The Science of Sleep

It is no secret to most of us that we feel so much better after a good nights sleep. Yet, the ability to get there consistently seems so elusive. Ever since listening to a series of episodes of The Huberman Lab Podcast (one of my absolute favourite resources for all things neuroscience) on sleep I wanted to share what I had learned with as many people as would listen.

I am going to list what Dr. Huberman suggested as a toolkit for quality sleep. Since integrating as many of these practices as possible into my own life and committing my efforts to get good sleep I have seen a drastic impact on my quality of life. I will link the episodes below in case you want a more in depth learning on the subject!

1. View sunlight by going outside within 30-60 minutes of waking. Do that again in the late afternoon, prior to sunset. If you wake up before the sun is out and you want to be awake, turn on artificial lights and then go outside once the sun rises.

2. Wake up at the same time each day and go to sleep when you first start to feel sleepy. Pushing through the sleepy late evening feeling and going to sleep too late (for you) is one reason people wake at 3 am and can’t fall back asleep.

3. Avoid caffeine within 8-10 hours of bedtime. Dr. Matt Walker (sleep expert from UC Berkeley) might even say 12-14 hours.

4. If you have sleep disturbances, insomnia, or anxiety about sleep, try a sleep hypnosis video. You can find these for zero cost on YouTube

5. Avoid viewing bright lights—especially bright overhead lights between 10 pm and 4 am. Here is a simple rule: only use as much artificial lighting as is necessary for you to remain and move about safely at night. Blue blockers can help a bit at night but still dim the lights. Viewing bright lights of all colours are a problem for your circadian system. Candlelight and moonlight are fine.

6. Limit daytime naps to less than 90 min, or don’t nap at all. I love naps as do many of my colleagues. I tend to nap for 30 min most afternoons… maybe 45 min, but never longer.

7. If you wake up in the middle of the night (which, by the way, is normal to do once or so each night) but you can’t fall back asleep, consider doing an NSDR protocol when you wake up. Enter “NSDR” into YouTube and the top 3-4 options have different voices, durations for you to select from. Or simply do a “Yoga Nidra” protocol (enter “yoga nidra” to YouTube; 100s to select.)

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I hope this was helpful, let me know in the comments what works best for you!

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