Sleep cycle tips
Snooze you don’t lose: how to sleep yourself super
A powerful day starts with a supercharged night’s sleep. Getting your zzzzz in helps regulate the hormones that balance your appetite, supports your immune system, and keeps your energy levels zinging all day. It can even help you create and consolidate new memories. Amazing, right?
And when it comes to getting strong, sleep really is our secret weapon. It’s during your deepest sleep phase that your muscles repair and grow, and your energy bank is filled up.
There are four sleep phases. First comes light sleep – when you’re drifting in and out of consciousness and can be woken up easily. Ever dreamt you’ve tripped or fallen and woke up with a jolt? That’ll be the light sleep phase.
Light sleep is followed by a second phase, often called sleep onset. This is when you’re truly asleep. Your breathing and heart rate regulate, your eye movements still, your core temperature drops and your brain waves slow. It’s during this phase that your cortisol (sometimes known as the ‘stress hormone’) dips to its lowest level in the day.
The third and fourth stages of sleep are your deepest and most restorative. Your brain waves become super chilled, the blood flow to your muscles increases, helping to repair them and restore strength, and essential hormones for your muscle growth are released.
In between each of these phases are periods of rapid eye movement – REM. REM occurs 70-90 minutes after falling asleep, and about every 90 minutes between each cycle. During REM, your breathing becomes shallow and irregular, your eyes twitch, your limbs become temporarily paralysed, and your brain waves become disorganised. Sounds scary, right? Actually, REM is the fun bit. It’s when you dream, and when your energy levels are built up for the day ahead so you can perform at your best.
5 tips to make your 8 hours work harder
Prioritising a good night sleep is one of the best things you can do for your body and brain. Here are five things you can do tonight to get your best night’s sleep yet.
- Cut the uppers and downers
Coffee’s cool but remember that caffeine stays in your system for 5-10 hours after you drink it. So resist that after dinner espresso to avoid staying up into the small hours. Nicotine is also a stimulant, so it goes without saying that a pre-bedtime cigarette is a no-no
Alcohol, on the other hand, is a depressant. It may help you drop off, but will also suppress the other amazing things that happen while you sleep, like your metabolism and muscle repair, and disrupt your precious REM. So steer clear of alcoholic drinks if you’re looking forward to a good night’s sleep - and of course invest in a good mattress that lets you sleep like a rock.
- Ditch the digital
Us humans are programmed to wake up when it’s light and time to get stuff done, and sleep when it’s dark and there’s not much going on. So it makes sense that a dark, quiet space is best for sleeping in.
The bright screens we’ve grown so fond of don’t do us any favours at nighttime. Keep your bedroom tech free to make sure it stays dark and you’re not tempted to scroll through your Instagram feed one last time.
- Get high
When you’re active all day, blood and lymph fluid tends to pool in your legs. This can make your legs and feet feel tired and swollen at night, and being uncomfortable can leave you tossing and turning in bed.
To relax your legs, get your blood flowing and shift that lymph fluid, just elevate your legs for 15 – 30 minutes before bed. You can lie on the floor or a bed and rest them at a 90-degree angle against a wall, or lie on the floor and put your feet on a sofa or chair.
- Get some O₂
Deep breathing has been used for centuries in meditation and prayer, and is now central to many of our yoga and mindfulness practices. And with good reason. It oxygenates the blood, promotes relaxation and helps us deal with stressful situations by calming the ‘fight or flight’ response.
Using the 4-7-8 method of deep breathing can really help you chill out before bed. Breathe in through your nose for a count of four. Hold it, and count to seven. Then slowly, gently, let that breath go for a count of eight. Aaaaand relax.
- Tuck in
Cortisol is the hormone released in response to stress and low blood sugar. It’s definitely not one you want coursing through your veins when you’re trying to sleep.
Luckily, there’s a delicious way to lower cortisol levels and cure those sweet cravings before bed. Sprinkle half a teaspoon of your favorite natural sugar syrup, like honey or coconut syrup, which helps lower cortisol by elevating insulin slightly, with good quality sea salt, which also helps lower cortisol and balance blood sugar. Tuck in, tuck up and drift off.
Imager credit: https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/285556432601013204/