Struggling to sleep?
Some of you may well be gradually getting back to some sort of normality in life, and at the workplace. Where some of you are still working from home, the office chats and commute long gone.
And with a new home-based routine, I’d imagine some of you feel more lethargic and more tired than normal?
There is a legitimate reason for this!
This article will help to explain just why you are feeling more lethargic, and what you can do to fix the issue.
Non-Stop Electronic Light
From the very moment that electricity gave us artificial light, it has been both a blessing, and a curse. We can literally control our sleep cycle with electronic, artificial light.
As we are primarily visual creatures, just a small alteration in lighting can have a huge impact on our brain signalling a specific region of our brain called the ‘suprachiasmatic nucleus’, which is responsible for being in control of your circadian rhythm. More commonly known as our sleep cycle.
When the brain identifies darkness, the suprachiasmatic nucleus fires signals to the penial gland which in turn releases large amounts of melatonin. Melatonin is the primary hormone signalling to our body it’s time to sleep.
Now, as you can probably imagine, as we are highly influenced by artificial light, our melatonin production is put on hold a lot of the time. Staring at bright LED screens late into the night plays havoc with our melatonin and can become an issue when we try to sleep. A delayed release of melatonin isn’t the only issue here however, as our ability to sleep is directly affected and impacted by a build-up of melatonin, meaning that even when you turn off the iPad, it may take a while for enough melatonin to accumulate to help you sleep.
The mechanisms that control our sleep and our desire to sleep are very powerful indeed, and they come in two parts. One of these parts is our internal 24-hour clock, or sleep cycle, that is largely controlled by regions within the brain that help to regulate our hormones and feeling awake. In a healthy human adult, this will rise and fall like a wave, rising in the morning, peaking in mid-afternoon and slowly falling off towards the evening. The other part is adenosine, which is a chemical that feeds your desire to sleep.
Every moment that you are awake, adenosine is accumulating ‘sleep pressure’ within you, resulting in you feeling like you need sleep. The longer you remain awake and fight adenosine, the more adenosine will build up. This build up will re set every time you get a good quality sleep, dropping down to regular levels for the morning.
If you don’t take your sleep seriously, or commit enough time to it, then this will give your adenosine levels less time to drop and regulate through the night. This results in additional ‘sleep pressure’ the next day, and ultimately you will feel more drained. Low productivity, poor concentration and waves of tiredness throughout the day can follow.
Many of us use alcohol to ‘wind down’ after a tough day. Or as a tool to help you sleep.
Sorry, but this isn’t true. Alcohol is known to be a sedative, but this doesn’t mean that it will help you sleep. It switched off and douses your consciousness by blocking specific receptors in the brain. The morning after, you will more than likely wake up feeling groggy, which can commonly be mistaken for a slight hangover. However, the reason for this grogginess is more than likely the poor quality of sleep you just endured. You are unlikely to remember the numerous times you awoke during the night due to the alcohol preventing deeper stages of sleep that hampered your quality of sleep.
REM, or Rapid Eye Movement, is the stage of sleep when we encounter dreams. It’s also the point in which we can strengthen out neural connections and enhance our learning and memory’s ability to store information. New studies have shown that this stage of your sleep is directly disturbed by the consumption of alcohol, therefore reducing the ability to remember things from the previous days. As a student in university, this isn’t good if you have an exam soon.
All of these factors have a huge impact on our ability to get a restful night’s sleep on any given day, yet the lockdowns that we have encountered recently and trying to get back to ‘normailty’, has hampered our sleep even more. Bedtimes have been pushed back later and later, spending more time watching TV or scrolling through social media. Increasing our alcohol consumption to cope with the stress.
If you long to regain some energy, feel happier and far less stressed, then you will need to improve your decision making. Start developing unbreakable habits, take control of your life, and make the conscious decision to prioritise sleep.