Here’s some quick facts on how quality sleep helps you be more awesome:
Sleep is restorative, and without it you are not able to work, learn, create or communicate at your highest level.
Over time, lack of sleep can even lead to mental and physical breakdown.
Sleep has been linked to the immune system. Sleep loss can impair our immune function, so by sleeping longer we can invest in strengthening our immune system. When we sleep, our metabolic rates reduce and free radical production is decreased, allowing restorative processes to take over.
The metabolic phase during sleep is anabolic, as we see a greater release of anabolic hormones such as growth hormone. This further adds to the restorative processes of sleep.
- Memory Processing
Numerous studies have been conducted into the correlation between sleep and memory. Sleep deprivation is linked to a reduction of ‘working memory’, which keeps information active for further processing and supports higher-level cognition functions such as decision-making, reasoning and memory.
It’s been suggested that sleep can serve as a ‘preservation and protection’ system to reserve energy and to keep us out of harms way.
What a Lack Of Sleep Can Do
- You become more insulin resistant , which increase the likeness that the food you eat gets stored as fat rather than being used to rebuild (muscle).
- Increases blood pressure
- Increases Ghrelin, which is the hormone that signals the brain to tell you when you are hungry
- Increase cortisol, which is the stress hormone - this is known to breakdown muscle tissue
- Decreases you testosterone & thyroid functioning, which in turn decreases your metabolism
Pay Attention To Your Circadian Clock
The study of sleep looks at the neuro scientific and physiological basis sleep and its functions.
It is assumed that the benefits we get from enough sleep have evolved over time, creating greater dependence on getting sufficient and quality sleep.
Sleep is a naturally occurring state characterised by reduced or absent consciousness, and the inactivity of nearly all voluntary muscles.
In humans, sleep timing is controlled by the circadian clock and (to some extent) by willed behaviour.
The circadian clock (also known as circadian oscillator) allows us to coordinate our biology and behaviour with daily and seasonal changes in the day/night cycle.
This in-built biological clock receives daily corrective signals from the environment, primarily daylight and darkness. Circadian clocks are the central mechanisms which drive circadian rhythms.
The term circadian comes from the Latin ‘circa’, meaning ‘around or approximately’, and diem meaning ‘day’.
It works over a 24 hour period.
This clock is reset through our ability to sense external cues. The primary one of these environmental changes is light. This clock is considered to be intertwined with most cellular processes.
When you sleep, the body doesn’t just shut down and switch off.
In fact, while you rest, the brain over- sees a wide variety of biological maintenance that improves your health markers and aids recovery.
Sleep Promoting Methods
Here’s a number of sleep promoting techniques and considerations that can be easily integrated into your evening routine.
- Get a routine Syncing with the body’s natural clock
The circadian rhythm is one of the most effective methods we have for getting a good night’s sleep. Getting into a strict and consistent routine of going to bed and getting up in the morning can have huge benefits.
It’s also important to experiment with different sleep and wake times, as various set ups will benefit people differently.
Aim to not only find the ideal length of sleep, but also the times your sleep should start and finish.
- Control the surroundings
On top of finding the best sleeping routine, we can naturally encourage the body to feel more alert or relaxed.
A hormone known as melatonin is released when we are in dark surroundings, as it helps the body regulate the sleep-wake cycle. If we are exposed to little to no sunlight during the day, we release melatonin, making us sleepy during the day.
In a bright environment, melatonin production is stopped. The same occurs at night. If we are exposed to bright light or electrical equipment just before bed, it can slow down the release - just when we do want a release of melatonin in order to induce sleep.
The goal should be to spend more time in daylight during the day, with less exposure to light (including artificial light) at night.
- Keep the bedroom for sleep
It’s essential to ensure the bedroom is optimised for relaxing, unwinding and sleep.
The bedroom should therefore become a place associated for sleep which will send a powerful signal to help us nod off.
Other important factors here are:
- Eliminating any noises that may disturb your sleep
- Keeping the bedroom at the right temperature
- Removing any electronic equipment
- Ensuring the room is dark enough
- Ensuring the bed is comfortable enough
- Improve nutrition and exercise habits Good nutrition habits
- particularly in the last hours before bed
- can drastically improve sleep quality.
Some important considerations are:
- Avoid eating large meals before bed
- Avoid drinking too much liquid
- Avoid caffeine in the latter part of the day (2-4pm is good cut off)
- Avoid alcohol before bed
A small bedtime snack containing a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates can be ideal to help you fall asleep, as that feeling of being satisfied can help the body rest.
Daily exercise can also lead to improved sleep, while exercising too late may disturb the body’s natural wake-sleep cycle as it can act as a heavy stimulus on the body.
- Reduce stress and relax
Stress related to family, money, work or other day-to-day difficulties can be a common sleep disruptor.
Managing these stressors and using pre-bed relaxation techniques can be effective in aiding a better night’s sleep.
Some common techniques are:
- Write down any problems or issues
- Conduct some deep breathing techniques
- Use progressive muscle relaxation techniques
- Avoid any stressing tasks or thoughts before bed
- Keep the bedroom clean and tidy
- Have a hot shower or bath
- Do something you enjoy before bed
Start applying some of these techniques and you’ll be sleeping like a baby very soon. Sweet Dreams!