Posted on 23 May 2022

Feel the best with plenty of rest, the Sunlighten way

More than 60% of adults say they don’t sleep as well as they’d like with nearly 70% saying they experience sleep disturbances at least once every night (Philips global sleep survey).

The chances are that, if you’re reading this, you’re one of them. And do you want to know one of the main reasons that adults aren’t getting enough sleep each night? Stress.

In this modern society, our stress levels are off through the roof, as we do our best to juggle the competing priorities of family, work, hobbies, and friends, amidst a myriad of other external stressors from a pandemic to climate change. Even thinking about all of the stresses in your life is likely to have stressed you out even more.

The trouble with prolonged stress

When you are stressed, there are actual physiological changes happening in your body that make sleep difficult, and many of them boil down to a hormone called cortisol.

“When you’re stressed, your body naturally produces cortisol, the fight or flight hormone, and this causes a significant jump in alertness, hence the lack of sleep,” says Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, sleep psychologist, and author.

Stress, and one of its major symptoms – sleep deprivation – has cognitive, behavioural, biological, and emotional effects from decreasing your immune functioning, to reducing bone density, difficulty focusing, and an inability to regulate your emotions. Aside from these sometimes debilitating impacts, the longer stress lasts, it turns into what experts call ‘chronic stress’ and your sleep suffers even more.

“Many of us are sitting in a state of sympathetic overdrive most of the day where there’s so much fight, flight or freeze going on that we don’t allow the body to get into a rest-and-digest response,” says Katie Takayasu, M.D., integrative medicine physician in Stamford, Connecticut.

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Photo by Francisco Moreno on Unsplash

When it comes to decreasing our stress levels, and improving our sleep, there are some promising studies to suggest that Infrared sauna therapy enhances detox pathways, increases circulation and improves mitochondria function, all of which help the whole body work better and sleep better, too.

All is not lost. Here are seven ways that you can salvage your sleep without having to make drastic changes or withdraw completely from the world and live in a hut in the Andes. And the secret lies in preparing for sleep from the minute you get up.

Begin your day with a stress-reducing activity.

Whether it’s yoga, stretching, breath work, meditation, walking the dog or singing in the shower - one of the worst things you can do is jump straight into your work without taking a moment to settle in.

Stop or reduce your caffeine intake after lunch.

Too much caffeine can lead to gastrointestinal problems, nervousness, anxiety, irregular heartbeats, excessive urination, and of course trouble sleeping. A study by the Sleep Disorders & Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital found that when caffeine was consumed throughout the day, the level of sleep decreased, even when caffeine was last consumed six hours beforehand. Most experts suggest that by 12pm, or 2pm at the latest, you need to put the tea or coffee down or get rid of caffeine completely.

Deal with intrusive thoughts throughout the day.

Ever had that experience where your head hits the pillow and your mind takes it as a cue to think of every single thing you said that day or have to do tomorrow. Throughout the day, make a list of the things that are bothering you and identify the next step to tackle each one. Talk them out with a trusted colleague, partner, your dog, or a therapist so that by the time you hit the hay, you can keep your worries at bay.

Exercise a little bit each day.

Being active during the day is important to creating sleep drive in your body. Doing a little bit of exercise each day not only improves your sleep quality but can also help you decrease stress and anxiety, both of which can interrupt sleep.

Get into nature.

Nature is a natural stress reducer, and studies show that even just 10 minutes in a natural setting can lessen the effects of mental and physical stress. Even just watching videos of natural or urban settings has been found to increase connectedness to nature and positive emotions.

Do things other than sleep between the sheets.

Sexual activity can relax your body and reduce cortisol, which can make it easier to fall asleep and improve your quality of sleep. Similarly, sex can boost dopamine, a neurotransmitter often called the ‘feel-good chemical’ because it reinforces feelings of pleasure.

Add infrared therapy to your routine.

Although research is still in its infancy, initial evidence has demonstrated that infrared therapy may improve the amount and quality of sleep. After all, when you sit in a dedicated space and mini sanctuary like an infrared sauna, you allow the body to move into a parasympathetic state of natural rest-and-digest.  In this state, the body and mind relax, and sleep typically comes easier for us all. 

Coupled with this relaxed environment, infrared light therapy also triggers a myriad of health and holistic benefits to support improved sleep quality.    The world’s foremost researcher and authority on infrared, Dr. Michael Hamblin, theorizes that infrared may initiate a “biological cascade” that could result in improved sleep because infrared light therapy can increase blood flow and oxygen metabolism in the muscles and the skin.

From detoxification, relaxation and stress relief to muscle recovery and circulation, the human body is a system and taking a holistic, natural approach may be beneficial to sleep.

To learn more about the mental and physical benefits of Sunlighten’s infrared sauna for your health and wellbeing, visit our website or enjoy a range of articles on wellness, the power of detox and post-workout recovery on the Sunlighten blog.

A version of this article was originally published on Sunlighten USA.


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