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Unlocking the power of sleep

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

Have you experienced lying in bed after a tiring day, turning and tossing to find a perfect position to sleep and wake up the other day feeling more exhausted than before? Sounds familiar, right? We’ve all been there. Nowadays, it is a common issue for people to feel tired frequently, have an unbalanced life with work and rest, and rarely achieve a high quality sleep. Being well rested is crucial for not only your physical health, but also your mental health. Would you like to know some causes of fatigue or get some tips to avoid a restless night? Let’s dive into it!

Think about what you unconsciously do when you feel tired? Have a rest with your mobile phone, take a nap, drink another cup of coffee or find something to eat? If you are doing one of these four things, it is likely to make you even more fatigued. According to Antonius Wiehler, the reason behind this is that when you are working or studying, your brain produces metabolites such as glutamate. Just like how waste is produced after cooking, metabolites are the form of waste that your brain produces during mental activity. The concentration of metabolites in your brain rises, when you are engaging with high-demanded cognitive tasks, your brain tends to resist challenging activities that do not provide an instant satisfaction or reward. On the other hand, you are more willing to stay on your phones, which causes further accumulation of metabolites and increases the sense of tiredness. Therefore, when you want to have a short break between work and study, it is advisable to avoid anything that consumes your brain. A good idea would be to do meditation, walk around or even daydreaming. All the activities that you find relaxing and do not acquire any demand would be suitable.

There are also times when you get enough sleep or even more sleep than you need, but you may still feel tired. The reason for this is an ‘irregular sleeping routine’. An example could be taking a nap for more than 30 minutes, where you are more likely to get into a deep sleep. If you wake up at this stage you might experience a temporary unconsciousness and headache, making it more difficult to sleep at night. So, how can you reach a work-study balance to improve your sleep quality?

The ‘light’ approach

Did you know that if you are exposed to light within 30 minutes of getting up in the morning,especially sunlight, you will feel more awake. This is because light helps the optic chiasm in your eyes to recognize that it is morning, leading to secretion of norepinephrine, this is a neurotransmitter in your brain that makes you feel more alert and awake. At the same time, reducing or avoiding light at night can effectively increase the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps you to fall asleep more easily. If the place that you live does not have high access sunlight, you can purchase a lamp with a high illumination index, and turn it on when you wake up.

The ‘temperature’ approach

Taking a cool bath in the morning will make you feel awake by increasing alertness. Also taking a hot bath about an hour to half an hour before going to bed can advance your bedtime. At the same time, your body temperature will continue to decrease when you fall asleep, which reduces the period of your rapid eye movement sleep, and assure you to have a good sleep quality.

“Yoga Nidra”

An American neuroscientist, Andre Huberman recommends a unique form of relaxation called ‘yoga nidra’. Spending just 20 to 30 minutes a day and engaging in a ‘body scan’ and deep breathing while lying down. This is very relaxing for the nerve system as you can enter into a shallow sleep but remain awake, which helps you to fall asleep easier in the evening

The struggle to fall asleep and achieve a restful night is a common issue faced by many of us. However, by understanding the causes of fatigue and applying the simple strategies, you can improve your sleep routine and unlock the power of sleep for a healthier life.

By: Huang Lynsey

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