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Sleep and biorhythm tricks

One winter I stayed so much in the house, that I could not go to sleep any more, my biorhythm was completely off. My luck,  I had the time to make my own research and experiments. In case you want to try (with no warranties), here are my “workarounds” for a good night sleep:

Step 1

Making sure the body knows when the day starts

According to recent studies we need to expose in the morning for 15 minutes to light of 1500 lux. The trick: there are 1500 lux outside, even if cloudy, but not so often in the house. My shortcut: taking breakfast on the balcony, or going for a short walk early in the morning. A lux meter app on the smart phone is useful to check the light intensity.

Some cold face on the face and hands may help to amplify the morning cortisol spike.

Scheduling cardio exercise in the morning also is a good sign we send to our body the day has started ;)

Never tried, but Philips blue light lamp for the mornings seems an excellent idea.

Also it seems that exposure to outdoor light during the day improves the production of  melatonin in the night.

Step 2

Making sure the body knows when the day ends

After a normal day ends it helps not to expose yourself to blue light, which is specific for daytime. To do so:

- use warm light bulbs in the house (approx 2700 Kelvin). I prefer halogens, the color spectrum has higher quality than the economical light bulbs.

- i installed f.lux on my laptop, it makes my screen orange after sunset. I installed a similar app on my smart phone and tablet.

- I do not use a computer screen to watch movies, I project them on a wall, like in cinema.  TV screens have too much blue light, it does not help watching TV 1-2 hours before going to bed.

- special trick: late in the night I close the light on the ceiling and I start a light that stays on the floor (to mimic sunset). We are also influenced by the position of the light source.

- I changed to red/orange colors the background  on all devices that I use after sunset (anything but blue is better)

- no cardio exercises in the evening. If this is not possible, it helps at least lowering the exercise intensity and scheduling it as many hours before sleep time as possible.

- I prefer lower light intensity in the house 1 hour before going to bed.

- in the bedroom there is complete darkness

- I use a kindle paperwhite to read before falling asleep. E-ink technology makes pages visible with very little light, and it does not disturb my sleep quality. It is so much better than using a tablet, and even better than reading a “real” book with a light bulb on

- I try not to use lights if I wake up during the night. Low intensity red lights with movement sensors may help avoiding to turn on the lights. These night lights are easy to find in the stores.

Step 3

Making sure the body knows that you want a high quality 8h sleep

A new study suggests we are hardwired to sleep in the coldes 8h of the  24 day hours. Having a slightly colder bedroom seems to help (19 to max 21 degrees Celsius)

Our body knows if it is spring/summer/autumn/winter  via Vitamin(Hormone) D3 levels. Our metabolism, like the metabolism of all living things on this earth, adapts to seasons, and our sleep patterns also. D3 is a very smart season indicator, used by animals, because naturally you can have it very elevated only during summer, and very low only during winter.  During summer the night is short, so  we sleep without waking up in the night. Nature is abundant in the summer, so the body knows it has lots of energy to use as needed.  In winter nights are long, the sleep is not continuous, we wake up from time to time. Animals conserve the  resources in winter, because they are scarce, and they have a lower metabolic rate. But as we stay all day indoor, working in our offices, our D3 levels indicate to our body that is winter. But we want to stay up at night until late, as it was eternal summer…   Optimizing D3 levels is a long story. There are lots of info at Vitamin D3 Council. There is a blood test called 25OH, to add to the yearly medical checkup. Optimal daily sun exposure is very important. If needed, D3 supplements can be used when the sun is not strong enough.

 

Step 4

Diminishing other potential biorhythm disruptors.

- as low caffeine as possible. Some people (like me) are more sensitive to caffeine, as it is processed  very slowly. Usually I am ok with green tea. I gave up caffeine addiction many times. Always is the same for me: for two weeks  there is hell, then I start feeling as good without coffee as I was before with it. Bonus, sometimes I manage to take a nap after lunch (but not when drinking coffee in the morning). To be able to lower caffeine, I found music gives me a great energy boost, also fresh air and exposure to cold water.

- not (too much) alcohol before going to bed (it lowers sleep quality)

- no eating heavy meals before going to bed

Step 5

Adding good daily routines

- drinking lots of water in the morning, right after getting up

- eating at the same hours each day (small meals if we are so not hungry)

- opening all the house  windows for at least 10 minutes early in the morning, and again before going to bed at night. Also during winter.

I could watch the quality of my sleep improving using my mobile phone. I installed a good sleep app and put my phone  under my pillow (in airplane mode ideally). I liked it more than using a wrist sleep monitoring device, because in the morning I could immediately see the sleep report on the phone screen. No need to synchronize a second device with a phone app. For iphone/ipad I liked a lot an app called “Sleep Cycle”. My prefered smart phone app a year ago was   “Sleep as Android”.

 

Of course, we would not need these tricks if we lived the lives of our grandparents. The biorhythm is disturbed in a soft but definitive way by our technology (artificial light, screens of devices, staying all day indoor, not exposed to the elements). The good news:  solutions like the ones above are very easy to apply.

 

 

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