So today I wanted to give some quick ideas on helping you improve the quality of your sleep, just in case you are struggling in this area.
Some people fall asleep easily but just wake up after a few hours unable to go back to sleep. Other people have a difficult time going to sleep and don’t fully “rest” when they are in bed.
So for this article I wanted to focus on something very simple: not being able to fall asleep and not sleeping like a rock.
You can do a quick google search and learn about the sleep cycles and how important the different stages of sleep are. But for this article I will be talking about 3 different chemicals produced in your body: cortisol, melatonin and serotonin.
In very simplistic terms (it’s actually quite complex and there are many factors that contribute) serotonin is made during the daytime and melatonin is made during the night time.
When you are under stress, cortisol is produced. If your stress levels are in check, you will have the proper amount of serotonin produced by the time the sun goes down. You don’t want too much and you certainly don’t want too little.
When the lights go out for you, meaning that your eyes and skin are not detecting light, you will begin making melatonin. Melatonin is key to helping you go through the sleep cycles and wake up rested in the morning.
Then when the sun comes up for you in the morning, meaning the lights are turned on, you stop producing melatonin. Again, this is when your eyes and skin detect light.
So here’s the dilemma. We stay up way past the time the sun goes down because we are having fun, working or whatever. The lights that are on late at night are really telling our body that it is still daylight. This upsets the serotonin in the body. The body actually sees it as a stress and therefore begins secreting more cortisol. Some people call this the stress hormone.
The problem is that when too much cortisol is present, one of the effects of this is low serotonin. This creates a problem when the lights go out.
Melatonin is produced in the body from serotonin. Not enough serotonin and there won’t be enough melatonin produced and you won’t get quality sleep.
Here’s another problem. If we stay up late…after dark, then we don’t sleep as soundly and in the morning we are still tired and don’t want to get up when it’s time. So if we have the luxury of sleeping in, we don’t get quality sleep then because the sun is up and light is detected by our skin and eyes and no melatonin is produced.
This is the same dilemma that people who work the graveyard shift have.
The body sees this as stress and therefore starts secreting more cortisol. And the cycle begins to get worse and will never improve until you change when and how you sleep.
Here’s another problem: we have too many lights that our skin and eyes detect all night long while we are trying to get quality sleep. These lights will come from alarm clocks, night lights, computers in our bedroom, cell phone chargers or even the little tiny light on the smoke detector.
Any light that is detected by the skin while we are trying to sleep will decrease melatonin production and will contribute to the overproduction of cortisol. This destroys our health and longevity over time.
So how do you solve this problem?
We live in a world with lights. We must make a decision to use our lights at the times when God has provided us light.
A natural example of this cycle is seen in chickens. I grew up on a farm and we had chickens. They begin laying eggs in the spring, when the days are getting longer and they continue until fall when the days get shorter. At dusk they are finding their roosting spot to sleep for the night and they are up at dawn. Cock-a-doodle-do.
This creates a problem in the egg industry so they artificially create light for the chickens so that the chickens never stop laying eggs. Of course they don’t feed them their ideal food either so the quality of the eggs we eat are pretty poor and of course, the chickens get sick because of the poor living conditions and so they are fed antibiotics to keep them alive longer. But because of their limited darkness and decreased sleep, they die much sooner than the chickens on the small farm.
Ideally then we should live our lives like chickens. When it begins to get dark, we need to be winding down and getting into bed. This is hard to do in our society.
Some of us are so wired that we can’t do this. Again, it’s related to our sleep cycles and the balance of cortisol, serotonin and melatonin. So what’s the solution? Live like a chicken.
- Go to bed at dusk
- Don’t have little lights in your bedroom
- Don’t eat or drink things that raise cortisol (eat Paleo)
- Reduce your daily stress
- Wake up naturally when the sun rises
I know this was a longer article than normal. In fact, if you read the whole thing, I’d love for you to leave a comment below and let us know what some of the things that you do to get quality sleep.
There’s a lot more to this subject of how to improve the quality of your sleep and I’ll be sharing more later, including ways to deal with waking up too early.