Scientific tips for enhancing sleep quantity and quality

Regularity: Stick to a sleep schedule- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, no matter weekday or weekend. It will help maintain a stable sleep schedule and improve the quantity and quality of that sleep. Sleeping later on weekends won't fully make up for a lack of sleep during the week and will make it harder to wake up early on Monday morning. Give yourself adequate/ plenty of sleep opportunity time to get a full night’s sleep. Set a reminder for bedtime.

Avoid too much light at night, such as artificial electric light and LED (LED lamps, digital screens such as phone, tablet, computer and TV screens), 2 to 3 hours before bedtime and especially 60 minutes or less before bedtime. Even a small bedside lamp or a hint of dim light of 8 to 10 lux has been shown to influence our 24 hour biological clock to delay the release of melatonin (hormone in the body that regulates our sleep-wake cycle and provides the official instruction to commence sleep) in humans and thus sleep timing. A dim living room would be around 200 lux. Despite being just 1-2% of the strength of daylight, this ambient level of incandescent home lighting can have 50% of the melatonin suppressing influence within the brain. Use dim light in the rooms where you spend your evening hours. Far worse for suppressing melatonin are blue light LEDs because the light receptors in the eye that communicate daytime to your 24 hour biological clock are most sensitive to short wavelength light within the blue spectrum, the exact sweet spot where blue LEDs are most powerful. They have twice the harmful impact on night time melatonin suppression than the warm yellow light from old incandescent bulbs even when their lux intensities are matched; effectively fooling your biological clock into believing the sun has not yet set, winding back your 24 hour clock usually by 2 to 3 hours each evening on average. Consider blue light filter applications for devices or blue light glasses. Maintaining complete darkness throughout the night is equally critical; consider blackout curtains or an eye cover for sleeping.

Keep it cool. A drop in body temperature goes hand in hand with fading light to signal to your 24 hour biological clock that it's time to initiate sleep. Your body needs to drop its core body temperature by about 1 degree Celsius to initiate sleep and then stay asleep, also affecting the quality of sleep. It's the reason you will always find it easier to fall asleep in a room that’s too cold than too hot. Aim for ambient bedroom temperature of about 18 degrees Celsius (optimal for most people but this will vary depending on the individual and their unique physiology, gender and age). Avoid excessive unnecessary bedding or night clothes. A hot bath or a hot shower in the evening or before bed can also induce 10-15% more deep sleep in healthy adults. The drop in body temperature after getting out of the bath may help you feel sleepy, and the bath can help you relax and slow down so you're more ready to sleep. The hot bath invites blood to the surface of the skin, when you get out, those dilated blood vessels on the surface quickly help radiate out inner heat and your body temperature plummets.

Minimise noise (may use soothing white noise). Sounds that don’t wake you up can still increase stress and impair the quality of your sleep. Sudden noises are more likely to disturb your sleep than constant noises. The noises most likely to disturb your sleep are those that carry meaning e.g. people talking or baby makes disquieting sound. So if you must sleep in a noisy environment (and are not a parent), consider getting earplugs.

How much sleep you need?

0-3 months: 14 to 17 hours
4-11 months: 12 to 15 hours
1-2 years: 11 to 14 hours
3-5 years: 10 to 13 hours
6-13 years: 9 to 11 hours
14-17 years: 8 to 10 hours
18-64 years: 7 to 9 hours
Over 65 years: 7 to 8 hours

Have the right sunlight exposure. Daylight is crucial to regulating daily sleep patterns. Try to get outside in natural sunlight for at least thirty minutes each day. If possible, wake up with the sun or use very bright lights in the morning.

Relax before bed. Don't overschedule your day so that no time is left for unwinding. A relaxing activity, such as meditation/mindful breathing, reading or listening to music, should be part of your bedtime ritual. Reduce anxiety provoking thoughts and worries by learning to mentally decelerate before bed. Individuals who have insomnia often watch the clock. Turn visible clock faces out of view in the bedroom, so you don't worry about the time while trying to fall asleep. Aromatherapy- the scent of lavender was shown to promote relaxation, alleviate insomnia, and improve sleep quality.

Try to exercise at least 30 minutes on most days. Exercise increases total sleep time, especially deep sleep. It usually reduces time to fall asleep and also deepens the quality of sleep, resulting in more powerful electrical brainwave activity for improved sleep efficiency and waking up fewer times throughout the night, even for those who are self-reported poor sleepers or clinically diagnosed insomniacs. One particularly long study found that older adult insomniacs were sleeping almost one hour more each night on average by the end of a 4 month period of increased physical activity.
Sleep in return will boost your energy, setting in motion a positive, healthy self-sustaining cycle of improved physical activity and sleep. There is an inverse relationship between sleep and next day exercise/ physical activity. When sleep was poor the night prior, exercise intensity and duration were far worse the following day and when sleep was sound, levels of physical exertion were powerfully maximal the next day as a result of feeling more alert and energetic from the sleep improvement. There is a clear bidirectional relationship between exercise and sleep.
Try not to exercise right before bed (not later than 2 to 3 hours before your bedtime) as your body temperature can remain high for an hour or 2 after physical exertion due to the exercise driven increase in metabolic rate.

Avoid caffeine 8 hours or less before bed. Its effects can take as long as 8 hours to wear off fully. Therefore, a cup of coffee in the late afternoon can make it hard for you to fall asleep at night and reduce sleep quality. Avoid nicotine. It is a stimulant, often causing smokers to sleep only very lightly. In addition, smokers often wake up too early in the morning because of nicotine withdrawal. Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed. Having an alcoholic beverage before sleep may help you relax, but heavy use robs you of an important stage of sleep known as REM sleep during which we dream, keeping you in the lighter stages of sleep. Alcohol is one of the most powerful suppressors of REM sleep that we know of. Alcohol is in a class of drug called sedative. Sedation is not sleep, as the brainwave state you enter is more akin to a light form of anaesthesia than natural sleep. You also tend to wake up in the middle of the night when the effects of alcohol have worn off. It fragments sleep which tends to go unnoticed. The annoying advice of abstinence is best as even moderate amounts of alcohol in the afternoon or evening suppresses dream sleep because it takes many hours for your liver and kidneys to degrade and excrete that alcohol, even if you are an individual with fast acting enzymes for ethanol decomposition. Heavy alcohol ingestion also may contribute to impairment in breathing at night.

Shy away from diets that are excessively biased towards carbohydrates I.e. Greater than 70% of all energy intake, especially sugar. A diet high in sugar and other carbs but low in fibre resulted in less deep sleep and more awakenings at night.
A severe caloric restriction e.g. 800 Calories a day for 1 month makes it harder to fall asleep and decreases the amount of deep sleep.
Avoid going to bed too full or too hungry. Avoid large meals later in the evening, which can cause indigestion and the thermogenic effect of digestion, interfering with sleep.
Drinking too many fluids at night can cause frequent awakenings to urinate.

Magnesium will help if your body’s levels are low (especially for elderly who tend to have relatively low magnesium intakes; and athletes, since magnesium is lost through sweat). Lack of magnesium, a dietary mineral that plays an important role in the brain, can result in abnormal neuronal excitations leading to impaired sleep. As a general rule, foods that are high in fibre provide magnesium. Some good sources of magnesium include leafy green vegetables — such as spinach — legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. (Keep in mind that supplemental magnesium is more likely than dietary magnesium to cause adverse effects, which is why the FDA fixed at 350 mg the Tolerable Upper Intake Level for magnesium supplementation in adults. Also, you may want to avoid magnesium oxide: it has poor bioavailability and can cause intestinal discomfort and diarrhea.)
Tart cherry juice promotes the synthesis of melatonin. Its positive effect may be also related to its anti-inflammatory properties and its positive impact on muscle soreness reduction.
Kiwifruit contains a range of nutrients that can benefit sleep especially serotonin, vitamins C & E (antioxidants) and folate (its deficiency has been linked to insomnia).
Tryptophan will help if your body’s levels are low. Most people consume more than double the amount that is actually needed, typically getting 900-1000 milligrams per day, while the US Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is 250-425 milligrams per day. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that cannot be produced by the human body and plays a role in production of melatonin and serotonin and vitamin B3. Tryptophan has the lowest concentration in the body of any amino acid, yet, it is vital for a wide variety of metabolic functions that affect your mood, cognition, and behavior). Foods high in tryptophan include: milk, canned tuna, turkey, chicken, oats, fish, eggs, pumpkin seeds, beans, peanuts, cheese and leafy green vegetables.

Supplements to consider:
Ashwagandha: A growing body of evidence supports the efficacy of ashwagandha for improving total sleep time and sleep quality in people with and without insomnia (Kae Ling Cheah, et al., 2021).

Melatonin: Oral melatonin may help alleviate insomnia, reduce sleep latency, and improve sleep quality, including in children and the elderly. It can also help fight jet lag, and so is especially popular among frequent travelers.

Avoid naps during the day especially after 3pm. Naps can help make up for lost sleep, but late afternoon naps can make it harder to fall asleep at night.

Get rid of anything in your bedroom that might distract you from sleep. A TV, phone or computer in the bedroom can be a distraction. Having a comfortable mattress and pillow can help promote a good night's sleep.

If you are staying in bed awake for more than 20 minutes or if you are starting to feel anxious or worried, get out of bed and do a relaxing activity until you feel sleepy. The brain will very quickly associate your bedroom with a place of wakefulness. The anxiety of not being able to sleep can make it harder to fall asleep.

If possible, avoid using an alarm clock to wake up. An alarm clock prematurely and artificially terminates sleep. Comparing the physiological state of the body after being rudely awakened by an alarm to that observed after naturally waking up shows a spike in blood pressure and heart rate caused by explosive burst of activity from the sympathetic/ fight or flight branch of nervous system. If you do use an alarm, do away with the snooze function and get in the habit of waking up only once to spare your heart the repeated shock.

If possible, avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep. Some commonly prescribed heart, blood pressure or asthma medications, as well as some over the counter and herbal remedies for coughs, colds, or allergies, can disrupt sleep patterns. If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your health care provider or pharmacist to see whether any drugs you're taking might be contributing to your insomnia and ask whether they can be taken at other times during the day or early on the evening.

Dr Marcus Lau - BSc Bsc(Chiro)
Lamp Chiropractor
08 93619300

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