Updated: May 9, 2020
Have you ever noticed that people that have no problem sleeping never think about how they get to sleep or what things they do that help them get a good night’s sleep? However, those that struggle will try anything, be it a silky soft eye mask, lavender spray on their pillow or listening to a sleep stories on their phone. But why is sleep so important and is there anything else we can be doing to really get a good night’s shut eye?
Is this you?
Can you relate to any of these? You find it hard to wind down at the end of the day, you regularly wake up during the night or find yourself waking earlier than you need to and then can’t get back to sleep. And when you are awake you don’t feel refreshed or that you’ve had a good night’s sleep. Or maybe you feel tired during the day and struggle to concentrate. If this is you then your sleeping habits could be affecting your health, but why is sleep so important?
Sleep is crucial to our health. Sleep is as important to good health as good nutrition and adequate exercise. Without proper amounts of rest and sleep, our ability to concentrate, make judgements, and participate in daily activities decreases and irritability increases.
Sleep has many important functions. During sleep our body rests and repairs itself, conserves energy and fixes and consolidates our memories. This is also a time when we process toxins, restock our hormone supply and eliminate the effects of stress.
Sleep deprivation, even one bad night’s kip, can have a dramatic effect on the way we function the next day. Other than feeling exhausted, we have a lower level of certain hormones that affect our appetite. Grehlin, a hormone which stimulates hunger, is more abundant which is why we often feel hungry after a poor night’s sleep and want to reach for those sugary, high carb foods. Poor sleep can also affect our mood and lead to digestion issues.
So what can you do to get a better night’s sleep?
Finish your last meal earlier in the evening – aim to finish eating 2-3 hours before you go to sleep. This means there is less work for your body digesting a late meal, and your blood sugar levels are not spiked.
Get physically active. Walking, cycling or any other form of movement can improve the quality of your sleep.
Even better do your exercise outside. Just 15-20 minutes of sunlight exposure can dramatically impact your sleep.
Aim to get as many hours of sleep as possible before midnight, this is when we get the best quality and restorative sleep.
Turn you devices off at least an hour before bed to avoid, blue light from phones, ipads even TVs. Blue light suppresses the production of the hormone melatonin which signals to your body that it’s time to sleep.
Make your bedroom a phone and TV free zone, transform your bedroom into a place that invites sleep.
Reduce your caffeine intake and avoid it after midday. Caffeine has a half-life of around 6 hours and quarter life of 12 hours, so have your tea or coffee earlier in the day to avoid it affecting your sleep. Don’t forget chocolate and some medications also contain caffeine!
A bath before bed can help you drift off. Having a fairly hot bath before you go to sleep may help you drift off quicker. The hot water lowers your body’s core temperature which helps signal to your body that it’s time to sleep. Adding some lavender or Epsom bath salts can also help your body to relax and calm your mind.
If you find your mind is overactive in the evening try some deep breathing, mindfulness or meditation.
A Magical Energy Drink
I was listening to the Calm app recently where Los Angeles Lakers basketball player LeBron James was talking about the power of sleep. Something that really resonated with me in what he said, was when he talked about a magical energy drink. He said if someone was to invent an energy drink which had the power to heal your body, balance your mood and emotions, recharge your mind, boost your creativity and support your immune system and was free of charge, would you give it a try? He goes on to say, there’s only one catch; it takes 8 hours to kick in. Doesn’t it sound amazing and too good to be true? Well it’s not, and it exists, because that’s what sleep can do for you. I’ll leave you with that food for thought, sleep well!
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Disclaimer: Nutritional Therapy is not a replacement for medical advice, practitioners always refer any client with ‘red flag’ signs or symptoms to their medical professional. The information provided here is general and is not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent or cure any diseases or conditions.