Friday, October 4, 2013

Four Things Astronauts Can Teach You About A Good Night’s Sleep

As John Durant points out in his fascinating new book, The Paleo Manifesto: Ancient Wisdom for Lifelong Health, due to modern technology, we’re all living more like astronauts now.
Today our bodies have become thoroughly confused by the artificial signals of modern life. Light is no longer a cyclical function of the sun, but of always-on indoor lights, TV screens, and computer monitors. Temperature no longer follows a dynamic cycle of cooling at night and warming during the day but sits at a static level set by the thermostat. Human chatter and social interaction used to follow a natural ebb and flow, but now we are more likely to live and sleep in isolation from real people, even while we have 24/7 access to artificial people (faces on TV, voices on the radio). Then, after utterly confusing our circadian rhythm, we try to take back control with stimulants (caffeine, nicotine) and depressants (alcohol, sleeping pills). Is it any wonder that a third of Americans are chronically sleep-deprived?

Maybe you think this doesn’t affect you — or at least not much. You’re wrong.  So what answers did NASA come up with?

  1. Maintain a consistent schedule, even on weekends. Keep in mind the “free-running” problem. Your body will push later if given the chance. 
  2. Take an hour to wind down before bed. Yes, you’re busy. But your time is not more precious than an astronaut’s. So take the time to wind down. 
  3. If you don’t have strong day/night cues, add them. Get sunlight in the morning. Dim the lights at night. Turn electronics off as bedtime approaches or use an application like f.lux. 
  4. Keep your bedroom dark, cool and free from noise. Even if you think “the light doesn’t bother you” or “the noise isn’t that bad” it can still reduce sleep quality.
Durant offers another solid piece of advice in his book  The Paleo Manifesto: Ancient Wisdom for Lifelong Health:: forget the alarm clock in the morning; set an alarm to remind you to go to bed at night. 

A useful technique is setting an alarm clock—not to wake up, but to get ready for bed. Set an alarm for an hour before bedtime. When it goes off, finish up any work on the computer, turn off the TV, turn off any unnecessary lights, and start to wind down for the day.

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