To enjoy full health it is necessary to respect our circadian rhythms. To achieve this we must follow certain guidelines to receive the health benefits of sleep.
Some of the key rules: maintain regularity in your wake and sleep schedules, maintain regularity in the number of hours of sleep (which should be between 6 and 9 hours each day), maintain a clear distinction between our daytime and nighttime activities, synchronisation of the different times we live in each day (internal time, environmental time and social time), carry out physical exercise, avoid tobacco and alcohol etc.
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In cases of insomnia, certain additional rules should be followed, such as avoid naps, stimulants, self-medicating and limiting the amount of time spent in bed.
Over the years our biological clock can suffer from internal desynchronisation, which affect the circadian system which guide our wake/sleep rhythms, activity/rest periods, endocrine rhythms and metabolic rhythms.
To enjoy full health it is necessary to respect our circadian rhythms and maintain a degree of regularity in our hours of wakefulness and sleep as well as the number of hours of sleep; maintain a clear distinction between our daytime and nighttime activities, synchronisation of the different times we live in each day: internal time, environmental time and social time.
The following sleep health rules should be followed:
- The internal time is our genetic chronotype (early bird, intermediate or late night). The environmental time is imposed by light, whether natural (dawn, dusk) or artificial. The social time is imposed by work, social, leisure activities etc. We must make an effort to synchronise the three times and where possible adjust to the natural environmental time that is the sun.
- Any lack of regularity, contrast and synchronization can lead to a CRONIC DISRUPTION, which in turn can cause affective (emotional), immunological alterations, cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression, insomnia, etc.
- Every person needs a certain amount of sleep. Normally humans require between 6 and 9 daily hours of continuous sleep to achieve sufficient rest. In addition to this requirement, the sleep must be of sufficient quality so that the sleep is restorative.
- It has been shown that a short sleep pattern (less than 6 hours) affects 15% of the population and has been linked to poor health. The same can be seen in those with a long sleep pattern (greater than 9 hours) which affects 8-9% of the population. However, age is a central factor, the ideal sleep duration decreases from about 9 hours in adolescents to about 7 hours in the elderly.
- It is necessary to have a regular bedtime and wake time. This should always be around the same time throughout the week. Including the holidays. In young adults a schedule of 23 to 7 hours (8 hours) can be a recommended guideline.
- Do not compensate for the time spent on other tasks at the expense of sleep. Rest is a priority.
- Use your bed to sleep It is usually discouraged to watch television, listen to the radio, read, eat, or argue with others during bed time.
- Try to maintain optimal sleep conditions:
- Use warm (orange) lights from dusk.
- Consider placing the room in absolute darkness.
- Eliminate noise: avoid all kinds of noise, music is not advised.
- Pleasant temperature: between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius.
- Acceptable humidity conditions, ensure the room is ventilated.
- Appropriate bed, mattress and bedding.
- It is important to have a sleep ritual and repeat it every night. This should consist of performing the same routine, in the same order, just before falling asleep. Three or four behaviours should be included, such as brushing teeth, preparing the next day’s clothes, putting on pyjamas, praying etc. In this way you are conditioning your brain to start the sleep cycle.
- If it is necessary to get up at night, never turn on a white, yellow or blue light; only orange or red.
- Eliminate any device that generates electromagnetic fields in the bedroom (TV, radio, cordless phones, computers, tablets, etc.) and turn off any Wi-Fi system in the house at night.
- If you remain awake at night and it becomes hard to fall asleep, you should stay in bed and do not despair. Sleep does not occur voluntarily, it is like hunger or thirst. Sleeping is a passive process so to make efforts to fall asleep when one has been kept awake in an active process this process is contrary to sleep. The sleep process will begin when the brain needs it. Being laid on the bed also provides your body with rest.
- Try to dine earlier and avoid heavy meals (at least 2-3 hours before bedtime), and if you are hungry at bedtime, drink a glass of milk or a light carbohydrate which contains tryptophan (such as cocoa, avocado, pineapple, nuts etc.). Maintain healthy eating habits, do not eat protein foods or excess fats at dinner. Try to maintain regular schedules for lunch and dinner. Do not consume caffeine during the 4-6 hours before bedtime or any tobacco or alcohol in the 2-3 hours before bedtime.
- Taking a shower with warm/hot water before bedtime or a glass of milk can help the onset of sleep.
- Physical exercise carried out regularly during the week can improve the quality of deep sleep. If possible, this should be completed in the morning or early in the afternoon, at least two hours before bedtime and never immediately before.
- Avoid naps with a duration of more than 20 minutes during the day and limit them to one each day at noon, never after 17:00. It is more advisable for you to sleep 20 minutes before eating than after a meal.
- Remember that caffeine and stimulants alter sleep. Alcoholic beverages and tobacco, in addition to harming their health can impair their sleep.
- “Sleeping pills” should never be taken on their own initiative. In situations where it is necessary, a doctor should prescribe the sleeping pills.
- Avoid ruminating on work, study or personal problems at bedtime. If such concerns normally interfere with your, set 10 minutes before bed to clear your mind. Make a list with three columns:
- Those things that I must resolve tomorrow.
- Those things that I must resolve next week.
- Those things that I cannot resolve at the moment.
- If you suffer from insomnia:
- Avoid sleeping during the day and DO NOT nap during the day.
- Do not take stimulants (such as caffeine, tannin or coca cola). Even if you are tired during the day, such drinks will create a vicious circle.
- Do not drink too much water at the end of the day, so that during the night you can avoid the need to get up and urinate.
- Keep your alarm clock out of sight so that you can not see it when you are having problems sleeping or waking up during the night.
- If after 20 minutes of being in bed you can not sleep, get out of bed and do something very quiet to entertain or relax you: read a book, listen to quiet music and then when sleep comes, go back to bed, but do not go to bed before. All of this should be achieved without changing the time you get up the next day.
- Limit the amount of time spent in bed to a minimum of 6 hours and a maximum of 8 hours if you suffer from insomnia. Many people who suffer from insomnia go to bed too soon and get up too late. This habit should be avoided as this is not beneficial conditioning for your brain.
- Do not self-medicate. Avoid hypnotics and sedatives as much as possible: many are ineffective. In cases where you need to use them, it is important that you seek medical guidance. Some hypnotics are sold without a prescription but they also have side effects and can create an unwanted addiction.
- Cognitive-behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is a highly successful and recommended tool for those who need to combat insomnia. CBT-I includes 9 guided sessions. It is not always easy to adopt all of the recommendations, which is why these courses progressively acquire and strengthen healthy sleep habits.
- We sleep for approximately 250,000 hours of our lives which represents a third of our life. Sleep is something as essential as eating or drinking, so the brain, whether you want it or not, ends up forcing you to sleep. A few bad nights do not imply a horrible day, but only an extra day when you will feel tired.
In addition to the above sleep health rules it is important to note that from our 40’s our body typically fails to produce sufficient melatonin to maintain the proper functioning of our biological clock. We have already dealt with the issues surrounding melatonin supplementation on our blog.
That is why, at Neolife, we require our clients to take a Chrono Biotic Study, for the purpose of evaluating whether or not your biological clock is working properly, by using the following tests:
- Horne and Östberg questionnaire for the purpose of evaluating the genetic chronotype.
- Evaluation of the circadian phenotype by reference to the melatonin curve in saliva.
- PSQI Questionnaire on quality of sleep.
- Epworth Questionnaire on daytime sleepiness.