Sleep is a superhero, proven to reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, improve our memory and mood, increase our cognitive function, and reduce our stress levels. It helps keep us slim, too. (Ever feel just a little “tighter” after a good night’s rest?) So, how can we improve our sleep and get more of that waist-slimming shut-eye? Well, it’s not just about how much sleep we get. It turns out that when we go to bed, when we wake up, and the amount of light we’re exposed to before bedtime all play significant roles as well.
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A lot of what our body “does” is in response to the lightness or darkness of our environment. Circadian rhythms are biological processes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, and the main external cue for these processes is the light-dark cycle of a day. For example, our brain wave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration, and other biological activities are all linked to the light-dark cycle.
If we disrupt the light-dark cycle, we disrupt our circadian rhythms. Unfortunately, we do this all the time. Simply put, it’s too light at night. Artificial light allows us to stay awake long after sundown, and the blue light from televisions, computers, tablets, cell phones, and other screens only keep us up and stimulated later. All of this blue light suppresses melatonin production and interferes with our sleep.
Melatonin is the hormone that makes you sleepy. It’s also a potent antioxidant and DNA protector, and helps regulate other hormones. When it’s dark, your body produces more melatonin. When it’s light, this production drops. Normally, melatonin levels begin to rise in the evening and remain high for most of the night. Then, in the early morning hours, those levels drop and the hormone cortisol is released, waking you up.
Melatonin helps us maintain our circadian rhythms by getting us to sleep. However, the blue light from artificial lighting and electronic devices suppresses melatonin production. If you’re out late, stay up watching TV, or lay in bed looking at Facebook, your body doesn’t produce the normal levels of melatonin. When you finally turn off the lights, you may not fall asleep right away.
New amber lenses that block blue light are proven to be very effective! This is a huge advantage for working late, watching TV, or taking your phone to bed. The lenses should be worn after dark until you go to bed. Okay, so they may not look sexy, but the ends justify the means, right?
Dim florescent lights or turn them off completely. Lower the brightness of your phone and computer screen as you move into the evening hours.
Aim for eight hours of sleep at night, but try your best to wake and go to bed with the sun. The closer you can get your sleep hours aligned with natural light cycles, the more benefits you’ll reap.
Eating your calories earlier in the day and cutting carbs at dinner minimizes blood glucose excursions and proclivity for fat storage, and goes along with circadian nutrient timing. According to the Alves study, a low-carb, protein-rich dinner best preserves lean tissue during weight loss.
Have you tried any of these better sleep solutions? Let us know in the comments!
Be Well. Be Beautiful. Be YOU!