16 Aug Sleep for Your Health
Do you have:
- poor memory
- slow reactions
- reduced attention
- difficulty concentrating
- trouble controlling your emotions
- the feeling of needing a nap during the day
- the need for caffeine to keep you going through the day
- feelings of irritability, intolerance or sleepiness during the day
- difficulty staying awake while sitting still, watching TV or reading
“Enjoy the honey-heavy dew of slumber”
A famous Shakespeare quote, from Julius Caesar and likely a time when the importance of sleep was much more revered and honoured.
Being sleep deprived is a huge contributor to stress, physically, emotionally and mentally.
In today’s world where everything moves quickly and people want instantaneous results, many view sleep as a waste of time. You may think nothing is really happening when you are sleeping. The truth is sleep is a very important part of biology.
During sleep, your brain is repairing itself from the day’s activities, rejuvenating your mind and body. Deep sleep enables your nervous system to function well, by allowing neurons to regain energy and cells to repair themselves. This is the time for muscle and tissue repair, memory consolidation, releasing hormones and restoring energy.
Normally, sleep is divided into five phases, defined by the types of brain waves that reflect light or deep sleep. The five phase cycle repeats itself at 90 – 110 minute intervals. REM sleep is the fifth phase, which we spend about 20 – 25% of our total sleep time. Without this most restorative sleep you will not feel refreshed upon waking.
The Importance of Sleep
Quality sleep is vital to good health & well-being and is essential to both the body and mind. This is the body’s time for repair, hormonal regulation, and growth. Without adequate sleep, you’re more likely to get sick, feel depressed, and gain an unhealthy amount of weight. Lack of sleep has adverse effects on the entire body, interfering with necessary daily metabolic repairs, taxing its ability to adapt to stress and reduces the effectiveness of the immune system.
Adequate sleep is critical for many aspects of cognition, including processing speed, verbal skills, memory and concentration. Research continues to prove that obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and depression are related to the amount and quality of our sleep. Sleep is the time when our bodies do the bulk of their restorative healing.
Here are some examples of what is happening when you sleep:
- your immune system is strengthening
- cells repair from normal metabolic processes
- hunger hormones self-regulate (grhelin & leptin)
- hormones are released that regulate energy, mood & mental acuity
- your brain is forming new pathways to help with learning & memory
As we age, our patterns for sleep change, often making it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep, however our need for sleep does not change. Our habits and sleep conditions play a key role in in getting a restful night’s sleep.
How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?
Exactly how much sleep is required varies from one person to the next. Sleep is of particular importance during periods of brain maturation, such as during infancy and adolescence. Results of sleep investigations suggest the following sleep requirements:
- One-year old baby: 14 hours every 24
- 5-year-old: 12 hours
- Adolescents (10-18 years): 9.2 hours nightly
- Adults: 7-9 hours
Factors That Can Disrupt Sleep
- For some, medications and hormonal imbalances (including blood sugar imbalances) can intrude on sleep as well. Numerous over-the-counter and prescription drugs, including anti-anxiety and sedative-hypnotic drugs, antidepressant drugs, thyroid preparations, oral contraceptives, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), and blood pressure medications. Try taking these drugs earlier in the day.
- Stress is the most common trigger of short-term sleep disruption. Usually the sleep problem will resolve itself once the stressful situation passes. If short term sleep problems are not addressed properly, they can persist long after the stress has passed.
- An irregular sleep/wake cycle can disrupt your sleep just as well as doing intense activities (like working or watching TV) right before bed.
- Drinking alcohol or caffeine in the afternoon or evening can impair your sleep cycle, as can exercising close to bedtime.
- The comfort and size of your bed as well as your sleeping partner (and the noises or movement that may make) along your own physical comfort. For example, back pain, arthritis, etc.
- Environmental factors like the temperature, brightness/darkness and the noises in your room can impair sleep
- Travelling can also disrupt sleep patterns and your biological circadian rhythm.
- Nutrient deficiencies, hypoglycaemia and food sensitivities
Suggestions for Quality Sleep
- use the 1 hour window before bedtime to make a list of things to do the next day, journal, breathing exercises or meditation to clear your mind
- avoid stimulants that can impair sleep (caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, nicotine, etc)
- unplug yourself & turn off all electronics at least one hour prior to going to sleep
- avoid heavy meals before bed, but don’t go to bed so hungry you can’t sleep
- sleep in a completely dark, cool room that provides plenty of fresh air
- remove all electronic devices from your bedroom
- exercise during the day to improve sleep at night
- get up at the same time every morning
- aim for 8 hours of sleep per night
Getting adequate, quality sleep in one of our Top 10 Tips to Healthy Living Naturally, which is available FREE here.