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Recipe for a good nights’ sleep - Blog

Recipe for a good nights’ sleep

Did you wake up feeling refreshed and full of energy this morning? Or are you struggling to remember the last time that happened?

 

Chances are pretty high that at some point you’ve been impacted by sleep deprivation – which essentially is not enough sleep. Most adults need around seven-eight hours of good quality sleep each night, yet many of us find it difficult to achieve this on a regular basis.

 

You may have noticed the term ‘good quality sleep’ above, sleep quantity or duration has been talked about a lot, but what you may not appreciate is that the quality of your sleep is just as important. Getting say seven hours of sleep over a nine hour period sounds pretty good, until you realise that there are different phases of sleep, and they’re all important. The sleep phases are transition to sleep, light sleep, deep sleep and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Each of these phases provides a unique health benefit to body and mind. A healthy sleeper – who has allowed themselves seven-eight hours of continuous sleep – will move through these phases three or four times in a night. But many of us are missing out because we only get six hours a night or have difficulty falling asleep in the first place or wake during the night.

 

A lot of biological processes occur during sleep, your brain is on a filing mission, organising information learned throughout the day and committing things to memory. Your immune system makes cytokines that fight infection and inflammation; antibodies and other immune cells are also produced. Your body repairs cells, restores energy, and releases molecules like hormones and proteins and even clears out toxins from the day.

 

These processes are critical for our overall health. Without them, our bodies can’t function correctly. Apart from feeling tired and foggy, sleep deprivation can be linked to many chronic health conditions including high blood pressure, heart disease, increased inflammation, elevated cortisol levels, weight gain, insulin resistance, weakened immunity, mood changes such as depression or anxiety. If sleep deprivation is ongoing it has even been linked to risk of early death. It’s that important.

 

Now you have a good understanding about why sleep is so important, but just what can you do to improve your sleep quality and quantity? Firstly, look at your diet, exercise and other habits – especially the things you do in the evening – how are they impacting your sleep? Here’s some things to consider:

 

- Use up your energy during the day with regular exercise, so that you’re physically tired at night

- Watch what you eat and drink in the hours before bed – avoid or minimise large meals, stimulating foods such as sugar, and drinks such as alcohol and caffeine – in fact try to keep caffeine to the morning.

- Create a peaceful sleep environment – you ideally want a dark bedroom, comfortable bed and an ambient temperature

- Turn off electronic devices at least an hour before bed - instead try reading, meditating, listening to relaxing music

- Incorporate gentle stretches, especially if physical tension is present

- Consider journaling or keeping a diary by your bed to jot thoughts or worries you have for the next day, write them down then try to clear them from your mind.

 

Once you have established healthy bedtime habits, you will find sleep becomes easier and more restful. Like everything, your new routine needs to be practiced over time.

 

If you’ve tried everything above but still need help with your sleep, that’s when it’s time to look at supplements. Of course you want to keep doing all of your healthy bedtime habits, don’t drop them and expect a supplement to do all the heavy lifting.

 

Because sleep challenges are so common there is a massive offering of various sleep aids,  supplements and prescription medications. So just where do you start? Often times, starting with the most gentle intervention is the best way to go – you wouldn’t start with prescription sleeping pills for example. When it comes to sleep supplements, one of the most gentle to try is magnesium.  Magnesium is used for hundreds of different processes in the body and it’s a mineral that many people are a bit low in. Magnesium may help to support your heart health, nerve health, bone and muscle health and reduce migraines and cramps. You’re likely to experience some benefit from a good quality magnesium supplement.

 

If magnesium alone doesn’t quite cut it in the sleep department, then you would look at moving on to a more potent and specific sleep supplement. There are many herbs that have been used traditionally for hundreds, in some cases, thousands of years to support sleep. There’s also modern research that proves the benefits of them for supporting a good night’s restful sleep. Some of the best known herbs for this include Valerian, Passionflower, Chamomile and Lavender. These plants have a calming effect on the nervous system and assist you drifting off to sleep. Passionflower can also help if you suffer from restlessness, and Valerian has been studied widely and shown to support quality of sleep. Other wonderful things about these herbs are that they have an excellent safety profile, are non-habit forming and can safely be combined with magnesium and most other natural supplements. They generally offer other side benefits too, such as chamomile which is well known for its digestive support for example.

 

If you’re ready to get a good nights sleep, follow the above recipe and with any luck you’ll be drifting calmly off to sleep before you know it.