By Alice Boyd
Using technology late at night is creating some significant bedtime hurdles, which mean many of us are not sleeping as much as we should.
Sleep specialist Dr Carmel Harrington spoke to Bondi Beauty; “Twenty years ago we had a discipline around sleep that we have now lost because we can be occupied 24/7. People stay connected to the world right up until the minute they fall asleep these days,and it is not good.” she warns.
Screen time is actually exciting our brains, causing the hormones adrenalin and cortisol to be produced, keeping us awake, the same way they work during the day time when they assist in giving us drive.
Instead, we should be producing melatonin, a brain chemical that forms when our eyes detect fading light, causing us to feel drowsy. “The body can’t detect the difference between the bright light of a screen and the sunlight, so the body doesn’t produce the melatonin.“ Explains Dr Harrington.
Surprisingly, our poor sleep choices are most evident in the nation’s growing waistline, where 65% of Australian’s are now overweight.
“Sleep is as important as diet and exercise. Studies have shown that we consume between 350-500 extra calories per day, just by not having the right amount of sleep.” According to Dr Harrington’s research, because we have less energy, “Not only are we eating more, we’re metabolizing slower.”
The neuroscience is very clear she says. “When we’re tired the emotional centre (of the brain) is going off, as opposed to when we’re well rested.” Adding, “If you don’t sleep properly, you don’t think well or think quickly. You’re much more likely to make rash decisions.”
She has many ways to help improve our sleep, here are the top 4:
1) Eat your largest meal before 6pm.
“We should eat a breakfast like an emperor, lunch like a queen and dinner like a pauper. It’s not about reducing calories, just rearrange the intake.
A large meal gives you a huge energy load. Then the processes of digestion, makes you uncomfortable.”
Walking around after a meal and doing incremental exercise will help.
2) Plan your sex life.
“Work out how much sleep you need as an individual and what time you need to get up in the morning. If you have to be up at 6 am you must be asleep by 10pm. Plan your sex life around this, rather than falling asleep an hour later.”
3) Don’t sleep with your phone.
“Keep your phone out of your bedroom and watch out for alarms with a lead light. 1 hour before you go to bed, set an alarm clock. Turn off all technology at 9pm if you need to go to sleep at 10pm.”
4) Eat a diet rich of magnesium and calcium.
This includes lots of green, leafy vegetables. “Sufficient vitamins and minerals are essential for sleep and supplements might be necessary.
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