The National Institutes of Health estimates that 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep-related problems. Sleep loss is not something to be taken lightly, as it can lead to a full-spectrum of health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes.
Aside from the more serious health issues, sleep is perhaps one of the most essential factors for optimal physical performance and recovery. The majority of muscle repair and growth happens when hormones are released during sleep.
WITHOUT SLEEP, ADEQUATE MUSCLE GAIN IS GREATLY REDUCED.
Here are 5 ways to improve your sleep and supercharge your recovery:
1. Get morning light.
Your circadian rhythm, or body’s internal clock, is roughly a 24-hour cycle designed to secrete two hormones (cortisol and melatonin) that regulate your sleep/wake cycle. The production of these hormones are readily engaged and influenced by shifting patterns of light in your environment.
In the morning, you want to have higher levels of cortisol to wake you up and give you energy to power through the day. At night, your brain should be releasing more melatonin to make you sleepy.
According to this study, exposure to bright and early morning light caused caused circadian rhythms to shift earlier in the day (phase advance). Whereas light exposure in the evening resulted in later wake-up times and bedtimes (phase delay).
Tip: Mornings are worthy of veneration. Strive for 15-30 minutes of early morning light by taking a walk or eating breakfast outside.
2. Avoid blue light at night.
While exposure to morning light is important to reset your circadian rhythm, you want to avoid blue light at night as it can suppress the secretion of melatonin. Computer screens, televisions, cell phones, and similar self-luminous electronic devices are major sources for suppressing melatonin at night because they emit blue light.
A study published in the Journal of Pineal Research discovered that one hour of moderately bright light (1000 lux) was enough exposure to suppress melatonin close to daytime levels.
However, it’s important to note that melatonin suppression is intensity dependent, meaning lower intensities of light may have similar suppression effects at longer durations. For example, two hours at 500 lux may have similar effects to one hour at 1,000 lux. So exposure to a well-lit room can reduce melatonin levels, perhaps just as much as electronic devices.
In fact, another study shows that “chronically exposing oneself to electrical lighting in the late evening disrupts melatonin signaling and could therefore potentially impact sleep.”
- Turn off your computer, tv, and phone two hours prior to bedtime.
- If you must be on your computer, then download this free app called F.lux which automatically adapts your screen to the time of the day and removes blue hues at night.
- Get a pair of amber-colored goggles, which are the only tools available that can eliminate all sources of blue light (including emission from regular light bulbs). Uvex is a popular brand, but if you wear glasses, SolarShield offers a great wraparound option.
3. Block light pollution.
If you live in an urban area with 500,000 or more people, you may be exposed to outdoor nighttime lights (ONL) three to six times greater than individuals living in small towns or rural areas.
Dr. Maurice Ohayon and Dr. Cristina Milesi published a study in 2016 showing that people living in areas with greater ONL were at a higher risk for circadian rhythm sleep disorder symptoms, which manifested into “delayed bedtime, delayed wakeup time, and reduced nighttime sleep.” The study also shows that exposure to greater ONL affects sleep quality and duration, and increases daytime sleepiness.
Tip: Skip the eye mask. Your skin detects light in ways similar to your eyes, meaning light may still disrupt your circadian rhythm if you’re wearing a mask. Opt for blackout curtains instead.
4. Keep the room cool.
The temperature of your sleep environment is related to sleep regulation. “When you go to sleep, your set point for body temperature - the temperature your brain is trying to achieve - goes down," says H. Craig Heller, PhD. This means that you’ll fall asleep easier if your thermal environment is cool, as opposed to being in a warmer room.
In this study, researchers looked at how thermal environments affected sleep in semi-nude individuals and those who used bedding and clothing during sleep. The results determined that hot exposure affected sleep stages more than cold exposure in semi-nude subjects.
In contrast, for those who used bedding and clothing during sleep, heat exposure increased wakefulness, decreased slow wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and affected sleep stages and thermoregulation. Cold exposure did not affect sleep stages, but it should be noted that the use of bedding and clothing plays a crucial role in supporting thermoregulation and sleep.
Tip: While the ideal room temperature for sleep is between 65-72F, you should set the room at whatever temperature feels best for you. Also, wear light and comfortable clothing.
5. Turn off WiFi and unplug electrical devices at night.
Our organic alignment to the natural way of living is stunted by our ever-increasing addiction to our modern technologies. While there is a time and place for these devices, bedtime should not be one of them.
Devices such as lamps, WiFi routers, cell phones, laptops, alarm clocks, and other electronics emit invisible areas of energy known as electromagnetic fields (EMFs), or radiation. One studysuggests that exposure to EMFs decrease the production of melatonin.
While the health risks of EMFs are highly controversial, I believe EMF pollution to be one of the most crucial and often overlooked cause of sleep problems (speaking from personal experience).
- Turn off your WiFi router.
- Electronics that are plugged into the outlet can emit EMFs even if they’re turned off. It’s best to unplug any lamps and clocks in your room. If you need to leave your clock on for an alarm, place it as far away from you as possible.
- Switch your phone (and tablets or other electronic devices) to airplane mode, or completely turn it off.
Getting a good night’s rest should be at the top of your list for optimal recovery and overall well-being, and don't forget to take BCAA Fermented Vegan Amino Acids to further aid in muscle recovery and repair.
Which of these tips and tricks have you found to be most helpful? Let us know below!