all power in your house.
6. Move electrical devices away from your bed. If electrical alarm clocks or other gadgets must be used, keep them as far away from your bed as possible, preferably at least three feet. Cell phones, cordless phones, and their charging stations should ideally be kept three rooms away from your bedroom to prevent exposure to harmful and sleep disrupting electromagnetic fields (EMFs)
Notes: Dr. Mercola, “Lack of Sleep May Lead to Brain Shrinkage” http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/09/18/poor-sleep-causes-brain-damage.aspx