Clocking less than six hours of sleep per night compromises the brain’s ability to regulate emotions, making it that much harder to deal.
And it only takes one night of insufficient sleep to make you vulnerable to meltdowns according to a new Tel Aviv University study that identified the neurological mechanism responsible for disturbed emotion regulation and increased anxiety due to sleep debt.
In effect, the brain loses its ability to discern between what is and isn’t important, reported The Journal of Neuroscience.
Hannah Bailey shows us eight ways to improve your sleep:
Ditch the macchiato, doughnut and laksa.
“Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and avoid large quantities of food, particularly heavy fatty foods, immediately prior to sleep that may make you feel uncomfortable and prevent sleep,” Dr Eckert says. If you suffer reflux, avoid spicy foods, as when you lie down it may come back to bite you.
Order a mocktail
A couple of vinos may feel like they usher you backstage at lala land, but the sleep you have when you get there is likely to be flawed. “Alcohol prior to sleep can impair sleep quality, cause snoring and in some cases lead to sleep apnoea, and should be avoided,” Dr Eckert says.
Move your workouts
Vigorous exercise just before bed can impair sleep, but Dr Eckert says that exercise at other times is actually a sleep aid. “It is associated with increased levels of slow-wave (deep) sleep.”
Working back at the office or with your laptop on the couch can hijack your sleep routine. “Overly stimulating activities prior to sleep can make it difficult to fall asleep and should be avoided,” Dr Eckert says. Likewise detailed tasks. “Maintaining a regular sleep routine that includes avoiding these types of activities immediately prior to sleep is ideal.” Exorcise the bedroom of any screens, Eckert advises. According to a 2012 Harvard Health Letter, blue wavelengths from fluorescent lightbulbs, LED lights and computer and iPad screens wreak greater havoc than white light on melatonin. In an experiment, blue light suppressed melatonin for around twice as long as green light. Red light, on the other hand, had the mildest effect on melatonin.
Dim the lights
According to the National Sleep Foundation, bright light inhibits the release of ‘sleep hormone’ melatonin, which can only be stimulated in a dimly lit environment. Any bright light can prevent the release of melatonin, preventing the onset of sleep. If you can’t block 100 per cent of light, Eckert advocates using a sleep mask to mimic a dark sleeping environment.
Pull the blinds
Skip diaphanous window dressings – however romantic – and go for a heavy fabric or blinds that completely block light. The first exposure to light in the morning activates a part of your brain called the supra-chiasmatic nucleus according to the National Sleep Foundation. That means processes associated with being awake crank into gear, calling a premature end to quality sleep.
Sleep temperature is integral to the quality of shut-eye. UniSA’s Centre for Sleep Research revealed that that normal initiation of sleep demands a core body temperature drop. Ordinarily, the body automatically turns down its heat dial about 90 minutes before sleep, while insomniacs who find it hard to nod off tend to maintain a higher body temperature. While your body should regulate its own degrees, a hot or frigid room can mess with the process. Eckert says the ideal room temperature for sleep is 22 degrees Celsius. If you use an electric blanket to take the chill off your sheets, turn it off before falling asleep.
Luxe your crib
You can call high thread-count sheets a health expense. While they’re not a magic sleeping pill, Eckert says good bed linen complements other measures to maximise comfort, including temperature regulation.
NEXT: Lack of sleep not only impacts on your brain function, it also kills your beauty buzz.