Our sleep/wake cycle in one of the most primitive mechanisms in the body and is so simple. When it’s light we wake up and when it’s dark we go to sleep. However, in recent years many people are finding this simple body clock function is out of sync. This can result in poor quality sleep and waking in the morning feeling unrefreshed.
In order to work out how to reset our body clock we need to know how it works. In the morning the light causes our brain to release a chemical called cortisol, which causes us to be awake and alert. Levels of this hormone decrease as the day goes on and in the evening as it starts to get dark our brain starts the release of melatonin. This helps us feel calm and relaxed and have healthy sleep patterns. As we get to the early hours melatonin levels naturally decrease ready for us to wake up. It seems simple enough, so what’s going wrong?
There are lots of reasons why people suffer from sleep issues, but as many of us spend so much times indoors we have lost that natural connection with the world and light and dark. So here are some simple tips to help you reconnect to the world to support better sleep and daytime energy.
Day time advice
- When you wake open the curtains and let the light in or switch on the lights if it’s still dark.
- Get a light alarm clock – These are alarm clocks that increase light in the room to stimulate sunrise, which supports our body with the production of our waking up chemical cortisol. These are really great in winter when we need to get up and it’s still dark. They are often used by people who experience low mood in winter.
- Get outside and go for a walk – In order for our body to get the contrast between night and day we need to go out in the sunlight. Even a short walk in the daylight for 20 minutes will help switch your brain chemicals on.
Night time advice
- Blue light is the main culprit for confusing our brain. It gives it the impression that it is still daytime and so can interfere with its natural melatonin production. Turn off your computer, stop playing computer games and don’t watch TV until late at night.
- Dim the lighting in your house in the evenings so the brain gets the message that it’s night time and time to rest and sleep.In the bedroom avoid LED alarm clocks or glowing phones next to the bed.
- TAPS MR5944