The 4 most important things you can do to improve both the quantity and quality of your sleep, potentially adding years to your life
by Dr. Harrison Weisinger, MBBS, PhD.
In Part 1of this article we took a look at the emerging sleep research that shows, people who consistently get less than 7 hours of sleep per night are putting themselves at risk – I then listed 3 important stepsyou can take in order to start getting better, more consistent sleep.
In this post we dig into what I believe to be the 4 most important practical things you can do in order to improve both the quantity and quality of your sleep.
4. Optimise your bedroom.
There is a range of things you can do to optimise your bedroom. But the basics are as follows:
Ensure the room is completely dark.
That might mean block-out curtains or door jambs.
Keep the room cool.
Generally, not too difficult to achieve in the UK. Open a window if you can to improve ventilation and have a warm duvet to compensate.
Change the light bulbs.
As it gets later, change the lighting to a warmer, more amber hue. I like Phillips Hue, though it needs a special hub to operate. LIFX has a really good range and no special gadget is necessary.
Get a good pillow.
Ideally, you should fall asleep on your back so you need a pillow that supports the natural curvature of your neck. These ‘double hump’ style pillows are made by an enormous range of manufacturers. I’ve just purchased a “Neck Nest” on Amazon which is excellent for neck support.
3. No blue light before bed
Blue light (which is contained in ‘cool’ white light) suppresses the release of the hormone, melatonin.
Melatonin is released by the pineal gland in the brain to signal other parts of the brain that are responsible for sleep and sleepiness. That means that any exposure to blue light immediately before bed is very likely to have a negative effect on the time to fall asleep and the quality of sleep thereafter.
The biggest culprits of blue light emission in this day and age are, of course, screens. Fortunately, the iPhone has a setting enabling you to reduce blue light and you can use an app called f.lux if you have a Mac computer. You can also buy spectacles with a coating that blocks blue light.
2. Natural supplements to promote sleep
It’s a good idea to try a few supplements as it’s remarkable how much effect they can actually have. The first one I’d recommend is.
A non-psychoactive extract from cannabis or hemp. The way in which works is not yet completely understood, though it is thought to work by reducing rumination (thinking too much) and anxiety, both of which are known to delay the onset of sleep. It is completely safe having been trialed in high doses even in children, and the fact that the CBD industry is now trading in the billions of dollars internationally speaks volumes about its effectiveness. People do differ in their sensitivity to CBD oil, so I suggest starting with a low to moderate dose before increasing.
Tryptophan is converted in the body to melatonin. In the UK, melatonin requires a medical prescription, whereas tryptophan does not. British company Truth Naturals produces an organic CBD oil combined with Tryptophan, and I highly recommend this product.
Magnesium is used by many to improve sleep and I recommend it for those that are prone to leg or muscle soreness, which of course can detract from sleep. Magnesium also appears in a variety of formulations, including homeopathic remedies such as passionflower, chamomile and valerian root, each of which are worth a try.
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1. Blocking out sight and sound.
Those that are prone to disturbance through the night should consider:
A Sleep Mask.
Many masks actually place pressure on the eyes which can cause issues over time so it’s important that the mask provides space. Ideally, you should be able to open your eyes under the mask.
simple spongy ones are often the best though you can also find metal plugs with sponge tips for a more solid sound block.
Sound Masking Ear Pods.
Bose Sleepbuds work really well and are great for travel too, though they are quite expensive.
There are a few apps available which enable you to play sounds through earbuds that match the frequency of brainwaves during sleep (or alertness if that’s what you’re after). Just make sure they don’t wrap around your neck! That’s why I suggest Aftershokz bone conduction headphones!
“…the single most important thing you can do to improve your health is to get a good night’s sleep. Every night.”
– Professor Harrison Weisinger, MBBS, PhD
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