The modern world makes it tough to get a proper full night’s rest, and Edmonton’s long summer days don’t help. Cary Brown, a professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of Alberta, shares some tips on how to get the best shut-eye this summer.
There are all kinds of technology and supplements that claim to help you sleep or stay awake, but Brown advises doing lots of research before purchasing any of them. Avoid any product that uses blue light (red light is best) and, if you’re relying on caffeine to compensate for poor sleep, you’re only prolonging the problem. “You can’t catch up on sleep,” Brown says. “Sleep deprivation catches up to you.”
“The other thing is sound — anything over 30 to 35 decibels will send your body messages to start producing some of those alerting chemicals. You want to have the windows open to keep it cool but it’s those sharp noises, like cars zooming by, that wakes you up early.” A white noise machine, or even an old, loud fan, can muffle the sharp noises and keep you cool.
“Your core temperature has to drop for your body to make the right kind of chemicals to fall asleep. Ideal sleeping temperatures are between 18 and 22 Celsius.”
If you don’t have air conditioning, you can fool your body into thinking it’s time to sleep by artificially raising your core temperature with a warm shower. When you get out, your temperature starts to drop (especially if you air dry), and the right chemicals kick in (a cold shower works too, but you’ll need more than a minute of cold to lower your core temperature).
Don’t Be Blue
“The blue end of the light spectrum makes our bodies make different chemicals to keep us alert. That’s why it’s easier to wake up with the earlier summer sunrise. But, at night, when we’re looking at our screens, they’re also sending us that message to stay alert. So your body’s not going to produce the melatonin it needs to sleep.”
Brown says that blackout bedroom blinds are must-haves, and using blue spectrum light-filtering goggles to block awakening rays from digital devices allows your body’s sleep process to start.
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This article appears in the July 2019 issue of Avenue Edmonton.