Sleep plays a significant role in our health, the importance of which is often undervalued especially when we have a good sleep. Sleep is the time when the body has the opportunity to refocus energy into processing the day’s information, lowering our cortisol levels and releasing anti-inflammatory cytokines for healing and repair.
It’s not just the length of the sleep that matters its also the quality. Occasionally, we can all have nights of sleep deprivation for a number of reasons. However, when sleep deprivation is chronic it can be a sign of an underlying issue. Over time sleep deprivation has been linked with poor attention, learning and memory recall, reduced immune system function, respiratory disease and an increased risk of accidents, weight gain, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hormone dysregulation particularly grehlin, leptin and testosterone.
Factors like work/life/study commitments, anxiety, depression, poor sleep hygiene, caffeine use, alcohol and drug use, technology, chronic diseases and hormone imbalances, even low exposure to sunshine, can contribute to sleepiness and sleep deprivation.
Ideally, adults require 7-9 hours, teenagers 8-10 and children between 9 – 14 hours, depending on their age.
Here are some nightly rituals that you can try that may help you sleep better:
- Sprinkle some lavender essential oil on your pillows just before bed or add to a diffuser. It has been shown to reduce anxiety and soothe the nervous system thereby inducing sleep faster. Lavender may also improve sleep quality and waking feeling refreshed
- Prioritise regular exercise as it lifts the mood and reduces stress. It also helps regulate our sleep-wake cycle and melatonin production
- Reduce fluid intake just before bed and limit caffeine, alcohol and nicotine late in the day as they not only keep us up but also disrupt our sleep
- Eat your last meal of the day at least 2 hours before bed as a lot of energy is required for digestion keeping you alert for longer or making you wake through the night
- Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day as this helps regulate your circadian rhythms
- Create a ‘wind down’ routine before bed. This may include an epsom salt bath, a warm shower, reading a book, a cup of herbal tea, talking with a friend, hot water bottle. This is very individual so find something relaxing that works best for you
- Avoid technology and blue light use at least 1 hour before bed as this alters our melatonin production tricking our body into thinking it’s daytime and throwing out our circadian rhythm. You can also try blue light blocking glasses during screen time.
- Create a relaxing sleep environment. For example this could be beautiful sheets, soothing colour on the walls, oil diffuser, the right temperature or blocking out light sources.
If you feel like sleeplessness is impacting your health and wellbeing and you want to explore why, feel free get in touch with a naturopath to have a chat about how we can help.
Words by Danielle: @the_holistic_pursuit