There are many ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle and mine is to try before recommending. It also keeps me "young and hungry".
You may be surprised that NFL teams have sleep coaches that travel with teams. These coaches tell players when to train, practice, and eat depending on their sleep and game schedules. There are many methods people apply to obtain a healthier physique with diets (Paleo, Keto, etc.) and fitness regimens (Zumba, Cross Fit, etc.) but people pay less attention to sleep patterns. Sleep is such a key variable in weight loss, and it's crucial for muscle building and fitness overall.
Here are four things you can focus on to get that right amount of sleep:
1) Temperature: The Warmer You Are, the Less You Sleep
Your internal body heat is a key variable in your sleep cycle. Essentially, your core body temperature is in cycle with the sleep-wake rhythm. Body temperature falls with the nocturnal sleep phase and increases during the wake phase repeatedly in our 24-hour circadian rhythm.
Room Temperature Affects Sleep
A closely connected element is room temperature. As Dr. Christopher Winter (a sleep doctor who works with fitness professionals) notes he has never met a single athlete who does not sleep in a cold room.
It is not just sleeping in a cool room. Research done at Harvard Medical School plotted responses from over 765,000 individuals who self-reported nighttime temperature anomalies suggest temperature greatly affects sleep quality.
The skinny of this research? Any drastic variation in temperature will result in insufficient sleep. While there are studies that attempt to link this with climate studies, I believe temperature anomalies are moreso related to what you can control.
2) Sleep Surface: Natural Is Better
You may be resting on a 10” deep mattress or, like in parts of Asia, spend an entire night on a straw mat. Gone are the days when you walked into a mattress store and are reminded of Will Ferrell in the Internship. Given the multiplicity of options on the internet, it's difficult to not be influenced by all the mattress ads.
Research has shown that natural materials are a time-tested choice. Wool specifically was found to significantly reduce movement during sleep. This is attributed to the versatile temperature regulating properties of wool. Sleep movements are a key part of getting in and out of sleep states.
In general, anything that is made from polyester foams should be treated with caution as you don’t want to inhale VoC or any other off-gassing substances. Most of these surfaces have come up in the last 40 years timing with the prevalence of allergies and cancer, with multiple research trying to explore this connection.
Another natural choice is cotton filling. Cotton filling is used by about 30% of humanity in India, Japan, Africa, and many others. From the middle ages on, cotton mattresses, along with animal hair, have been the primary base for bedding. In the picture below, cotton filling is paired with wool.
Another natural layer that is gaining popularity is latex. Beware, however, there are a lot of artificial latex sources.
Every mattress layer has its own innate temperature and firmness, so depending on how your body reacts ensure that the surface is the right one for you.
3) Sleep Wear
Given most Americans use polyester-based pajama fabric, it's important to look into naturally-produced pajamas.
Thermoregulation is essentially managed through the skin and, as mentioned above, it's a key portion of both circadian rhythm and sleep regulation. If your skin is enveloped with a fabric that cannot breathe or does not have features to support sleep, it can be dangerous. There are more organics and breathables entering fitness wear, but we're not seeing this same movement in the sleepwear industry.
Research in Australia found that if you sleep at 63F using wool, this promotes greater ease into sleep. When the temperature is close to 72F, sleeping in cotton was found to promote deeper Stage 3 sleep than wool.
Eliminate all fabrics made in a lab unless there is a longitudinal study backing up that there are no poor health consequences related to the fabric. Overall, any natural material-based sleepwear like cotton or silk is best. It breathes normally and does not emit any chemicals to your resting skin.
4) Lighting: More Lighting During the Day Is Better
The founder of chronobiology indicated that there are a lot of zeitgebers or external cues that impact our internal clock. One of the most important cues is light.
Simply avoid electronic devices at least an hour before sleep and don't leave your smartphone on your nightstand as it emits light and waves.
The lesser-known fact is the connection between natural lighting during the day to get better sleep at night. Researchers have confirmed that being in natural light during the waking hours helps one sleep far more quicker at night. It also helps reduce sleep disturbances compared to those who had lesser exposure.
This means you need to get a mid-afternoon walk when at work or take the dog out while at home. Use the weekend to spend more outdoor time unless it's frigid. Even then, having a sun-room to get that natural light will be better than under artificial fluorescent lights.
Stick to Natural Stuff
Elements like stress, work or study requirements, neighborhood, social pressures, etc will wildly vary and it's difficult to provide universal guidance. These are things also sometimes beyond our control.
Beginning to recognize the need for lifestyle changes is difficult. Keep this article in mind to stay on the right track to better sleep.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.