Why should you want to Hack Your Sleep?

sleep stress Feb 07, 2022

By Dr Tshidi Gardiner, BSc BVSc Pg Cert Surg MRCVS

Sleep scientists tell us that it's not the number of hours that matters. It is the quality of your sleep that is essential for physical and mental health. Many people sleep for 7 – 8 hours a night but still wake up feeling drained and unrested. This is because the quality of their sleep is poor. They are unable to enter into the state of deep sleep that relaxes and rejuvenates the body. 

Quality sleep means waking up energised and filled with vitality, regardless of how many hours you have slept. This needs to be your main focus; not just falling asleep, but sleeping well. We can use a number of safe and natural biohacking techniques to improve our overall sleep quality. The following blogs will discuss some of the most popular and successful sleep & stress hacks.

Circadian rhythm simply means our body's internal clock. Keeping it balanced and stable is essential for quality sleep. Our circadian rhythm also regulates a number of important hormones, including melatonin. There are many factors that can contribute to circadian imbalance, including blue light exposure in the evening, poor diet, increased stress, and impaired sleep. The significance of sleep. “In clinical practice, poor sleep hygiene or a lack of understanding of the purpose of sleep seems to be the greatest disruptor of the circadian system,” explains integrative mental health expert and naturopathic clinician Peter Bongiorno, ND, LAc.

The circadian system regulates far more than just the sleep-wake cycle; however, when this system is disrupted, the most noticeable effects are on sleep and the stress response. This is significant because both chronic stress and lack of sleep have been associated with several serious illnesses including the leading causes of disease-related mortality—cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. 

Most of us are busy and try to extend our day into the night as much as possible, which can lead to circadian disruption. Sleep plays a critical role in neurological function and influences systemic physiology across many other body systems. Whether there is a deficit in sleep quantity, quality, or both, sleep disruption can lead to numerous negative health effects including: 

  • Decreased cognitive function 
  • Emotional distress 
  • Increased HPA activity 
  • Increased inflammation 
  • Metabolic changes 
  • Mood disorders 
  • Performance deficits

Many factors can contribute to sleep impairment, including: 

  • Alcohol intake 
  • Anxiety, worry, and rumination 
  • Caregiving (both the physical and emotional demands) 
  • Chronic pain 
  • Drug abuse 
  • Excess night time caffeine intake 
  • Excess night time light and/or noise exposure 
  • Health conditions such as obstructive sleep apnoea or restless leg syndrome 
  • Parenting young children 
  • Shift work 
  • Some medications such as anticonvulsants, dopamine agonists, and psychostimulants 
  • Lack of sleep and stress often go hand-in hand so addressing both in practice is important

Quick win: Spending time in the sun prepares your body for peaceful sleep by boosting dim-light melatonin production. Ideally, 15 – 20 minutes a day at least. This one of the simplest sleep hacks you can use – and it's completely free! It’s as easy as a walk in the park during lunch break, or having a smoothie at an outdoor café. No matter how busy your day, there are still many opportunities to grab some sun.

Over the next few weeks I'll be releasing a regular blog on hacking your sleep.  Start with one or two hacks that resonate the most with you. Give yourself a week or two to experiment and see what results you get. Incorporate the hacks that give you the best sleep into your daily routine. Practice them regularly until they become habits. Move on to another hack and repeat the process.

Don't forget to check out my e-book on how to 'Hack Your Sleep: A Beginners Guide to Enjoying Quality Sleep'.  Click on the image to get a sneak peak!

Until Next Time, Much Love & Appreciation

Your Wellness Coach




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