Paleo And Effective Sleep
Everyone knows the effects of a good or bad nights sleep. If you’ve ever had to survive a day with a low amount of sleep, you know that it takes a real beating on your body and your mind. Worse yet, these “sleep hangovers” seem to linger for days after an all nighter or a bad night’s sleep.
Bad sleep, sadly, isn’t always attributed to a late night. There are various factors which can influence how we sleep, and some of them are totally within your control and can be changed starting right now.
Light is your friend, but also your enemy…
It is important that you get your daily fix of light everyday. Ideally, this should be natural light, and that means only light from that big burning fireball in the sky. (Nice caveman reference there… haha) Realistically, this is near impossible, unless you live in a cave or live most of your life camping outdoors. Sadly, this isn’t a possible lifestyle for all of us, but it is ideal.
Our exposure to light doesn’t need to be excessive, but it is required. Roughly 20 minutes of direct sunlight will not only produce a significant amount of vitamin d in the skin, but it will also make you feel good. I for one feel energised and recharged after a quick, 15-25 minute sunbath.
The flipside is that because we are so dependant on light as a species, needing it for vitamin d production and to light up objects for our eyes to see, we are particularly sensitive to it in a multitude of ways. What do you think is really happening when we lie in bed at night reading our smartphones? Our brains are hard wired to recognise light as a signal that day is upon us. When we show our brains light as we go to sleep we are basically telling them that instead of quietening down for the night, that they should wake up.
This obviously does not encourage effective, natural sleep patterns. And we probably repeat this bate and switch every night, forcing our brains to stay awake when all they want to do is drift off into dream land. The process which we are specifically affecting is our circadian rhythm. A circadian rhythm in living organisms refers to something which repeats itself every so many hours. In humans’ case, this is generally a 24 hour cycle. When we look at artificial lights when there is no sunlight around, we effectively screw up our natural, circadian rhythms.
Our meddling doesn’t stop with light, we fool it with food, too…
Eating is also a powerful way to train the body to stick to certain circadian rhythms as well. Studies have shown that animals use eating as an effective way of programming their wake and sleep cycles. There is a reason animals rise as early as they do to feed; it is often necessary to survival. Some animals, such as bush babies have evolved super sensitive eyes in order to deal with their feeding habits.
If you aren’t sleeping well night after night, perhaps you are fooling your body into thinking that the best time for feeding is late at night. Try to eat earlier more frequently and see if it makes a difference to your sleeping habits. Paleo sleep shouldn’t be stressful, it should be as natural as possible and effortless.
If you are supplementing for vitamin d, try and take it in the morning if you aren’t getting any sunlight exposure. The body is used to “seeing” vitamin d in its system in the morning as an indication of the break of dawn, and by supplementing at late hours, our bodies are confused, and so our sleep is affected later on.
If you want to pump iron, keep it for the morning…
Exercising in the morning helps with many a bodily function. For one, our testosterone levels are at their highest point in the day. Not to mention, if you workout in the morning you get a spike of feel good hormones pumping right into your veins. Who doesn’t want a natural pick me up?
I look forward to doing my one set to failure push-ups every morning, and it works really well at clearing and focusing my thoughts, never mind waking me up.
I’ve experimented with working out at night and while sometimes it is exactly what I feel like doing, my sleep definitely suffers. This is probably due to me messing up my sleep routine, where the increased body temperature associated with exercise puts my circadian cycle out of whack. Our paleo ancestors probably did most of their heavy lifting in the morning as well.
We aren’t getting enough sleep, paleo lifestyle or otherwise…
This may seem ridiculously obvious, but the less sleep you routinely get, the worse you are going to sleep overall. If you are routinely pushing the limits of your staying awake ability, you are going to be filling the “bad sleep” jar very quickly. The analogy of a piggy bank is actually quite an effective one. If you imagine that for each compromised night’s sleep you deposit one dollar into the piggy. Every time you get a good night of sleep you take one dollar out. That paints quite an effective picture of what it takes to maintain a healthy sleep cycle.
I think that if we focus on what it takes to wake us up, we might workout what it takes to allow us to sleep properly. Less light at night, workouts and feeding in the early morning, and making sure we act like our ancestors may have should afford us with health, effective and super restful nights.
Thanks for reading,
Try get an early night tonight.