Tips and Tricks for a More Regenerative Sleep
How did you sleep last night? We don’t always even need to hear an answer to this question before we know it. Sometimes a glance into a person’s face tells it all – they look rugged and groggy.
Yet, after a good night’s sleep we can look very different as well – our faces lit up and we almost look younger. This isn’t a trick either, as sleep has powerful regenerative qualities and I’m about to let you in on the secrets of getting a more regenerative sleep.
WHY YOU NEED A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP?
Before I delve into the secrets of a good regenerative sleep, the focus should be on the most essential questions of all: Why does any of this matter?
Knowing how much benefits there are to sleep can help you make long lasting and effective chances. You truly start understanding why the following tricks are worth trying out and what you gain for sticking with them even if they seem silly at first.
Perhaps the most crucial changes you’ll start seeing as you start sleeping better are in terms of your mental wellbeing. Regenerative sleep will help you feel better and boost your mind’s capacity to operate. A study in 2002 looked at the impact sleep has on training in terms of motor skills. The study found that a good night’s sleep improved motor skills by 20%, while being awake had no significant increase to performance. Furthermore, the study highlighted the importance of the regenerative stages of sleep, which we’ll outline in the next section. According to the data, there was a significant correlation between improvement in motor skills and the amount of sleep the person got during the second stage. In effect, by guaranteeing you sleep soundly, you can improve how your body is able to learn and adjust to new circumstances.
In addition to boost in learning, a good sleep is beneficial in your ability to solve problems. In a separate study, published in Nature in 2004, scientists found sleep to be crucial for restructuring new memory representations. This in turn was found to improve the person’s ability to solve complex problems. According to the study, you can boost your chances of gaining new insight and ideas to problems simply by sleeping eight hours. So, next time you encounter a problem, you should just explore it for a while and then have a good, long sleep. Once you wake up, you might just have a solution for your problems. There’s plenty of truth in the saying, “Let’s sleep on it”.
How does all of the above relate to mental wellbeing? Well, by being able to solve problems and learn new skills, you are essentially removing certain stresses away from your vicinity. You improve your ability to encounter tough challenges and to get over them without them turning into a huge problem in your mind.
But it’s not just that sleep relaxes you and helps you gain perspective and knowledge, your body will benefit from a good night sleep as well. Stress has been shown to cause problems in skin health and its youthfulness. By reducing stress, through regenerative sleep, you can also improve your skin’s health and not just feel more radiant, but also look the part. Testosterone production also increases when you are sleeping well. In other studies, low testosterone in men has been linked to sleep apnoea and its harmful effects and by improving your sleep, you can prevent these problems occurring.
Furthermore, sleeping well could even help you lose weight and to maintain a slimmer body. This is because lack of sleep has been linked with unbalanced insulin secretion, which is one cause of obesity. You can probably relate to this point easily, as we’ve all experienced those tired moments when McDonald’s always seems a better idea to a salad bowl. Finally, but by no means least important, the physical benefit of proper sleep could reduce your risk of cancer. Sleep is strongly shown to boost healthy cell division, which is crucial for fighting and preventing cancerous cells. Furthermore, the same study noted how irregular and insufficient sleep patters could cause abnormal metabolism, which can increase problems with your heart health as well.
One study of professional basketball players actually looked at the overarching benefits of quality sleep. The researchers found a clear link between better athletic performance and enhanced sleep. The players reported they had more energy and felt less fatigued during and after games. In fact, they didn’t just say the performance was better, but the mood improved as well. Sleep and its importance have become a big talking point in the past few years. If you need more convincing of its benefits, listen to this interview with Arianna Huffington.
THE DIFFERENT STAGES OF SLEEP
I mentioned the importance of stage three and four in the previous section. That’s correct, sleep isn’t just sleep from the moment you fall asleep to the time you wake up. In between, you go through four different stages, all of which are important, yet some of which have a crucial role in regenerative sleep. During the night, your body will cycle through the following stages:
|The stage of sleep||What happens during this stage?|
|N1||You feel almost half asleep during this stage and it’s the moment where you are still somewhat aware of your surroundings, but when you start slowly losing this awareness. Often during N1, your body can make involuntary movements and you might feel your legs or arms jerking and twitching.|
|N2||The N2 is the slightly deeper stage of N1 and it’s when you lose your awareness of the surroundings. You aren’t still fully immersed in sleep, but more or less unaware of what is happening around you. This stage actually takes up most of your nightly sleep, as it’s roughly 50% of total sleep time.|
|N3||In the third stage of sleep you are in a state of deep. Your body’s core temperature sets at this point and you are producing melatonin at a higher rate. During this stage, your muscles are fully relaxed and you are in a regenerative sleep. The mind and the body are regenerating and recovering from the day’s events. The stage doesn’t last too long and it cycles you to the most productive part of the different sleep cycles: REM.|
|REM||The final stage, although it doesn’t mean it’s the last stage you sleep in, as these four keep cycling, is the REM or Rapid Eye Movement stage. When you are dreaming, you are in the REM stage. Interestingly, REM stage only takes around a quarter of our nightly sleep, but it is, together with N3, the most important part of getting a good night’s sleep and gaining the above benefits.|
So, during the night your body will cycle between the two stages. The most important thing is to guarantee you sleep uninterrupted, so that you can reach the REM stage. You should enter this regenerative state at least once a night, although twice would be optimal. If you are interested in the stages and especially the REM state, you should check out the video below.
THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF REGENERATIVE SLEEP
How can you guarantee you maximize the benefits and enjoy regenerative sleep each night? There are a few essential building blocks to regenerative sleep and I’ll look at these along with some tips on how to achieve them before providing you a few extra tricks to keep up your sleeve when sleeping become an issue.
Solid sleeping environment
Unsurprisingly perhaps, the most crucial factor for good sleep is the environment in which you sleep in. If you think about the best sleep you’ve ever had, you probably didn’t sleep in a fully crowded departures lounge or on the office floor? To guarantee a solid sleeping environment, you need to focus on a few key elements. These include:
Your mattress has a huge impact on how well you sleep. Pick the wrong type of mattress and you’ll be tossing and turning all night long. Remember, the right kind doesn’t mean the softest is always the best. We tend to have preferences in the softness of mattress, with some of us loving a sturdier mattress and others avoiding those as much as possible.
When it comes to mattress type, the key is to test what suits you the best and to change the mattress regularly (Sleep Train recommends changing it every 7 years). Below is an image to help you when shopping for mattresses.
Source and Copyrights: SoundBord.co
The right room temperature and noise control
After mattress, your focus should shift to the room temperature and its noisiness. First, if you go and check your bedroom’s room temperature, I’m almost certain it’s set too high. This is not because you have made a huge mistake, but because most of us make this critical error of warming our bedroom too much. Our intuition tends to tell us that warmer is better and cosier.
While you shouldn’t be moving to an igloo, you will sleep well simply by turning down the room temperature a notch. The Wall Street Journal reported on the latest research on the subject and concluded that science shows the ideal temperature to be 65 Fahrenheit or around 18 Celsius. Keeping the room relatively chilly and then nestling in under thick, comforting blankets will feel amazingly soothing – just try it.
In terms of sound, you would want to limit the noise levels. Since you can’t stop the outside world when you sleep, you should try white noise. It can block out background noise and it helps your body to relax. You can find white noise sleeping apps online – Sleep Genius is a useful app to consider if the noises are your sleeping kryptonite.
Finally, your sleeping environment should focus on the quality of air inside the room. You should plant a few plants to help in the production of fresh air. Jasmine can help reduce anxiety, according to a study and can therefore be helpful in nurturing your sleep.
Aloe Vera emits oxygen at nighttime, guaranteeing plenty of fresh air in the room while you are sleeping. Above all, remember to regularly clean the bedroom and to open the air to allow fresh air to flow across the room.
Effective sleeping habits
The above tips help you optimize your sleeping environment, but you also need proper sleeping habits for regenerative sleep. The effective habits are surprisingly easy to follow and you won’t need to start changing your whole life around. You need to focus on two key habits: a sleeping schedule and your eating and drinking habits.
In terms of schedule, you should create a solid sleeping routine. If you go to bed at 11pm on one day, 8pm the next and 3am on certain days, you keep your body guessing and it therefore doesn’t know when to relax. You must keep to your body’s circadian rhythm, which is the natural sleep-wake cycle. Stick to a regular sleeping time as much as you can. Choose a time when you are naturally tired (try to make it before 10pm) and ditch the alarm clock.
OK, that might cause alarm bells to ring in your head, but the truth of the matter is: if you are sleeping enough, you don’t need an alarm. If you are not willing to sleep fully without a clock, get one that adjusts to your sleep stages and wakes you up at a time when you are already alert. To ensure you aren’t like a walking zombie each morning, increase your exposure to sunlight as soon as you get up.
Go stand in the balcony, or front yard for a few second to bask in the sun – it doesn’t even need to be fully sunny; you just need plenty of natural light. If it is actually dark outside when you wake up, you can purchase a natural light lamp. These are great for improving your mood and helping you sleep better. Light exposure is not only crucial in the morning.
Your body starts preparing for sleep as soon as the sun goes down, because the lack of this natural light sends a signal to your body to start producing more melatonin. As this happens, you become drowsier. This is exactly why you want to try follow the natural sleeping pattern. But it also means that if you are in a brightly lit environment late at night or are exposed to superficial light, you might find it hard to fall asleep.
You should also adjust your sleep and eating routines before bedtime. Proper hydration is essential for ensuring a good night’s sleep. So, you should try to increase your water intake throughout the day, although you want to avoid drinking right before bedtime. Being adequately hydrated will also help with the other part of the equation: eating habits.
If you are adequately dehydrated and you drink enough water, you won’t feel that false sense of hunger as often and therefore reach out to a box of biscuits. If you overeat three to four hours before sleep, your regenerative hormones won’t generate as efficiently. Your pancreas and liver are still trying to digest the meal, instead of releasing these regenerative hormones and helping your body to recover and rejuvenate. You definitely don’t want to leave the biggest meal of your day to just a few hours before you try to sleep. If you want to eat something before sleep (an hour or so), you should add the following on the menu:
- Fresh fruit, like banana and apples
- Vegetables, such as broccoli or green beans
- A broth soup
You should also start monitoring the effect caffeine has on your body. If you continue having trouble sleeping, you should check whether drinking caffeinated drinks (coffee, soda, or tea) has an impact and start leaving a bigger gap between sleeping and drinking them. Other supplements and chemicals you want to avoid enjoying close to sleep include: alcohol, nicotine and food preservatives.
Good control of stress levels
Finally, regenerative sleep requires a good control of your stress levels. The inconvenient truth is that if you are always stressed, you won’t be able to sleep soundly. You need to find a way to reduce your stress overall and especially the feeling of anxiety and stress as the night draws closer. So, what is the best way to control stress? There are two simple solutions to this age-old problem: proper exercise and meditation for stress management.
Exercise releases hormones in your body and these hormones can help fight stress in a few different ways. First, you strengthen your body and its immune system. This helps you become stronger and your immune system to withstand more stress. The healthier you are, the less negative effect being busy can have on your body.
Furthermore, the hormones promote the healthy functioning of your body, boosting your melatonin production and helping you sleep better at night. So, if you are stressed and your sleep is not solid, you should start exercising more. Just remember, you don’t want to exercise right before bedtime. Exercise increased adrenaline production; meaning you might be lying in bed super excited about your newfound energy boost after the jog! Try adding some exercise to your morning or afternoon routines.
You can also control stress through meditation. You want to use meditation and relaxing techniques to calm your mind and prepare your body for rest. The Internet has plenty of great guides to meditating and relaxing. For example, I found the below video helpful when I started meditating.
There are a few easy ways to feel calmer. These rituals are not necessarily as effective as meditating, but the rituals can help take your mind off from the daily stresses and help you slow down to a different rhythm after a long day. So, before bedtime, you could:
- Read a happy or positive book in soft light.
- Listen to relaxing music while lying down in darkly lit room.
- Stretch your body gently.
- Dim the lights around the house and prepare your To Do-list for the next day.
TRICKS TO SLEEPING BETTER
The above provide you the basic building blocks required for a good night sleep. They are the essential tips to follow if you want to enjoy from regenerative sleep. But if you’d like to enhance the impact of sleep and ensure you rest well each night, you should consider the below tricks as well.
Take time to worry
As I said above, stress can be a huge block for sleeping well. When you have a lot on your plate, it can be hard to just simply relaxing and putting your worries aside. Therefore, an unconventional, but highly effective trick is to take time to worry. Yes, you read that right. You should pick a moment and just spend all your energy thinking about the things that bother you.
Does it sound a bit masochistic? It shouldn’t scare you because the technique can help you feel more relaxed and to help you sleep more peacefully. And if you remember, one of the mental benefits of sleep was enhanced problem solving, so you might just fix your problems asleep with the technique.
What do you need to do? Get a pen and paper and choose a specific 15-minute period for worrying. This can be anytime of the day, just not the last thing you do before sleeping. Set an alarm clock for 15-minutes and start worrying. Write each one of them down on paper, either in words or images. Be specific and let it all out, no matter how miniscule. After time is up, take a few deep breaths and stop thinking about the worries. This can help you sleep easier and make you realize some of those worries might not be worth worrying about.
Use essential oils and supplements
If you are having real trouble sleeping, you might find help in essential oils and supplements. There are natural products that can aid in the production of melatonin and which make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. The actual science behind many essential oils and supplements is not conclusive, but it doesn’t hurt to try. You might find these products helpful and that is all that matters, not whether they are backed by proper studies.
In terms of essential oils, the recommended mixtures include:
Use the essential oils either on your body or in the room. You can burn a scented candle before sleeping or get a diffuser to use in the room. You can dilute some of the mixture with water and gently rub it in on your feet and palms. The rubbing sensation can calm you down and the essential oils can help relax your body.
You could also opt for supplements. WebMD recommends using valerian, which is an herbal supplement. The herb is gathered from the root of a perennial flower. The image below shows how to start using the product and the different ways the supplement can be taken.
Source and Copyrights: Dr Axe website
This next trick might seem a little counterintuitive. If you browse sleeping tips online, you are sure to find tons of them telling you to stop napping. But I’ll try to convince you of the opposite: powernapping regularly to sleep better at night. A light nap during the day can help you sleep better at night because it ensures you aren’t overtired when night comes. The key to a good napping that doesn’t disrupt your normal sleeping cycle is to:
- Nap during the early afternoon. You ideally want to take your nap around an hour after you’ve had lunch, as it’s the right time for your body to feel naturally a little drowsy. The early afternoon is also enough removed from the actual bedtime to ensure you don’t have a problem falling asleep at night.
- Keep your naps short. You should be power napping, which means sleeping just enough to feel refreshed, but not long enough to feel groggy when you wake up and have trouble falling asleep later. You just need 10 to 20 minutes of napping and you are good to go. Anything longer and you probably start finding napping to have a negative impact on your sleep.
- Stick to a schedule. Just as you should do with the regular sleeping, napping should be about keeping to a schedule. The regular schedule makes you fall asleep faster, helping you to gain the benefits of power napping. Your body will start regulating itself and go into the ‘sleep’-mode as your naptime approaches.
Another point I mentioned as a building block to regenerative sleep was exercise and its ability to control stress. With the help of regular exercise routine, you can improve the amount your body spends in the restorative sleep stage. But you can take the benefits to a next level by increasing the vigor in which you exercise. The more vigorously you exercise, the better your sleep will become.
When I talk about intensive and vigorous exercise, I’m referring to two key pointers. First, your exercise should be vigorous in terms of getting your heart rate beating faster. This generally means short bursts of intensive exercise instead of calmer, longer forms such as yoga or weight lifting. Instead, you want to take a 10-minute brisk walk, add a short sprint to your regular run or go swim at full speed.
The second point is about adjusting the intensity to your needs. A brisk 10-minute walk might not be able to get you worked up, even if it makes my heart race. The key is to find an exercise burst that is vigorous according to your current skill level. So, it might just be an intensive 15-minute run or perhaps swimming two full lengths of exercise works the best for you.
Remember that as you start exercising regularly, your body might improve in fitness and strengths – if this happens, it’s time to turn up the volume and pick something more vigorous.
Eliminate sources of EMF
Finally, you should consider eliminating all sources of EMF from the bedroom and avoid using the products that emit these close to your bedroom. EMF, what? EMF stands for electro-magnetic field, which are emitted by most technology products from your smartphone to your electronic toothbrush. Although the studies on the effect of EMF and sleep are inconclusive and further investigation is needed, you might be a Highly Sensitive Person and find these fields disturbing. Therefore, you would want to remove all extra EMFs from your bedroom, especially as the night settles.
Even if you don’t find a direct impact of EMFs on your sleep, having technology in the bedroom can be disruptive – it can keep you hooked on watching things or browsing the web when you should be sleeping. Therefore, your smartphone and laptop should not have a room in the bedroom and you definitely want to start enforcing a rule that prevents you from using them an hour before your bedtime.
Regenerative sleep is crucial for your mental and physical wellbeing. It helps you stay active, healthy and full of energy, boosting your mood and keeping you happy. Without proper regenerative sleep at nights, you put yourself under higher risk of illness and injury and speed up your body’s aging process.
I’ve outlined the core building blocks you need to focus on in order to sleep well at night. It’s about creating the appropriate space for sleeping, reducing distractions and finding inner peace before you place your head on the pillow. But regenerative sleep goes beyond just having the right environment and feeling happy; the things you drink and eat, and even think, can have an impact on how well your body regenerates cells and rejuvenates at night.
So, test the above tricks and find the ones that work for you, as we aren’t all the same. And don’t give up! Some of the habits and tips above will need a continuous application for weeks and even months before you’ll start seeing the benefits of a more regenerative sleep.