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5 Easy sleep hacks for busy people
Sleep is essential for a healthy lifestyle, but various factors can affect our natural ability to fall asleep, including our diet and daily routine. Nowadays we are overworked, overstressed, and badly sleep-deprived — many of us to the point where it affects our ability to live a normal, healthy, functioning life.
To this end I’ve put together a list of sleep hacks to help us so that we can stop sabotaging our waking lives by getting proper rest.
Eat the right foods to boost melatonin
Melatonin is the hormone that our brains produce before bedtime which makes us sleepy. But sometimes our lifestyle or diet blocks melatonin production… which is one of the main reasons why we struggle to fall asleep, or wake in the middle of the night.
Studies performed at Khon Kaen university in Thailand show that pineapple boosts melatonin production in the brain by 266% percent and bananas boost melatonin by 180% percent.
Yes, it is absolutely better to boost melatonin naturally through diet than with supplements. Why? Well, to start with: the active ingredient in many melatonin supplements is cow urine. Weird and gross, but true 🙁
Apart from that one disgusting fact, there is absolutely no evidence that the supplements even help, or that the payload is delivered where they need to be. There’s also the risk of dependency whenever you introduce something foreign in to your body.
I would advise to stay away from melatonin supplements altogether. I always feel terrible the day after I tried any sleep supplements; aiding the natural processes of your brain and body is the way to go.
I’ve made it my personal practice to eat one serving of pineapple around the time the sun goes down (roughly 5:00pm). I live in Thailand, so there’s fresh pineapple everywhere.
Melatonin production begins within the brain at 9:00pm, so eating my serving of pineapple a few hours ahead in advance, to give it time to work its magic, is what’s been working best for me.
I never ate pineapple before I learnt of its health effects (especially where it applies to sleep), but instantly realized a big improvement in the quality of my sleep once I began incorporating it into my diet.
I used to wake up often in the middle of the night and stayed up for hours restlessly; eating pineapple fixed that.
Understand the body clock and the circadian rhythm
Understanding the body clock (and your corresponding circadian cycle) is essential when it comes to both a healthy waking and sleep life. It may be the most important thing of all.
One day is 24 hours, but our own internal body clocks, left to their own devices, tend to vary to be about 24.5 – 26.5 hours – so they need to be adjusted constantly.
Our body clock adjusts when light passes through cells in our eye’s retina and is relayed to the hypothalamus. Light entering into our eyes provides a cue to our brain that it’s time to be awake, and by contrast lack of light cues that its time to sleep.
There’s way more to touch upon about this topic; such as the importance to block out electronic lighting after sunset (I often use candles instead).
But for space purposes, here’s what you need to know: get as much light (preferably sunlight) during the day as possible. This light becomes seratonin when it enters your brain, which makes you more awake and alert, and fends off mood disorders. If you get more serotonin during the day, it converts to increased melatonin at night.
Light exposure also helps to reverse any effects of sleep deprivation from the night before. Personally, I make it my practice to get direct exposure to sunlight at three critical points in my day:
- First, immediately upon waking up. Throw open the curtains, get outside for a 15 minute walk. Easiest way to shake off grogginess and become alert in the mornings.
- As close to noon as possible. This might mean eating lunch outside, or working outdoors. That’s because its the period of time when the sunlight is at its strongest – on a clear day, the sun at noon provides 100,000 – 120,000 lux of light! By contrast, the sun at sunset only provides a tiny 400 lux.
- After an afternoon nap. I nap about 3 or 4 times per week, for 30 minutes or less, usually a bit before or after 3:00pm when body temperature dips to its lowest. Getting up after a nap can be a challenge; so instead of reaching for caffeine I’ll get outside and use light to get me going again.
If its a cloudy day, or if there is limited sunlight where you live, there are numerous lightboxes you can invest in. These can stimulate the effects of a sunny springtime day, and you can set them in your office or on your desk while you work.
One interesting side effect once I began to get a lot more sunlight was that I dreamt more often: four or five nights a week I experienced vivid, detailed dreams (including the occasional lucid dream), and memory recall was excellent.
Lower Stress Levels with the Right Daytime Teas
If you’re feeling like a stressed-out mess during the day, you might want to consider swapping your coffee for a cup of tea.
Drinking certain teas during the daytime, such as lemon balm and decaf green tea, can help to lower stress levels and promote relaxation. So instead of chugging a caffeine-filled latte and feeling like you’re about to run a marathon, sit down and sip on some calming tea to give your adrenal glands a break and help you feel more zen.
Plus, you won’t have to worry about any caffeine jitters keeping you up all night like that fourth cup of coffee might.
Drink Evening Teas for Relaxation
After a long day of work or dealing with the stress of everyday life, it can be tough to wind down and get a good night’s sleep. That’s where evening teas come in.
Drinking certain teas in the evening, such as chamomile, lavender, and valerian, can help promote relaxation and rest, making it easier to fall asleep faster and deeper. Some brands even produce special types of evening teas that include a combination of relaxing herbs and teas.
My personal favorite is Celestial Seasonings’ Sleepytime Tea, which includes chamomile, spearmint, and lemongrass. Just be warned, it might knock you out so well that you’ll be dreaming of unicorns and rainbows all night long.
So, brew up a cup of your favorite bedtime tea, snuggle up with a good book or your favorite show, and let the relaxation begin.
Adenosine: The Fatigue Hormone
Adenosine is what I refer to in my book as a sort of “sleep toxin.”
Before we knew much about how or why we sleep, it was hypothesized that the onset of sleep was caused by certain hypnogenic substances that accumulated during periods of wakefulness.
To test the theory, in 1907 French researcher Henri Pieron would walk dogs through the streets of Paris at night, preventing them from being able to sleep. He would then extract their cerebrospinal fluid and inject it into the brains of healthy dogs, to test the effects. The effect was immediate, proving the hypothesis: the dogs slept longer and more deeply than usual.
Pieron dubbed this substance a “hypnotoxin” and published his findings in the work Le Probleme Physiologique du Sommeil (The Physiological Problem of Sleep). We didn’t yet know the exact nature of this hypnotoxin until several decades later.
Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is an important chemical which provides energy for cells throughout the body, and Adenosine is a counter-agent that breaks down ATP.
Adenosine accumulates naturally during waking hours, however, periods of intense mental and physical activity speed up the process, because adenosine production correlates to the activity levels of the brain’s neurons. That’s why you probably feel exhausted after a difficult exam, for instance.
Make it a point to engage your mind with high-level tasks each day, regardless of which side of the bed you woke up on. If your work lacks much mental stimulation, then read or solve puzzles – the more difficult they are, the better.
Be Mindful of Your Caffeine Intake
In a molecular sense, caffeine blocks adenosine (the substance mentioned earlier), making us more alert (and preventing us from becoming tired).
However, caffeine takes more than it gives. If you consume 200mg of caffeine (one cup of coffee) it might give you a boost for a few hours. But 50% of that caffeine (100mg) is still in your system by 4:00pm – six hours later.
By 10:00pm, you still have 25% (50mg) of the caffeine in your bloodstream from a coffee that you consumed twelve hours ago!
Getting enough sleep is crucial for our physical and mental wellbeing, and making a few simple changes to your diet and lifestyle can make a big difference.
By eating foods that boost melatonin production and understanding your circadian rhythm, you can get the restful, rejuvenating sleep you need to face each day with energy and focus. So try incorporating some of these hacks into your routine and notice the results for yourself!
To get access to the full Sleep Hacking Masterclass, so that you can finally get a good night sleep, click here. You can use the code “sleephacker#23“ to get an additional 20% off the course.
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