A blog for light sleepers
Over the years we’ve posted various blogs about sleep (well, given we sell futons, sofa beds, beds and impromptu sleep spaces it’s only natural that the Big Snooze is something we care passionately about!). But during all that time we’ve never really looked into the science of sleep. So when we came across the book Sleep by elite-sport coach and author Nick Littlehales, featured in Waitrose Health Autumn 2020 we were super-chuffed – we always love to learn something new! Here’s a snapshot of what he says:
Here on Earth, your body works in partnership with the daily fluctuations between light and dark. Each time you open your eyelids and light hits the cells at the back of your eyes, the signal is received by a master clock in your brain. This distributes messages to all the glands that produce hormones to regulate your bodily functions. These time your biological processes, including when you feel sleepy and when you feel awake. This is your circadian rhythm, and when you rise with the sun and wind down at sunset, you keep the beat of this rhythm strong and in check. This is the theory behind some of the techniques Nick uses with the athletes he trains.
Passionate about boosting performance through sleep, Nick has worked with the British cycling team, and the role that exposure to light plays in improving our sleep is the first thing he discusses with the athletes he trains. He says: The most important thing is exposure to the right levels of light. If you want to feel sleepier earlier in the evening, wake up to bright light, spend as much time outdoors as you can in the daytime, then cut out exposure to light at night.
Your seven-step sleep plan according to Nick Littlehales:
- Get plenty of natural light and reduce the amount of blue light (from digital screens) you expose yourself to in the evening.
- AMers (who naturally wake up early) should look to get daylight in the afternoon to re-energise, while PMers (who wake up and stay up later) should kickstart their morning with sunlight to get them going.
- Sleep in cycles not hours and it will empower you to take control of your sleep (we sleep in 90 minute sleep cycles, and transition through a series of deep stages, including light sleep, deep sleep and Rapid Eye Movement. Your body needs all of these to fully rest and recover).
- Establish pre and post-sleep routines. Pre-sleep, move to a cooler, darker environment. Post-sleep, exercise to wake up your body and do something to stimulate your mind.
- Nap to improve performance. If that’s not possible, take a mind break – have a cup of tea, make a phone call or look out of the window.
- Sleep in the foetal position on your non-dominant side.
- Create a harmonious sleep environment that’s cool, dark and free from clutter and technology. A neutral décor without pictures that could provide stimulus for your body.
Futon Company says: Love, love, love this article! And now that winter’s here and we’re spending more time inside it’s good to understand how light can impact our sleep. Our new mantra is step outside for a satisfying slumber! We’ve got plenty of goodies to spruce up your sleep space this winter.