Each person has their own sleep rhythm with different needs. The average sleep is between 7 to 8 hours per day. Sleep also varies throughout life, depending on age. Slow wave sleep is deeper during growth, until around the age of 20, and gives way to lighter slow wave sleep in adults.
Have you ever noticed that we go to sleep every night around the same time and wake up the next day also around the same time? Indeed, our sleep rhythm is regulated by the internal clock located in our brain at the hypothalamus. This biological clock corresponds to the circadian rhythm, which imposes a daily 24-hour cycle on our body. The synchronization of this rhythm is mainly done by environmental variables such as light and temperature. Light acts in particular on the secretion of melatonin, called the sleep hormone, known to be the central hormone in the regulation of circadian rhythms. Sleeping at night and being awake during the day is an example.
Many sleep problems are caused by dysregulation of these circadian rhythms. Our modern rhythms of life disconnect us from these environmental variables, particularly natural cycles of light and dark, disrupting our biological rhythm and consequently causing sleep disorders. Sleep disorders, such as insomnia, restless legs syndrome or sleep apnea, will alter the quality of your night and result in drowsiness, mood disorders, concentration, memory, alertness and a feeling of intense fatigue.
A common reflex among some people is to take sleeping pills. However, some of these medications carry risks, such as dependence and concentration problems and only work on symptoms without achieving lasting results. Gentler, non-drug solutions exist to regain restful sleep. Here are some tips and natural remedies to help you relax, relieve daily tensions and better synchronize your circadian rhythm.
1. When waking up, avoid shrill noises
Studies indicate that waking up to sound increases cortisol by 100% compared to waking up to natural light. Cortisol, when secreted in excess, can cause nervousness and agitation. So swap your conventional alarm clock for a light alarm clock that simulates the sunrise and promotes the secretion of hormones responsible for wakefulness and motivation.
2. In the morning, expose yourself to natural light
Your biological clock responds very strongly to exposure to light, it is important to maintain the greatest possible regularity in your hours of exposure to light. Expose yourself to bright light first thing in the morning, ideally the sun.
Not only does it facilitate the synchronization of circadian rhythms and the secretion of hormones for arousal and motivation, but it also contributes to the synthesis of precious vitamin D. Furthermore, almost all of our body's regeneration processes follow a circadian rhythm. , including the repair of our DNA, which makes exposure to morning sun doubly beneficial.
3. During the day, avoid taking too long naps
Naps are not essential, far from it, and they are not suitable for everyone, but on days when you feel tired, they can make you more attentive and alert. Their duration can make all the difference. We advise you to take naps of less than 20 minutes so as not to encroach on your sleep capital. The benefits of a 10 to 20 minute micro-nap are well documented. It is a good solution to improve alertness, concentration and energy and promote the following night. Unlike longer naps, they do not cause post-awakening drowsiness, the alert state returns quickly.
Following our circadian rhythm, we feel very sleepy most often in the afternoon: it is recommended to take a micro-nap between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.
4. Find the right balance between physical activity and rest
It is important to take time for yourself. Give yourself a moment of relaxation every evening to put your worries aside. It's a way to reduce your stress and anxiety and make it easier to fall asleep. Indeed, stress causes the release of cortisol which has a direct impact on sleep since it is the cause of cerebral hyperactivity. Schedule some rest time and get into the habit of doing relaxation, meditation, or breathing exercises every day before bed. The ritual effect recognized by the brain promotes falling asleep.
Physical activity is also essential for restful sleep. It helps oxygenate the brain and free itself from negative thoughts. However, intense physical activities should be avoided in the evening. You probably think that they will make you tired, but on the contrary they will give you energy by stimulating the secretion of energizing substances. You will therefore take longer to fall asleep. So find the right measure: if you want to do intense physical activity, do it at least 3 hours before going to bed.
5. Adapt your eating habits
It is best not to eat dinner too late, about 2 hours before going to bed, because digestion increases body temperature which can interfere with sleep. It is also advisable not to eat foods that are too acidic, which will cause gastric reflux, or too heavy, which will prevent sleep. In addition, fatty and difficult-to-digest foods tend to fragment sleep. Be careful not to eat too light, because the body needs energy during the night and hunger may wake you up if your body lacks nutrients. Eat a varied and balanced diet to provide all the nutrients necessary for the body: a magnesium deficiency could cause nighttime cramps and an iron deficiency could promote restless legs syndrome.
6. Avoid consuming stimulants
Avoid consuming too many stimulating substances during the day. After 4 p.m., limit your consumption of stimulants such as alcohol, drugs, energy drinks, or the caffeine found in coffee and tea.
Although certain stimulants like alcohol and drugs help you fall asleep, they impact the quality of your sleep. In fact, you fall asleep faster but without realizing it, your sleep is disjointed and of poor quality. You may wake up tired.
7. Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule
Maintain as much regularity as possible in your sleeping hours. This regularity is of capital importance, especially when getting up. Set your wake-up time to get up at the same time every day, even on weekends. And go to bed as soon as you feel the need to sleep, i.e. at the first signs of fatigue (yawning, heavy eyelids, itchy eyes, etc.). Bedtimes gradually become regularized.
8. In the evening, limit your exposure to artificial light
At night, darkness (or the absence of blue spectrum light) stimulates melatonin production. Melatonin not only invites us to sleep and rest, but its production is linked to other fundamental aspects such as the regulation of blood pressure and immune function, in addition to being considered a powerful antioxidant. Like the sun, artificial light and the light from electronic devices that we often use in the evening (TV, phones, tablets, computers, etc.) emit blue light, and although at a much lower intensity than that of sun, it is enough to partially inhibit the production of melatonin.
To avoid slowing down the secretion of melatonin, detach yourself from your screens (computer, tablet, phone, etc.) at least 1 hour before going to bed.
9. At night, sleep in the dark in a cool, quiet bedroom
The atmosphere in your bedroom should promote sleep. When you go to bed, close your shutters and make your room as dark as possible. The eyelids are translucent, and even small amounts of light can inhibit melatonin production by 30-50%, impacting sleep quality.
Furthermore, body temperature naturally drops at night, and is an important factor in falling asleep peacefully. This is why it is important to maintain a cool temperature in the room (17-20°). Taking a shower 1 to 2 hours before bed also helps lower body temperature and helps you fall asleep.
Your room must be quiet to reduce the number of micro-awakenings and it must be well ventilated to promote good oxygenation of the brain during the night.
10.Choose a suitable mattress
Good bedding contributes to quality sleep. Given the number of mattresses available on the market, it is sometimes difficult to choose the most suitable one. For people with a large build, it is preferable to choose a rather firm mattress, unlike people with a weak build, who should rather opt for a soft mattress. For people who suffer from back pain, you should avoid choosing a mattress that is too firm so as not to accentuate the pain. It is recommended to change your mattress every 8-10 years. In fact, good bedding helps limit muscle activity during the sun and reduce the number of micro-awakenings during the night. A good mattress does not increase the number of hours of sleep but allows a more restful and restorative night by promoting sleep continuity.
Also opt for a rectangular and ergonomic pillow to ensure good support for your neck, particularly if you sleep on your side. Your pillow should not be too flat or too inflated to maintain good alignment of the head with the spine.