Much talked about, much needed, quite often not getting enough! Are you getting enough sleep? How do you know what is enough?
The National Sleep Foundation reports that 63 percent of Americans, almost 200 million people, get insufficient sleep. No wonder most people are ‘sick and tired’ In the same poll, 43% of 13 – 64 year olds state they rarely, or never, get a good nights sleep during the week. What is happening?? A lot of the issues I see coming through clinic are related to energy levels, often there are sleep related issues as well.
How often have you woken in the morning and declared, NOT YET, hitting the snooze button strongly!! Waking groggy, grumpy and falling out of the wrong side of bed is not a good start to any day! Are you falling into the 43% or the 63% that don’t get enough sleep?
The big question however is: How does the amount of sleep we have and the health of our body correlate?
Firstly we need to understand what happens with our bodies when we are sleeping – there is definitely a lot going on in there. Our bodies are amazing functioning tools that continue to work while we doze off for the evening/night. Amongst other things, our bodies take this time to repair. It also takes this time to boost our immune system and reduce inflammation in our body. These are all aspects of a healthy functioning body, and normally, when we get sufficient sleep, the body goes about it’s repair routine while we sleep.
However, as we go through every day, we’re absorbing various toxins that can make our body respond in different ways. They can include a response in our immune system, by creating inflammation or through damage to individual cells. These all need to be repaired at some stage.
Imagine if you can a car that is being driven hard during the day, and then you don’t give it some rest time, the rust will fall apart due to the constant jiggling, the oil will stop lubricating the joints, the tyres may explode or go flat and the inside gets terribly dirty. This is just like our body!
We need to stop and allow our body to do it’s cleaning and tidying up, if this doesn’t happen, things will start to break down.
What kind of things break down?
If we look tired, we’re not deemed as attractive to others and we can appear to be less healthy visually, Axelsson et al, 2010
What else can happen when we don’t get enough sleep then?
Sleep, or lack of it, can also contribute to weight gain! It can contribute to binge eating as well, check out Trace et al 2012 It has also been attributed to a risk of developing chronic disease and is to be considered essential to a healthy life, Alvarez 2004
Another study, Reiter et al 2012, highlights that the obesity ‘epidemic in industrialised and developing countries’ may be due to lack of sleep and melatonin suppression.
How can we change this?
Several options can help us to get a better night’s sleep
1. keep your room dark, make it your sanctuary
- this allows the body to produce melantonin, which is sleep promoting, light sources suppress this hormone and can shift our circadian rhythms to later (these rhythms allow us to fall asleep)
- Stop using your mobile phone at night while you’re lying in bed
- Don’t have a television in your room
- use black out curtains if you live in the city
2. keep regular going to bed and waking times
- set a time each night when you go to bed
- wake at the same time each morning
- if you get anxious about the time you are waking, move the clock out of sight
- restrict fluids before bed, especially alcohol (doesn’t allow for a deep sleep), caffeine (stimulant), to avoid waking to go to the toilet
- if you wake during the night and worry, or have a lot of thoughts, keep a ‘worry book’ beside your bed, write them down to release these thoughts
3. establish a routine that is relaxing before bed
- have a warm bath (not too hot) about an hour before bed
- listen to soothing music for half an hour before bed
- turn the television off half an hour before bed and read a book
- avoid video games, paying bills on the internet or working for an hour before bed (95% of the poll mentioned above use technology before going to bed – and that is for ALL generations!)
- have a relaxing routine such as yoga or meditation that soothes
- comfortable mattress, pillows, coverings
- remember a mattress should not be kept for longer than 10 years, they’re no longer comfortable!
5. regular exercise
- have your exercise routine in the morning if you can
- avoid exercising just before you go to bed, your body temperature stays too warm to sleep
- if you can’t exercise in the morning, try to finish 3 hours before you will go to bed, allows the body to cool
6. avoid nicotine
- this is a stimulant, so avoid before going to bed
- it can also cause you to feel withdrawal symptoms from the nicotine
7. good nutrition in your diet
- eat well during the day
- avoid sugar, stimulants, heavy meals, alcohol late at night
Sleep well, look well, be well!