How to Sleep Better and Improve Your Brain Function
What do we actually do during sleep and why is it so important? Here are some of the processes that happen in your body while you sleep:
- The immune system boosts healing processes
- The muscular-skeletal system recuperates from daily strain
- Hormones are released
- The sympathetic nervous system relaxes
- The brain processes the tremendous amount of information it has gathered during the day
There are people who struggle to get their recommended hours of restorative sleep. One way to restore your sleep pattern and boost your brain function is to start the day with red light therapy.
Humans have evolved under the sun. We are predisposed to wake with the red sunlight rising in the morning and sleep after the sun sets. Our bodies were designed to be very receptive to red light at these two critical periods of the day.
Red light therapy does more than balance out your circadian rhythm – it also improves brain function by regenerating neural networks and the nervous system.
How Sleep Boosts Your Brain Power
During the day, your brain receives a vast amount of information. You are not even aware of a large portion of it.
While your consciousness allows you to notice only the most important data that concerns you, the unconscious part of your brain soaks up all the smells, tastes, images and other inputs you encounter.
This is a non-stop process during your waking moments, so there is no time for your brain to process everything simultaneously – this happens when you fall asleep.
There are several processes that happen when you sleep. They directly affect your memory and your ability to learn.
- Your brain sorts your memories according to their relevance
- Your brain sorts your memories according to your expectations to access them later on
- Your brain protects your new memories from being tampered with new environmental input
Another way of looking at this is to explore the effects of the lack of sleep on cognitive function.
A study conducted on this topic suggests that sleep deprivation influences attention to detail, alertness, language, executive functions and others are severely affected by sleep deprivation. This presents direct proof of how essential sleep is for our cognitive function.
How to Sleep Better
It is important to pinpoint the root of the problem if you have trouble sleeping. There is a big difference between not being able to sleep because of your lifestyle and not being able to sleep because you suffer from an underlying condition that causes chronic insomnia.
You should talk to your doctor about prolonged lack of sleep or other sleep irregularity that directly influences your daily functioning. If you are a generally healthy person, you may boost your brain function by having good, solid sleep.
1. Nurture Your Melatonin Production
Melatonin is one of the main hormones needed for sleep. When your suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) cells send the signal to your pineal gland, melatonin is produced which helps you fall asleep.
It is not only the pineal gland that produces melatonin. It is made in most cells and even in the mitochondria, but most circulating melatonin originates from the pineal gland.
The levels of melatonin fluctuate throughout the day and light directly influences its production. It is produced in the dark as low-intensity light and dark will stimulate melatonin production.
The wavelength of light is also important – blue light blocks melatonin production – this type of light emanates from screens, electronics and energy efficient light bulbs.
Blue light that comes from your phone and computer screens cancels out the effects of hormones produced by the hypothalamus and the pineal gland and can even keep you awake.
Use light bulbs that don’t emit blue light, such as incandescents, or those that change their light spectrum during the day. Red and near-infrared light therapy, on the other hand, help establish healthy melatonin production.
2. Set Up a Routine
You will sleep best if you always go to sleep and wake up at the same time. Creating this sleeping schedule will allow your body to adjust and prepare for the sleep time accordingly.
When you create this rhythm, it will help your body realize what is the correct time to activate the neurotransmitters and hormones that are responsible for preparing you for sleep.
These neurotransmitters and hormones include GABA, histamine, norepinephrine, hypocretin, melatonin, serotonin and many more. Each has its special role in keeping your circadian system running properly.
Some of them are there to put you to sleep. Others are there to increase alertness.
Most of them trigger an entire series of biochemical processes in your body that prepare it for going into rest mode or increase alertness. These processes need time and are not easily switched on and off.
By confusing your circadian rhythm, these processes will overlap, start canceling each other out, drain your energy, and send your body into survival mode. Humans are not made to last long in survival mode while staying healthy.
Create your routine gradually. Don’t expect that you’ll be suddenly able to go to sleep at 9 p.m. if you have been awake until 3 a.m. during the entire week.
Move your bedtime earlier, an hour at a time. If you plan on sleeping in on weekends, don’t indulge in more than one hour of extra sleep, or you’ll ruin your schedule.
3. Create a Nesting Ritual
While sleeping is a biological and hormonal process, it is also a matter of your mental state. Anxiety and depression usually affect your sleeping patterns.
While people with anxiety tend to have trouble sleeping, people who suffer from depression can also suffer from insomnia, and also from oversleeping.
One of the ways you can ‘tell your brain’ that it should be getting ready for rest is to create a nesting ritual.
If possible, have a separate bedroom that has only that function. Set up your bed, dim the lights, play soothing music if it helps or read a book.
Create a ritual of several simple activities that you repeat every night, so their sequence can signal your brain that it is ‘shutting down’ time.
4. Stay Clear of Stimulants in the Second Part of the Day
It is a well-known fact that caffeine stimulates your brain and helps you stay awake. If you have coffee too late within your day, you will influence the secretion of hormones needed to put you to sleep.
Your basal forebrain releases adenosine which is needed for you to go to sleep. Caffeine directly cancels out the effects of adenosine, keeping you awake.
5. Reduce Electromagnetic Pollution
Electromagnetic radiation can cause insomnia in people who have electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS). This phenomenon is not heavily supported by research.
If you think this may be the cause of your sleeping issues, you should consider grounding.
This can be done by using a grounding mat, walking barefoot during the day and putting away WLAN routers and switching phones to flight mode.
6. Help Your Body Prepare for Sleep Using Red Light Therapy
One of the great effects red light therapy has on your body is to regulate melatonin production.
You can help your body produce melatonin by using a red light therapy device in the morning. Red light devices produce light in the spectrum that mimics dawn and dusk.
In a way, it ‘reminds’ your body about the natural cycle of active time and rest time, triggered by the sun.
In other words, your red light therapy device will reset your circadian rhythm that will naturally put you to sleep at the proper time in the evening.
Helping you get good restorative sleep is just one of the many things red light therapy can do for you. Discover all the possibilities for a better and healthier lifestyle that red light therapy offers.
Explore more studies on red light therapy and circadian rhythm: