Improving Your Sleep
The ideal of calm exists in a sitting cat.
Sleep is the essential foundation of good health. Physiologically it allows the organism to regenerate, and psychologically it helps get rid of tension and unconscious thoughts through the mechanism of dreams. The number of hours of sleep that you need varies from one person to the next, but, on the whole, if you are under seven hours you are going short on sleep. As well, a night that is interrupted by waking up frequently will not be as effective as a period of sleeping straight through. Besides having trouble concentrating and the unpleasant sensation of “brain fog,” bad quality sleep engenders a state of chronic fatigue that leads to numerous pathologies of a psychological nature (stress, depression) or of a physical nature (cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, obesity).
GETTING TO SLEEP
Sleep is essential for regenerating your brain. To give yourself the best chance of having a good night, you only need to apply a few commonsense rules.
You need to avoid having too big an evening meal or working out just before going to sleep. Have your evening meal relatively early so that the process of digestion is well under way when you go to bed.
You need to take care that your bedroom is quiet, well ventilated, and especially not too hot. A body temperature that is even slightly too high will disturb your sleep. The ideal temperature for the bedroom is between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
The hour before sleep should be devoted to activities that are quiet and not stressful. Therefore, it is best to turn off screens (computers, TVs, smartphones) and to give yourself over to pastimes that promote serenity.
Also you will find it helpful to go to bed at the same time every night. By fostering such bedtime rituals your body will get used to distinguishing activity time from sleep time.
Cherry Juice--a Natural Sleep Inducer
British scientists have recently shown the astonishing effects of cherry juice on falling asleep. Cherry juice acts by increasing the level of melatonin secreted at night and promotes sleep cycles. By drinking only 30 milliliters (a tenth of an ounce) of cherry juice twice a day, volunteers noticed that their time asleep increased by twenty-five minutes after one week. Kiwis also have beneficial effects. As for me, I really prefer having a cherry kiwi drink to promote a good night’s sleep to using sleeping pills, which produce poor-quality sleep and a heavy waking up.
Insofar as possible, you need to have complete darkness in your bedroom. If that’s not possible, don’t hesitate to buy an eye mask at the drug store. Researchers at Ohio State University have shown that, in hamsters, exposure to artificial light at night promotes depressive behavior. The reason is simple: as with humans, nighttime exposure to light engenders hormonal changes and has an effect on cerebral neurotransmitters. For fifty years the level of depression has been steadily increasing and can be correlated with the fact that our environment is illuminated more and more with artificial light (screens, signs, street lights). Other studies conducted with hamsters have shown that an increase in states of depression and often obesity are linked to light sources that were present during sleep. The final study of this kind on hamsters led to the identification of a specific protein that explains the link between nighttime lighting and depression. Blocking this protein protected the hamsters that were exposed to light at night from depression. Be sure to remove all sources of light pollution from your bedroom, even minimal ones such as the points of light from a console, a cell phone being charged, or a TV in sleep mode. You will save on power and you will awaken full of positive energy in the morning.
WAKING UP RIGHT
Early Risers Are Thinner and Happier
A team of British researchers compared two groups of people: a first group who woke up at 7:47 a.m. and a second group who woke up at 10:09 a.m. The study was conducted with 1,000 subjects and used two types of measurement: psychological scales to define the level of well-being of the participants and weight and height to evaluate the condition of being overweight. They found that the early risers were in better health, thinner, and happier. The scientists noted as well that the morning people were more willing to have a hearty breakfast that allowed them to maximize their energy reserves and to snack less during the following hours. The internal body clock releases the secretion of certain hormones such as cortisol, which reaches its maximum level every day at 8 a.m. When you realize that cortisol participates in morning energy, we certainly have the beginning of an explanation.
Six Ways of Waking Up in Good Shape
• Avoid an aggressive alarm clock or a radio at full volume.
• Take your time: set your alarm clock fifteen minutes early to avoid rushing.
• Before getting out of bed, stretch like a cat to wake up your body gently.
• Take a cold shower, excellent for body tone.
• Don’t skimp on breakfast.
• Practice positive thinking: if your schedule is packed, you can, for example, mentally visualize the end of the day when you’ll be getting home to take a nice bath or to be with your children.
Wake Up Once
Falling asleep again after turning off the alarm leads to tiredness during the day: this is the conclusion of a study conducted by Dr. Edward Stepanski of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Falling asleep again has a counterproductive effect. This is the famous sensation of being “fuzzy” until late in the morning. The best solution seems to be to wake up with the radio by placing it at some distance from the bed so you don’t fall victim to the reflex of just shutting it off.