Simple tips for troubled sleepers: Part 2
Okay, welcome back. I trust that you're all appropriately rested.
Last week we discussed body temperature, and how we can leverage changes in our body temperature to help to regulate our sleep-wake cycle.
In the morning: our body temperature increases 1-3 degrees in the 2hr period prior to us waking up. To further aid the waking process, engage in activities (exercise, cold shower) that will cause an internal heating response within the body.
In the evening: naturally, the opposite of what stimulates wakefulness - a cooling of our body temperature - will promote sleepiness. Engage in activities that allow the body to naturally cool down prior to going to sleep, such heat exposure through a sauna, warm shower or bath.
Today, we shift our attention to viewing sunlight, and how this can be utilised to better regulate our circadian rhythms.
For this, the most important time is the morning:
If you read last week's instalment (if you haven't read it yet, it could be useful to bring you up to speed), you would know that as our body temperature begins to increase and we begin to wake from our sleep, our body starts to increase the release of the hormone Cortisol.
Again, Cortisol gets a bad wrap out there, but, when it is present soon after waking, it is extremely important for enhancing our immune system, our metabolism, our ability to focus and our ability to move.
Cortisol is like the body's morning double espresso, and increases in body temperature is the barista.
Or a barista, more aptly put, because there are multiple ways that we can stimulate this morning Cortisol spike...
An additional key factor in this process is - *cue drumroll* - yep, you guessed it, viewing morning sunlight.
Emphasis here should be placed on the word viewing, because in this situation we actually want the sunlight to hit our eyes, not just our skin (which also carries with it huge additional health benefits).
This is due to the presence of light-hungry receptors at the bottom corner of our eyes, which begin certain internal processes once they get their fix.
So, the advice is that we should all look towards the sun without sunglasses (corrective lenses are okay), but avoid direct viewing or any mode of viewing that causes discomfort.
If your goal is to feel more awake in the morning, then the literature suggests that we should:
view bright sunlight within the first 30-60 minutes after waking.
This will trigger - among other things - this spike in Cortisol and promote the cascade of internal events that get our day kick-started.
The amount of light that we should be viewing is very much dependent upon the light availability. On a sunny, clear morning, you may only need up to 5 minutes of sunlight-viewing to promote these benefits.
However, if it's overcast (which we're no stranger to here in the Netherlands), then we'll need a bigger hit. Perhaps 10 minutes on a normal overcast day, and up to 30 minutes if it's a truly dense cloud cover.
For those who live in corners of the world where sunlight is pretty scarce through Winter, then your best bet is to explore purchasing a ring light. This, while not quite the same, does carry some of the same effects.
Plus it doubles in use as a mood-setter for content creation, if you're that way inclined.
Viewing sunlight soon after waking in the morning not only serves to aid our feelings of wakefulness, it also has a powerful impact on our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep at night.
Thus setting us into a nice sleep-wake rhythm.
So there you have it. Two simple, cost-free, and almost effort-free tips that can have a profound and genuine impact on your ability to, A) wake up in the morning, and; B) go to sleep at night.
If you are a troubled sleeper, why not give these two a go for a couple weeks and see if you notice any difference?
Just out of interest...
The primary inspiration for the content in this blog post has been the following podcast from the Huberman Lab. It's worth a listen if you're interested in additional in-depth information:
Cover Image: @lizfosslien