If you want to enjoy a long, healthy, energetic and productive life, it is pretty much agreed that you need to work on four basic areas: nutrition, exercise, stress and sleep. In this post, I’m going to focus on sleep as it is something that many people (and I include myself here) struggle with.
Why is Sleep so Important?
There is a very rare condition called Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI) whereby sleep becomes impossible, it leads to panic attacks, hallucinations and eventually death, with no known cure. Thus this shows that sleep is essential to stay healthy. Recent research has found the existence of the glymphatic system which drains metabolic waste products from the brain via the cerebrospinal fluid (including those pesky amyloid plaques that build up during the progression of dementia). This system only works when we are in deep sleep, making regular good sleep essential for maintaining brain health, aside from other body maintenance and repair processes that occur mostly whilst we are asleep. It has also been shown that good sleep is essential for memory formation and that mood and willpower problems are exacerbated by a lack of sleep.
Why do we have so much trouble with sleep?
Until recently, our sleep cycles were driven by circadian rhythms with the rising and setting of the sun driving the release of hormones and brain wave patterns. Now the abundance of electric lights and digital stimulation after dark, as well as jet lag and shiftwork has disrupted this primal cycle. Most people find that when they go camping, with light being limited to torches and the campfire, they start to sleep much better, especially if they have a comfortable airbed
What can we do about this?
The key is to support your body’s production of melatonin, the sleep hormone which is triggered by darkness, and is suppressed by light – particularly bright white light at night – including these new energy efficient bright LED street lights that are replacing many of the old yellow ones. So here are a few tips which I try to implement most days to support melatonin production and sleep cycles: