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Wake Up Refreshed: Optimise Your Sleep For A Better Day Ahead


Sleep is a vital part of our daily routine and is crucial for our physical and mental health and overall wellbeing. This includes cognitive health, immune system function, wound healing, appearance, skin health, cardiovascular health, and endocrine system function.


It is that time when our bodies rest and recover from the intensity of day-to-day life, allowing us to wake up refreshed and ready to face a new day. However, due to our busy lifestyles, many people often neglect the importance of sleep, leading to an array of health problems.


In this guide, we will provide you with a comprehensive set of tips and strategies to help you optimise your sleep and wake up refreshed, resilient and ready for anything.


First up, let’s look at our in-built 24-hour clock.


We all have a circadian rhythm that regulates our bodily processes, including body temperature, metabolism, sleep, production of certain hormones, alertness and digestion. Your circadian rhythm springs into action on the day you are born and continues working for you throughout your entire life, ruling over your body’s processes - signalling cortisol to spike in the morning to wake you up, boosting alertness in the late morning, and secreting melatonin around 9 pm to help you get ready for sleep.


The following tools set in motion a wave of biological cascades that carry us throughout the day and evening, and help us to optimise sleep.


Daylight/ Morning Sunlight


Viewing natural light early in the day is the most powerful stimulus for wakefulness (grounded in the core of our physiology) and it has a powerful impact on your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.


Viewing bright light from sunlight 30-60 minutes after waking will ensure that cortisol peaks at around the time you wake up. You have neuro cells in your eyes called intrinsically photosensitive melanopsin cells and they respond to bright light especially early in the day. They send several different signals to your entire body for the cortisol to be released, to wake you up and set in motion a timer, so the body knows when to fall asleep later on at night.


So, regardless of whether it's sunny or cloudy, head outside within that first hour to ensure that your cortisol spikes early in the day. The general guideline is, to view light on a clear sunny day for 10 minutes or longer, or if it is cloudy you will need about 15 minutes. And avoid wearing sunglasses when viewing early morning light.


Artificial light in your home is not sufficiently bright enough to replace natural daylight, and the cortisol mechanism and other wake-up mechanisms will not be turned on. If you have to wake up before sunrise, turn on the lights in your home, but make sure you view natural light as soon as the sun is out.


Darkness


It is important to sleep in complete darkness because light interferes with your circadian rhythm and sends wake signals to your brain. Ideally, unplug the night light, cover the light from your alarm clock, and remove any other source of artificial light from your room. Avoid screen time for at least one hour before bedtime - blue light from electronic devices interferes with your body’s ability to produce the nighttime surge of melatonin, which signals your body to shut down for sleep. Turning off your Wi-Fi for the night decreases EMF (electromagnetic frequencies) radiation exposure for nearly ⅓ of your life. Symptoms of EMF exposure include sleep disturbances, headaches, lack of concentration, dizziness, tiredness, fatigue and depressive symptoms. If you wake up in the night, avoid turning on any light, as this signals your body’s wake response and makes it harder to fall back to sleep.


Temperature


A good average temperature for your bedroom is around 18.3°C. If your room is too hot or too cold, it can affect your sleep. When you go to bed in the evening, you’re already in the process of cooling down. You can help accomplish this by taking a warm bath, shower, or just a foot bath.

Increasing your core body temperature first thing in the morning quite quickly will wake you up. A cold shower for about 1 minute is ideal and it will increase your temperature and keep you alert.



Exercise


Moderate daily exercise increases the amount of slow-wave sleep you get. Slow-wave sleep refers to deep sleep, where the brain and body have a chance to rejuvenate. Exercise can also help stabilize your mood and decompress the mind, a cognitive process important for naturally transitioning to sleep.

Exercise is also a great tool to stay alert and increase your body temperature. Any movement is suitable first thing in the morning, such as walking, light jogging or skipping.


Caffeine


If you like caffeine, coffee or non-smoked yerba matte tea may help your alertness and focus throughout the day. Caffeine is an adenosine antagonist and keeps you alert. Don’t drink your coffee for at least 90 minutes after waking to help you avoid mid-morning tiredness or an afternoon crash. Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Berkeley confirms that drinking caffeine in the late afternoon will disrupt your sleep - so avoid any caffeine after 2 pm. If you are feeling anxious and jittery after drinking caffeine, avoid it completely.


Food


Latest research shows that eating early in the day may help you remain energised, but this is quite individual. Many studies show that people who fast until about 11 am remain alert throughout the day. I recommend trying it and seeing what is most suitable for you. Timed meals play a role in synchronizing peripheral circadian rhythm. When circadian rhythm goes off schedule, you may use fewer calories and it can lead to weight gain even if the energy intake is not increased. It is not about having your meals at the exact time every day, but rather about your eating window and consuming food between 11 am and 7 pm for example. According to a report from the Current Biology Journal, it holds particular relevance for patients with circadian rhythm disorders and shift workers.


Alcohol


If you want to get a good night's sleep, avoid drinking alcohol in the evening because you will experience disrupted sleep and your ability to focus and be alert during the day will be greatly reduced.



When looking to improve your sleep quality, set up a good morning routine as a first port of call: view bright light, move your body followed by cold exposure (cold shower), establish your best breakfast routine, and head outside in the afternoon.


If you have established all these habits and you are still not sleeping well through the night or struggling to fall asleep, then it may be time to think about nutritional supplements.


Magnesium Threonate, Apigenin and Theanine can be particularly helpful dietary supplement products. The general recommended dosage for Magnesium Threonate is 145 milligrams, 50 milligrams of Apigenin and 100 milligrams or more of Theanine. You can try just one of these therapeutic supplements or in combination. The ideal time to take these is about 30-60 minutes before bedtime. These supplements are preferable to taking melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone, that the body is capable of producing, and is controlled by light. Worryingly, most products on the market contain far higher dosages of melatonin than we would make endogenously so it is generally not recommended.


In conclusion, optimising your sleep has a profound impact on your overall health, daytime functioning, brain, hormones and immune system. By following these simple tips, you can effectively harness light (and darkness), temperature, food, exercise, caffeine, and therapeutic supplements, to fall asleep faster, stay deeply asleep longer and achieve a better quality of sleep. Given that sleep is the foundation of all mental health, physical health and performance, this blog should benefit everyone as it provides an essential toolkit of science-supported, low to zero-cost strategies that can be tailored to optimise your sleep routine.


Happy Healthy Holistic can help you with all your corporate wellbeing needs. Check out our latest workshops and wellbeing programmes.


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