Sleep, unfortunately for some, has become a tradable commodity. It is estimated that nearly half of the UK population are getting just six hours sleep or less a night. And an alarming four out of five people complain of disturbed, poor or inadequate sleep. (Sleep Council ‘Toxic Sleep’ survey, January 2011)
Sleep - along with exercise - is something we are often willing to sacrifice to accommodate other parts of our life. We take it for granted and it's even seen as a badge of honour among many a workplace 'water-cooler' chit chat! But at what cost? Essentially, over time, poor and inadequate sleep can result in a whole host of health concerns including an increased risk of chronic illness such as heart disease and diabetes.
Did You Know:
Poor sleep means an increased risk of depression. showing a 45% increase in depressive symptoms.
People who sleep less than 6hrs per night have a 15% greater risk of heart disease or stroke.
1 in 3 people suffer with Insomnia, drastically increasing (55%) the likelihood of relationship issues.
Sleep deprivation and poor sleep show a 30% higher risk of obesity, and 55% more difficulty in losing weight.
23% of individuals have difficulty concentrating, with 1 in 6 crashes resulting in death or injury on major roads being fatigue-related.
A review of 16 studies found that sleeping for less than 6 to 8 hours a night increases the risk of early death by about 12%.
When 'being healthy' comes into question, the most obvious starting points are diet and exercise. But what about sleep? Could getting adequate and optimal sleep be the catalyst for a wholesale change? Could sleep be more important to your health than you realise?
Getting the right amount of high quality sleep fortifies your immune system, balances your hormones, boosts your metabolism, increases physical energy, and improves the function of your brain. Sleep is now recognised as second to diet, and more important than exercise, for weight loss according to Chris Kresser on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast. Those sleeping 7+ hours per night also improve memory power by 33.5%, and are 3x less likely to catch a cold!
So let's get this straight. Our bodies, by design, use sleep as a function to optimally rest, recover, re-energise, re-invigorate, and restore. In order to meet the demands of sufficient recovery, we as adults have an optimal sleep cycle of 7-8hrs per night. Babies, children, teens, and the elderly, all vary also in their optimal sleep requirements. It is well established that sleep is critical to overall health, and insufficient sleep over time will chip away at both your longevity and quality of life. Sounds quite morbid! But hey, on the flip-side, sleep is also incredibly powerful and positive for almost all of our health concerns and overall wellbeing. And guess what? It's absolutely free AND already an ingrained part of our daily routine. So to help make sleep a priority, and to prepare yourself for a sound night of re-energising slumber, check out some of the following helpful do's and don'ts from sleep guru, and authour of 'Sleep Smarter', Shawn Stevenson :
1. Get more sunlight during the day
One of the most vital things that induces great sleep is your body’s natural secretion of a hormone called melatonin which regulates the sleep-wake cycle in your body. Get more light during the day, less light at night, and you’re on your way to having a magic sleep formula.
2. Avoid the screen
This is likely the #1 thing you can do to improve your sleep quality immediately. Electronic device screens emit an artificial 'blue light' that triggers your body to produce more daytime hormones (like cortisol) confusing your body’s natural preparation for sleep. Make it a mandate to shut down and turn off all screens a minimum of one hour before bedtime.
3. Have a caffeine curfew
Caffeine is a powerful nervous system stimulant. If your nervous system is lit up, you can forget about getting high quality sleep. Set an unbreakable curfew stop time to make sure that your body has time to remove it from your system. For most people, it’s generally going to be before 4 p.m. But if you’re really sensitive to caffeine, then you might want to make your curfew even earlier, or possibly avoid caffeine altogether.
4. Stay cool
As your body prepares to rest, there is an automatic drop in your core body temperature to help initiate sleep. If the temperature in your environment stays too high, then it can be a bit of a physiological challenge for your body to get into the ideal state for restful sleep. Studies have found that the ideal room temperature for sleep is around 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything above 75 or below 54 will likely cause some difficulty sleeping.
5. Get to bed at the right time
This is key! You can literally get amplified benefits of sleep by sleeping at the right hours. It’s been shown that humans get the most significant hormonal secretions and recovery by sleeping during the hours of 10 pm and 2 am. You get the most rejuvenating effects during this time, and any sleep that you get in addition is a bonus.
6. Get it blacked out
Having light sources of any type in your bedroom can disrupt your sleep patterns. Did you know that your skin actually has receptors that can pick up light? If there’s light in your bedroom, your body is picking it up and sending messages to your brain and organs that can interfere with your sleep. The best solution is: Black it out!
7. Have a high protein, low carb snack close to bed time
If you want to get truly restful sleep, one of the worst things you can do is eat right before bed. Give your body a solid 90 minutes (more is better) before heading off to bed after eating. This is ESPECIALLY true if you’re eating carbs because the inherent blood sugar spike will cause a sharp drop in blood sugar later… and if you happen to be asleep when this hypoglycaemia hits, it will likely wake you up and give you difficulties falling back asleep.
If you feel you need to have something shortly before bed (again, at least 90 minutes) then go with a high protein food. The amino acids in the protein food (like tryptophan) can actually aid in getting a more beneficial sleep.
8. Calm inner-chatter
The inner chatter that you experience is a result of the stress and (untamed) busyness of the day. Now more than ever with the constant flow of information coming at you, it’s important to have a practice to help you eliminate that stress. That important practice is meditation.
Meditation is like a tonic. A tonic is something that you can use everyday, and the results continue to get better and better. The more you meditate, the more calm and presence you’ll have in your day-to-day life. Using essential oils is also an extremely effective way to calm the mind, reduce feelings of anxiety and stress, preparing the mind and body for relaxation. Oils such as Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Vetiver and Frankincense are prized for their calming benefits. Also, blends such as Serenity and Balance provide a grounding environment and headspace.
9. Electronics Out
Have you heard of EMFs before? This means Electromagnetic Fields or Electromagnetic Noise. Numerous studies have confirmed that the EMFs coming from our everyday electronic devices can cause disruption of communication between the cells in our body. Television, laptops, cell phones, all of these things are kicking out radiation that is disrupting your sleep. Really… people still watch T.V. in their bed…? That’s sleep suicide, and a guarantee that you’re going to have reality T.V. stars giving you bad dreams!
10. Create a sleep sanctuary
If getting rejuvenating sleep is a high priority for you, then you need to take some essential actions to treat it as such. The bedroom should be for two things primarily… 1. Sleep and 2. Yep, you guessed it (wink)! Stop making your bedroom the entertainment hub of your house. And NEVER bring work to bed with you. Make your bedroom a sacred place where peace, calm, and relaxation are overflowing. When you walk into a sleep sanctuary it’ll be easy to peacefully drift off to your dreams. Diffuse your fave essential oil 30mins prior to bed for a calming, sleep-inducing, zen-like haven!
Contradictory to sleep, this came as somewhat of an eye-opener! With all major chronic diseases on the rise globally, we have to think about the contributing factors and begin to trace the root cause. There may be more than a few, however a habitual lack of sleep is certainly being heavily considered, studied, and researched as one. Sleep is something we could all benefit tremendously from, just as nature intended.
Good night, sleep tight, and don't let the bed bugs bite!