Biohacking your sleep – it’s as easy as 1, 2, Z

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Counting sheep has moved on – now biohacking is the best way for top-quality shut-eye.

Did you sleep really well last night? Leap from your bed this morning feeling totally refreshed, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready for a new day of adventures?

The likelihood is not; in a busy, stressful world, where phones demand our attention day and night, worries fight for attention and noise and light invade our bedrooms, it can be difficult to get the quality sleep you need to be on your game. A lack of sleep can hamper executive functions, cognitive ability and productivity, but like so many things health and wellbeing-related, we only really appreciate its value when it’s lacking.

You are not alone

It is estimated that around 30 to 40% of people experience sleep problems, with an enormous 70 million Americans and 45 million Europeans suffering from chronic sleep deprivation. Sleep deficit has big impact on our physical and mental health, yet pulling an all-nighter or burning the candle at both ends are still considered to be boasts of hard work and commitment.

However, a proper night’s rest recharges your mental and physical batteries, leading to not only a more positive mindset, but sharper focus, heightened alertness and better physical endurance.

Behind closed eyes

When you’re asleep, your brain empties your mental recycle bin and clears out the toxins between your brain cells that build-up during the day. Your body uses this downtime for vital repair and growth time, as well as bolstering the immune system and tackling dangerous inflammation.

A lack of sleep can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure and coronary heart disease. Poor sleep has also been linked to poor insulin regulation and resistance, which can cause diabetes.

Biohacking your way to better sleep

Here are some top tips for ensuring a better night’s sleep:

  • Balance your hormones through a balanced diet and regular exercise. Supplements can help to tackle any remaining deficiencies;
  • Keep an eye on your exposure to light. When it’s dark, your brain secretes more melatonin, a naturally-occurring hormone that is controlled by light-exposure and helps to maintain the body’s normal sleep cycle (circadian rhythm). Night-time levels of melatonin are at least 10 times higher than daytime concentrations and exposure to light blocks the production of melatonin, so the darker your room, the better. Say goodbye to night lights and hello to decent curtains or blackout blinds and stop looking at your phone!
  • Morning sunlight helps improve the quality and duration of sleep that comes later on as it boosts serotonin production and dials down melatonin production. It’s also brilliant for getting some Vitamin D on board. If sunlight is hard to come by due to climate, season, or a windowless office environment, natural lightbulbs can be a quick fix;
  • Like all things health, regular exercise is on the list. Not only does regular exercise improve the amount and quality of sleep, but it also increases the amount of time spent in the deeper and more restorative sleep stages;
  • You get out of sleep what you put in – or take in. Limit caffeine and nicotine and indulge as far away from bedtime as possible. Spicy or acidic foods can cause stomach trouble and heartburn and make for a disturbed night, as can too much cheese; in addition, an earlier dinnertime can make for a better night’s sleep. Alcohol may aid with sleep as it can make you feel sleepy, but don’t be fooled; people who drink before bed often experience disruptions later in their sleep cycle as liver enzymes metabolise alcohol.

As will all biohacking, the devil is in the detail; experiment with what works best for you and sweet dreams!

Image credits: By Stephen Parker 1 / Shutterstock

 


 

The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Eleanor Garth
Deputy Editor Now a science and medicine journalist, Eleanor worked as a consultant for university spin-out companies and provided research support at Imperial College London and various London hospitals in a former life.

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