How to Overcome the 3 Biggest Barriers to Restful Sleep

Partying hard and waking up in the wee hours of the morning is soooo passe. Sleep is the new sexy! In the 12 habits I discovered for healthful living, one of the habits is about getting regular and restful sleep. The kind of sleep that makes you a new person upon waking where you feel full of energy, positivity and ready to take on the world. The kind of sleep that babies made famous with the expression – I slept like a baby!!

Sleep is a great healer. If you are not sleeping, you are not healing.

You Know you are Sleep Deprived…when…

Yet, there are millions of people today walking around with chronic sleep deprivation due to our modern urban lifestyles. You know you are sleep deprived when…

  1. You feel low energy and strength in your body
  2. You feel hungover and you did not go drinking the night before
  3. You feel tired with mild body aches
  4. Your brain feels fuzzy and groggy
  5. Bright light bothers you and you wince your eyes shut
  6. You feel irritable and unproductive at work

New mothers and fathers constantly complain about this especially if their baby kept them up the previous night. Being a new parent is the only legitimate reason for sleep deprivation and thank God it does not last forever. However, for the rest of us, it’s a self-created problem.

3 Biggest Barriers to Restful Sleep

Here are the barriers that I have come across and also personally experienced. Take care of these and watch the quality of your sleep improve infinitesimally.

1.Backlit electronic devices and light emission

Many of us are pushing sleep to check Facebook or Instagram or Email just once more! Or we are falling asleep in front of the TV, computer or iPad. The blue light emission stimulates the brain to think it’s daytime and that’s why you can find yourself tossing and turning instead of slipping into a restful sleep.

If you are interested in the biochemistry behind it, the blue light wavelength is similar to the light we experience from the sun. It naturally stimulates the production of the hormone cortisol and suppresses the hormone melatonin and sets the circadian rhythm. This is why we experience jet lag when travelling to other time zones as the body has to reset its circadian rhythms and cycle of the production of these hormones.

The impact of exposure to the blue light lasts for approximately 3 hrs. So, ideally, we should not be looking at our devices 3 hours before bedtime. But I know this may not always be realistic so here are some suggestions.

Resolution – iPhone and iPad devices now offer a Night Shift Mode under Display and Brightness in settings. It automatically reduces the light emissions to reduce the stimulation to the nervous system. Also, for your computers, download the app, f.lux and it will automatically read your location and sunrise and sunset times for you. Yet, I still recommend that you refrain from using your devices 90 minutes before sleep time.

Some people ask, so what to do instead? Here are some suggestions in no particular order.

  • Read a book (a paper one)
  • Talk to your spouse or better yet, make love!
  • Plan your day, week, month or year!
  • Massage your feet
  • Light a candle, put on some soothing music and relax
  • Meditate
  • Write a personal or gratitude journal

2.Caffeine Intake from Coffee, Tea and Soft-drinks

I love caffeine but it doesn’t love me. If I was to drink coffee anytime after lunch, I would not be getting any sleep that night and possibly experience some palpitations too! So, I have stopped drinking it altogether except on very rare occasions once or twice a year because I know I have to pay for it with disturbed sleep and an entire day of walking around like a zombie!

There was a study done where they gave 3 groups of randomly chosen people caffeinated beverages right before bed, 3 hours before bed and 6 hours before bed. Even the ones that drank the beverages 6 hours before bed reported substantial disruption to their sleep. Even though they were ostensibly asleep the quality of the sleep was such that it was equivalent to losing one hour of sleep.

Caffeine is like the last legal drug available to modern humans. It is a nervous system stimulant and has an effect on the brain where it tricks the nervous system into believing it’s not tired or sleepy, even though physiologically we may be tired and sleepy but the brain does not know that due to caffeine interference.

Resolution – If you are addicted and able to tolerate coffee, tea or soft-drinks (unlike me) then give yourself a cut-off time towards the end of the day. So, no coffee after noon or latest lunch. Although, caffeine at any time is highly acidic for the system and not really recommended for radiant health.

3.It’s too Hot, Noisy or Bright in the Bedroom!

Temperature & Resolution – Some research shows that we find it hard to sleep when it’s a little too warm inside the room. Make sure you have some circulating fresh air if it is cool enough and if not, switch on the fan, cooler or AC. It should be cool enough that you want to take a sheet on you – but not a blanket. Although I am not in favour of artificial cooling, it’s hard to escape it when it is uncomfortably hot and you can’t get to sleep.

Noise & Resolution – If your bedroom is noisy from traffic sounds, get earplugs. If feasible, install double glaze windows to cut out traffic noise. Alternatively, you also get some apps that generate white noise and can drown out the irritating sounds. Other apps play some light night sounds or the sound of wind or flowing water if you prefer those.

Light & Resolution – Bright light as we discussed earlier can be too stimulating. Get blackout curtains to completely block the light and enjoy more restful sleep. Before investing in these curtains, you can try hanging some thick bed sheets for a week and see if you feel it improves the quality of your sleep.

When to Sleep and How Much?

I am often asked, what is the right amount of sleep. I believe that different people may require different amounts and it ranges anywhere from 6-7 hours for seniors to 9-10 hours for children. Some adults are OK with 7 hours and others need 9 hours. So, anything from 7-9 hours seems reasonable.

The best way to find out is to try this out on your next long vacation. Go to sleep at a set time everyday, say 10 or 11 and then allow yourself to wake up naturally. Did you wake up at 6 or 7 or 8? Do this for one week and you will have an idea roughly how much sleep is good for you. Of course, there are daily variations depending on the weather and our level of mental and physical tiredness.

If you have the luxury of doing this everyday, then I suggest you wake up naturally. The key however is to go to bed on time and anywhere from 9-10 pm is considered the most beneficial because according to some studies, we get our best and deepest sleep from 10 pm-12 am.

If you are in the habit of sleeping late, don’t worry, move up your sleep time 15 mins at a time. So, if you normally get to sleep at 1 am, then try 12.45 and once that is your new time, move it to 12.30 – and so on…

And the clincher for me was that there is research evidence that:

People who are chronically sleep deprived, can put on weight compared to those who get their full night’s beauty sleep!

Now excuse me as I shed those pounds while I get my beauty Zzzzzzz!

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