The key to mental clarity might just be about getting a better sleep
The human mind is abuzz with thoughts all day, from experiencing a wide spectrum of emotions and the multitasking required in both work and family to the distraction from media and electronic devices.
“Our mind produces electrical and chemical activity in the brain,” says Catherine Roscoe Barr, BSc. in neuroscience, wellness coach and founder of The Life Delicious (thelifedelicious.ca).
“All cellular activity produces waste material, and the latest science reveals sleep’s role in ‘cleaning’ waste material from our brain. This housekeeping function is primarily active while we sleep and has significant implications for mood regulation, cognitive function, and neurodegenerative diseases.
To recharge our mind and keep brain and body healthy, we must practice good sleep hygiene.
“Reducing both stress—mental, physical and nutritional—and light pollution can help you sleep better,” says Roscoe Barr, and all it takes are a few simple tweaks to your daily routine and home environment.
The stress hormone cortisol gets a bad reputation, as it’s also important for motivation, focus and energy. It should, however, be at its lowest in the evening as it’s inversely proportional to the sleep hormone melatonin; cortisol must be low for melatonin to be high.
“Limiting stressful conversations, intense physical activity, and stimulating foods like caffeine, alcohol and sugar in the hours before bedtime will help reduce cortisol,” says Roscoe Barr, “while reducing light pollution—especially blue light emitted from fluorescent and LED lights and the screens of your mobile phone, computer and TV—will facilitate melatonin production to help you fall, and stay, asleep.”
Tips for better sleep hygiene
To recharge your mind and allow your brain to do its nightly custodial work, practice this series of rituals as the sun sets:
- Decrease cortisol levels by reducing mental stress: be strict with office hours, save stressful conversations for earlier in the day, and spend time winding down (bathing, reading or journaling
- Decrease cortisol levels by reducing physical stress: only engage in gentle physical activity;
- Increase melatonin levels by reducing light pollution: close blackout curtains in your bedroom, and put screens on night mode and turn them off at least one hour before bed.