Sunday, July 25, 2010

Easier Sleep

There are two ways you can reset you sleep-wake cycle for easier sleep. According to a study from the Harvard Medical School, not eating for 12-16 hours regulates our circadian rhythm and can especially help those that work late shifts or suffer from jet lag. Scientist have found a “food clock” that takes over when we are hungry and overrides our main clock by fooling it into thinking it is a new day. How does this work?

You need to stop eating during the 12-16 hour period before you want to wake up or land in a new time zone. When you start to eat again your sleep-wake cycle will reset thinking it is the start of a new day. Your body will consider the time you started to eat as your new morning. For instance, if you want to wake up at 4am, you need to stop eating between 8am-12pm the previous day and don’t eat again until you wake up at 4am. Make certain you eat well in order to jumpstart your system.

Why does this work? It’s a survival mechanism. In animals their “food clock” allows them to switch behavioral patterns after a period of starvation to maximize its opportunity to find food at the same time the following day.

So in the case of jet lag simply avoid eating 12-16 prior to landing and this should help you adjust to the new time zone. Late shift workers should stop eating 12-16 hours before they wake up to get ready to go to work.

Another way to reset your sleep-wake cycle is making sure you get some early morning sunlight. Light interrupts our ability to get to sleep at night because it inhibits melatonin production. That is why it is imperative not to have any light in your bedroom so you can fall asleep easy. Early morning light will tell our brain it is time to wake up and start a new day. Why early morning light?

[caption id="attachment_237" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Light Therapy for Easier Sleep"]lighttherapy[/caption]

Wonder why Monday mornings you find it hard to get out of bed? When we get up later and stay up later we offset our biological clock which will work against us when we try to fall asleep and wake up when we need to. It’s essential to stick to a sleep routine even on the weekends and reset your internal clock each day so it stays compatible with the earth’s 24 hour daily rhythm and your daily activities.

Researchers have studied people who are deprived of light for a period of time so they don’t reset their biological clock and find they experience changes in their sleep pattern, body temperature and hormone levels. Major factors can affect our internal clock, but light appears to be crucial for you to fall asleep and wake up at preferred times.

Morning light exposure will be most beneficial between 6-8:30am as sunlight later does not provide the same advantages nor does indoor light. Direct sunlight outdoors for at least one-half hour produces the most benefit. Not only will you sleep better, direct sunlight will help keep SAD away. SAD or seasonal effective disorder causes a form of depression that tends to occur seasonally especially during the winter months when people don’t get enough direct sunlight. Doctors recommend phototherapy during the darker months for those suffering from SAD and prescribe specially designed light boxes that simulate sunlight. In order to get the same effect as natural sunlight, the light box must have a brightness of 10,000 lux to regulate a person’s sleep-wake cycle for easier sleep.
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