About 40% of people share one flaw that cripples their emotional intelligence, creativity, and social adaptability. Can you guess what this common flaw is? It is sleep, which is necessary for optimal brain health and overall cognition. The brain operates all day long, sending signals and messages to various parts of the body.
In the same way that muscles become fatigued and reach exhaustion, so can the brain. The constant sending and receiving of signals causes a build-up of metabolites between neurons. When you sleep, however, the brain turns on the glymphatic system, a recently discovered system that clears out macroscopic waste. It utilizes various perivascular channels, formed by astroglial cells, to help eliminate soluble proteins and metabolites from the central nervous system. In simpler terms, the glymphatic system helps take out the garbage in the brain so it can function better.
Failing to get enough high-quality sleep? Waste starts to build up over time and your cognitive function can suffer. There may be good reasoning behind why so many people struggle with sleep.
Technology And Overstimulation
It’s safe to say that people do not know how to turn off anymore. You could be reading this right now, switch to Instagram, play Candy Crush, and then come back to reading this. Social media, technology, and incredibly low attention spans contribute to this overstimulation. Technology is a great tool, but it can also be a weapon that sabotages your life if you don’t use it intentionally.
Sometimes for the better but mostly for the worse, people operate in a hustle-and-grind culture. It’s encouraged to work yourself to the bone and grind until you can finally relax. One study from a sleep-focused journal found that too little sleep is associated with negative health outcomes. Sleep is the best productivity tool you have, so don’t be afraid to use it!
Weak Work-Life Boundaries
There is supposed to be a healthy balance between your work and regular life, but rarely are those boundaries distinguished. If you respond to work emails well into the night when you are at home, that is not healthy. It fuels the “just a little more work” attitude and doesn’t help you wind down at night for optimal sleep. If you work a nine-to-five, be done at five. Don’t take your work responsibilities home because you won’t be able to relax and your sleep will suffer.
What Can You Do To Change This?
Now that we have covered the problems surrounding sleep, hopefully we can provide some solutions. That doesn’t mean that you need to do three hours of pre-bedtime meditation or two hours of restorative yoga. If you are a busy bee and want to wake up feeling more refreshed, then the following tips may be of great help to you.
Use Light To Your Advantage
The brain relies on the eyes to discern what time of day it is. For this reason, some sleep experts recommend dimming the house lights as the sun sets. You don’t need fancy house lights that cost a fortune; rather, you need a few affordable lamps with amber-colored bulbs, which emit an orange glow. If you want to harness the power of light, you can make your screens as dim as functionally possible in the evening. Blue-light-blocking glasses may also help your brain produce more melatonin to get ready for bed. Ideally, though, you should stop looking at screens about one to two hours before bed.
Cool Things Down
The reticular activating system (RAS) controls a large part of your sleep. This system supports biological signaling, which signals the body and brain to know what time it is, coordinating hormones and neurotransmitters to help encourage sleep. The two big biological levers you can pull to support those systems are light and temperature. When you start to fall asleep, the major muscle groups settle down and the body temperature drops. In order to support the drop in temperature, turn down your bedroom thermostat or take a shower an hour before bed. Consider keeping a face roller in your freezer and rolling it on your face before bed. Believe it or not, the face contains temperature-sensitive neurons that have a strong link to circadian biology.
There is nothing that can magically fix your sleep, but you can consider a few sleep supplements to improve the quality of your sleep. There are millions of sleep supplements, so how do you know which one to choose? Some people recommend melatonin, but you ideally want the body to produce sufficient amounts. The last thing you want is to depend on a supplement in order to sleep. Many people benefit from magnesium supplements or powders, while others swear by GABA, which is a neurotransmitter that helps calm the brain. Before choosing a supplement, consider talking with your healthcare provider to see if they recommend something specific and support it for healthier sleep.