Quality sleep can be transformative. Although it is seldom appreciated, quality sleep is required for physical recovery, memory consolidation, and for peak cognitive function. Although sleep requirements differ from person to person, the following sleep tips can improve one's ability to fall asleep and to get more restful sleep throughout the night.
1. Create a Consistent Sleep Routine
Although it would be nice if we could make our own work schedule, seldom are we given a choice of when to come into work. The human circadian cycle is meant to coincide with the rise and fall of the sun; however, we often skew that circadian rhythm by staying up too late and oversleeping. Creating a consistent sleep rhythm by going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time every day will help to align your sleep with the rise of the sun, help you to get more restful sleep, and to fall asleep at a reasonable time.
2. Use a Sleep Tracking Wristband or Use a Sleep Tracking Application
Sleep cycles oscillate between deeper and lighter forms of sleep dependent on brainwave lengths throughout the night. Waking in the middle of a deep sleep cycle is disruptive and often causes feelings of tiredness and grogginess. By tracking your sleep using a sleep tracking wristband (like a FitBit Force or the Jawbone Up), the wristband will track your sleep and wake you up when you are in a light sleep cycle. If you do not want to buy a wristband, there are plenty of free smartphone applications that will serve the same function.
As an additional benefit, the subtle vibration of a wristband is a gentler alternative as opposed to the abrasive beeping of an alarm.
3. Increase REM Sleep Using Acetylcholine-estrase Inhibitors
As previously referred to, not all sleep is created equal. Human recovery occurs through cyclical sleep cycles throughout the night. In general, the consolidation of memory and brain recovery occurs during periods of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) cycles. Although the specific mechanism of action is as of yet indeterminate, sleep specialists are certain that there is a direct connection between the level of acetylcholine and the amount of REM sleep undertaken. Acetylcholine-estrase inhibitors such as Huperzine A inhibit the breakdown of acetylcholine, in turn increasing its prevalence during the night and increasing the amount of time spent in a REM cycle.
Melatonin helps to regulate the body's core temperature, in turn indicating to the body that it is time to fall asleep. Melatonin is an especially useful sleep trick because it has been found to be a relatively safe sleep aid with few side effects.
5. Eliminate All Light Sources
Light can often disrupt sleep in a very subtle way, even if we do not consciously recognize that it is preventing sleep or causing sleep restlessness. Eliminating all light sources by drawing the shades, turning digital clocks away from your bed, and by wearing a sleep mask can all decrease exposure to light. Consequently, this can often decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and facilitate better rest.
6. Heart Rate Variability Training
Heart rate variability measures the variation in interval periods between heart beats. The parasympathetic nervous system (ie: the flight or flight response) is triggered by stress. Not only is the resulting adrenaline and cortisol bad for your health, it can all affect sleep. Using a heart rate variability training device like the EmWave2 can reduce stress levels and improve restful sleep throughout the night.
7. Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating greasy fast food (hamburgers & fries, pizza, fried chicken, etc.) inhibit our ability to recover and therefore require us to spend more time in bed. Eating more raw fruits and vegetables is really helpful. If you think you might already be eating a fair amount of vegetables, consider starting your day with a Green Supplement Powder such as Green Vibrance (can be purchased on Amazon).
8. Light Stretching
Light stretching in the morning will get the blood flowing and is an indication to your body that it is time to start the day. Stretching is additionally beneficial because it can increase overall strength and promote oxygenation of the muscles and brain.
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