If there is one thing you should focus on for your health it is sleep, yet so many of us are forgoing this most important health factor when it comes to preventing disease.
Sleep problems including insomnia and a general lack of sleep are frequently experienced by people of all ages. In fact, it is estimated that up to one third of people experience sleep problems. Not getting enough sleep, even by one hour, can have many detrimental health effects.
In our modern day, we are at a point of genetic mismatch due to technological changes. Our bodies are hardwired to respond to certain factors to alert us of when it is time to wake up to ensure we are ‘safe from predators’. These alerts include sounds and light. The introduction of electricity has changed the way our days are structured, and we can now keep our lives illuminated for longer than the 12 or so hours given to us by the sun.
Systems of the body correlated with poor sleeping patterns:
- Hormonal disorders – testosterone levels can be affected with as little as one night of poor sleep
- Mood disorders – depression, anxiety, ADHD, autism
- Magnesium status – poor sleep depletes magnesium (conversely, increasing magnesium status can promote a deeper sleep)
- Poor immune health – we produce immune cells as we sleep. Poor sleep causes a reduction in cells we need to fight infection.
- Inflammatory conditions
- Reduced growth hormone – increased ageing, interfering with fertility
- Poor gut health
- Weight gain and increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes
How much is enough?
The researched amount of sleep to prevent disease is 7–8 hours every night. It is different for everyone, especially our little humans who need a lot more sleep than adults. The only way we can discover how much sleep is enough for us is by checking in with yourself and how you are feeling throughout the day with varying amounts of sleep. Children and adolescents require much more than adults so ensuring they are getting the right amount of sleep is crucial for proper brain development. Research also suggests that correct sleeping patterns can increase performance at school.
Creating bedtime rituals is key to getting a good sleep
At least one hour before bed, cease all screen time and opting for reading, meditation or chatting with friends and family instead.
- Aim to live by the sun – rising to natural light also helps us to regulate our circadian clock
- Hack your lighting – ensuring the colour of the light bulbs in your bedroom is more orange to yellow and the dimmer the better with as few lux or lumen as possible. Research shows melatonin suppression is impacted by levels of light greater than 5 lux. An average e-reader provides 30–50 lux and a night light about 40 lux. Ideally, use candles as they provide the right colour of light and sit at around 12 lumen.
- Minimise alcohol consumption – one to two alcoholic drinks can be enough to disrupt sleep patterns for some people
- Limit caffeinated drinks to before 2 pm – caffeine shifts our circadian rhythm over an hour later with every cup. Caffeine has a very long half-life (the time taken for the body to eliminate one-half of the caffeine) meaning if you drink it at 4 pm, it can still be in your system as late as 2 am.
- Smells can stimulate a limbic response – using the same smell every night is a great way to stimulate a response in the limbic portion of the brain, signalling to you that it is time for sleep. Supercharging this by using lavender as it stimulates GABA production, a relaxing neurotransmitter.
- Finish eating three hours before bed – our digestive system will take preference if you have eaten close to bedtime, not letting our body fully rest until food is digested. Aim to eat light in the evening and at least two hours before bedtime, if not more.
- Keep a regular bedtime – we are creatures of habit. Letting your body know that it is time to rest helps your body get into a good rhythm, knowing it is safe to sleep deeply.
How can naturopathic care help
Even if you are getting eight hours sleep, it may not be enough to make sure you are getting the deepest sleep possible in the time you are asleep. If you are waking unrefreshed and feel like you have been tossing and turning, it is likely that you are falling short in the amount of sleep your body needs. At Kismet, we have numerous herbs and nutraceuticals that help with falling asleep and staying asleep.
Let us help you! Speak to one of our naturopaths to deepen your sleep and get the energy you need to get your health back in check. Book an appointment today.
Written by Ally Stuart BHSc