Our body has an incredible intelligence and we are not always aware of it. People have actually attached themselves to what is often called “cartesian dualism”, a philosophical take based on the work of french philosopher René Descartes. I like René, but just like what happens to many other authors and thinkers, I believe his takeaway messages were way too much simplified and that simplification made people fall in the trap that body and mind are two separate things. Well, they aren’t.
Our mind is very much affected by cyclic patterns of rest and activity that also regulate our organs and cells. These cyclic patterns are not only influenced by our surrounding environment (e.g. noise, pollution) but also by nature’s own clock: circadian rhythms are an example of that. The more we attune ourselves to our natural rhythms, the healthier we will be. The problem today is that we are very disconnected and mostly unaware of what such cycles entail.
The health of each cell depends on the extent to which we are synchronised and in harmony with the cycles of day and night. The sunrise signals both mind and body that is time to wake up: there is more serotonin and less melatonin available in the morning. The opposite occurs at night. Our wellbeing depends a great deal on the balance between these two neurotransmitters. The problem is that our current lifestyle (e.g. too much caffeine, working late) makes us deviate constantly from the circadian rhythms, creating thus abnormal secretions of serotonin and melatonin.
You may recall that serotonin is very well-known as the happiness-brain-chemical, so you can now understand too why restoring your sleep pattern to human settings is very important when recovering from depression. Serotonin increases with daylight and it regulates our sexual behaviour, memory, appetite, impulsiveness and emotions such as fear. On the other hand, melatonin increases at night and it is essential for having good health, vitality and longevity. Hence, it’s paramount that you regulate your sleep according to your natural human being rules. Here are three tips to make sleep work for you.
Why You Need To Go To Bed Early
We all know this, right? Our mom or dad used to put us to bed early. Well, at least when I was kid they used to. Unfortunately, kids are now put to sleep very late, and there are more and more children struggling at school because they didn’t have enough rest the night before. There are good reasons to have an early night though (before 10pm). Physical rest and relaxation are three times deeper when we go to sleep before midnight. That’s when we usually have “deep sleep” too, the kind of sleep that helps restoring your body functions and growth hormones, which are responsible in turn for cellular repair and rejuvenation. Missing this precious time of sleep on a regular basis not only interferes with your serotonin/melatonin balance but it also triggers abnormal stress responses through the constant secretion of adrenaline, cortisol and cholesterol (stress hormones).
Why You Need To Wake Up Early
Serotonin increases with daylight so you want to make the most of your day. Waking up early will allow you to benefit more from sunlight and increase your overall levels of happiness and enthusiasm. Remember: serotonin acts as a natural buffer against negative emotions such as fear. I had a harder time in England due to the lack of sunlight and diminished daylight in winter. Our mood is greatly affected by these simple and yet not well noticed natural factors. So if you want to get rid of mental fog, a general sense of heaviness and lethargy, try to wake up earlier in the morning so that you can expose yourself to daylight and boost your serotonin (and vitamin D) levels. Plus, it will be much easier to fall asleep at night.
Why You Need To Reduce Stimulants
Yes, I have heard it, coffee doesn’t affect you. Well, if it doesn’t affect you, you shouldn’t have sleeping problems, right? Most people do, because they are not aware of how stimulants keep them in a state in which they feel tired and yet can’t sleep. Taking stimulants (such as caffeine) is not synonym of having lots of energy on and on. That happens to be true when your body is not used to them, but if you are having three cups of coffee on a daily basis, you will reach a point in which you no longer get more energy from caffeine; you will instead feel tired and won’t be able to shut off, because your brain, although not very functional, will remain wired. And even if you fall asleep, the quality of sleep won’t be the same and you are more likely to wake up in the middle of the night. However, each person is a person, so my recommendation on this matter is to be aware of how and which stimulants affect you the most. Try to eliminate stronger stimulants like caffeine after midday and look for other alternatives to boost your energy such as adding specific spices to your meals.