5 things your ancestors could teach you about sleep
According to recent research, our ancestors sleep habits were very different to ours. They didn’t have access to electronics, they worked hard during the day, usually in physical labour and consumed “real” food. But were their sleep habits really all that different?
Let’s assess and decide according to the 5 things your ancestors could teach you about sleep:
1. Sleep with dusk + wake with dawn
Studies have shown that our ancestors went to bed about 3 hours and 20 minutes after sunset and rose before dawn. They also commonly slept through the night. Our ancestors had no access to electronics and the lightbulb was only invented in the early 1800’s. we, on the other hand tend to stay awake as long as possible. With the introduction of electronics, 24 hour access to the internet and more, we are staying awake longer each night.
Top tip: Switch off all electronics at least two hours before bedtime. The stimulating effects of our electronics have ruined what was once a healthy lifestyle. Any artificial light will disrupt the sleep hormone, melatonin, and your sleep quality will be affected as a result.
2. Make healthier food choices
Our ancestors didn’t have access to junk food and processed foods, and they certainly didn’t use a microwave to heat up their meals. Easy access to fast food and processed foods has blurred our food choices. Advertising is also dishonest with what we should and shouldn’t be eating. Obesity has been linked to poor sleep quality and insomnia. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables, more fish and avoid processed foods and foods high in carbohydrates.
Top tip: Avoid consuming a large meal in the two hours before bedtime. Instead try a small, healthy snack as outlined in the easy, plant-based meal prep guide here.
3. Stay active
Consistent exercise will help improve your sleep quality. Our ancestors did not have the convenience of a car or public transport at their fingertips. Instead, they walked a lot. They were also a lot more active in their gardens and on the land. Health issues such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure were almost non-existent as they were a lot more physically fit than the majority of the population are in the current climate.
Top tip: Walk or ride your bike to work. Park your car an extra 2 – 3 blocks from your destination and walk. Go for a daily jog. Go for a hike on weekends. Walk the dog more than once a day.
4. Spend more time outdoors
Spending time in natural sunlight helps your body’s biological clock to keep ticking as it should. With natural sunlight your body will remain energised during the day and by the evenings, will be well and truly prepared for bedtime.
Over the years we have been encouraged to sleep less and spend more time working or using electronics. Remember to switch off all electronics early in the evening.
Top tip: Open your curtains first thing in the morning and allow yourself to be exposed to natural sunlight. Spend more time outdoors – go for a morning walk, take some time to enjoy the midday sunshine.
5. Sleep when you are tired
Our ancestors didn’t have hundreds of things distracting them and keeping them awake at all hours (the internet, our iPhone, TV shows). Once the sun went down, our ancestors naturally fell asleep.
Top tip: Resist the urge to stay up late to finish that “important project” or catch up on late night TV.
So as you can see, things have changed a lot in the past century. The introduction of electronics being a major issue resulting in sleep problems. The fact that we are accessible 24 hours a day is not helping our health and is certainly affecting our sleep quality.
Why not take the time to enjoy a digital detox at least once each week? Switch off all electronics, step outdoors and enjoy life as your ancestors did once again.
Now, Anna and I would love to hear from you! How many hours per night do you sleep and which of these tips will you be implementing to get a better night’s rest?
Dee Trethewey is a Holistic Health + Wellness mentor who helps busy, stressed women improve their quality of sleep, using only natural alternatives. The Sleep Edition is an online eCourse and community, built on the belief that health and happiness can be found by improving your sleep.