Our body has its own GPS to rotate between sleep and wakefulness. This 24-hour sleep-wake cycle is called the circadian rhythm. Any dysfunction in this internal clock will inhibit our restful sleep, leading to decreased productivity, stress, high cortisol levels, and metabolic diseases.
It’s important to have a straight, 8-hour sound and undisturbed sleep cycle to lead a normal, functioning day.
The Hypothalamus, a part of the brain, responds to some external cues that tell our body to sleep and go to bed. Sometimes, your circadian rhythm can get thrown off due to
• Night shifts
• Jet lag
• Traveling across time zones
• Late-night coffee shots
• Late-night TV or mobile use
Deficiencies of potassium, iron, magnesium, zinc, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D,
Luckily, there are multiple tips to take care of your sleep cycle and reset your internal clock. Switch off your mobile phones and regulate your exposure to blue light two hours before bedtime.
Avoid electronic screens from TVs, computers, or smartphones because blue light initiates the “fight or flight” response in the body. When you’re exposed to light, your brain stops producing melatonin, the sleep hormone. This makes you feel awake and alert.
Cover your curtains and any blinking red light from A/C transformers or digital displays on A/C panels that are enough to disrupt the hormonal balance at night.
Try to meditate and do breathing exercises. Practice yoga, stretching, or journaling. Avoid caffeine at night. Reducing stress will help bring down cortisol levels, which will help relax your brain to promote restful sleep.
If your sleep is disrupted, it’s better to avoid naps in the daytime. If you wish to, you can take a short nap of 30 minutes. Do household chores, and increase NEAT (Non-exercise activity thermogenesis), which can give some fatigue and induce restful sleep.
GET DAILY EXERCISE
Muscle responds by aligning our circadian rhythm and promoting melatonin production. Thirty minutes of cardiovascular fitness can improve our sleep cycle. Aim for 150 minutes of physical exercise per week to get the best results. Keep in mind that even exercise can cause your body to over stimulate. If you want to exercise at night, do it at least one to two hours before bedtime.
Loud distracting noises can be a big culprit in disturbed sleep routines. Better still is to take the TV out of your room. Turn down the volume of the TV as our brain processes all kinds of sounds even while sleeping. White noise is a soothing, steady sound that masks environmental noise. You can create white noise by using a
• Air conditioner
• Air purifier
• White noise machine
You can also wear earplugs to block out outside sounds.
Just before bedtime, your body temperature drops to prepare for sleep. A cool bedroom temperature of 60 to 67°F (15 to 19°C) will help you relax and sleep. The temperature of the room where you sleep is one of the most important factors in achieving quality sleep. Anything below 54°F (12°C) or above 75°F (24°C) may disturb your sleep, so make sure to adjust your thermostat. You can also use an air conditioner or fan during warmer weather or a heater during cold weather. These offer the extra benefit of creating white noise.
MIND YOUR MATTRESS AND PILLOWS
A comfortable bed is the best sleeping environment for a good night’s rest. If your mattress is more than ten years old, please replace it because mattresses and pillows generally absorb the impressions of those sleeping on them, resulting in an uneven level with lumps or depressions that may cause back aches and pains. Replace it after every 10 years, and pillows after 2 years.
Your circadian rhythm also responds to your eating habits. A late dinner can delay sleep, so eat your last meal two to three hours before bed.
This will give your body enough time to digest the meal. It matters what you eat, too. Heavy, high-fat meals might disrupt sleep because they take a while to digest.
INCLUDE MAGNESIUM, AND ZINC-RICH FOODS
At times, when our diet is deficient in some micronutrients like magnesium and zinc, problems with having sufficient sleep occur. Include nuts and pumpkin seeds, legumes, grains, yogurt, and soybeans to have enough magnesium and zinc in your diet to avoid sleep issues.
TAKE MELATONIN SUPPLEMENTS
Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your sleep cycle and is made by the pineal gland in the brain, but it’s also available as a supplement. It can promote relaxation.
The writer is Dietician & Nutritionist and founder of Nutrifybypoonam Diet & Wellness Clinic