Sleep is not a passive bodily function but a dynamic one in which certain neurotransmitters switch off and others become active. Research suggests that chemicals such as Adenosine are broken down during sleep. Suggesting that the body also does some housekeeping during the night. The dark patches under our eyes may not just be a lack of sleep but a subsequent build up of toxins that were not eliminated over night.
We know that sleep deprivation:
- Shortens life span
- Affects our nervous system adversely
- Reduces our memory and physical performance
- Increases driving accident’s more than drink driving
- Increases certain diseases
Whilst we are asleep certain repair work is carried out such as:
- Increased growth hormone release in children
- Increased production/breakdown of protein indicating repair and cell growth in the body from damage from stress and ultra violet rays
- Reduced activity in certain parts of the brain that control emotion, decision making and social interaction.
How to optimise sleep:
- Avoid chemicals that interfere with sleep i.e. caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and pain relief medication.
- Establish a soothing pre-sleep routine i.e. bath, reading, dimmed lights whilst avoiding stressful activities which can increase cortisol which increases alertness.
- Keep a notepad by the bed and write down any problems on your mind so that you can let them go.
- Go to bed when you are tired not before.
- Don’t clock watch once in bed, it can increase stress
- If you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep within 20 minutes then it can help to get up and read or listen to music in dim lighting until you feel drowsy. Research has shown that we may naturally have a waking time in the middle of sleep and that historically we would use this for an activity. May be time to wake up your partner!
- Make sure you are out in natural daylight during the day as this supports your natural sleep rhythms.
- Routine sleep times promote better sleep by supporting circadian rhythms
- Any naps should be taken before 5pm
- Keep meals light in the evening and ensure you are drinking your 6-8 glasses of water throughout the day. Proper hydration is important to all body systems.
- Certain nutrient deficiencies may disrupt sleep. A multivitamin and mineral supplement is good insurance against this. See our Multivitamin section
- Include some protein foods in your diet during the day, good quality clean protein from organic meat, fish, rice protein, beans.
- Use calming herbs in drinks or supplements such as chamomile, organic india sleep tea and cherry juice concentrate.
- Body temperature control is reduced whilst we are asleep which is why bedding, clothing and room temperature are so important.
Products that Support Better Sleep
Bach Flowers Rescue Remedy Sleep Drops or Spray are both gentle and effective ways to encourage sleep.
For those suffering with tense muscles, cramp or twitchy legs a magnesium supplement may help such as Mega Magnesium Powder or Mega Magnesium Tablets. Restless legs can also indicate a lack of B Vitamins.
All the above products can be found in our section on Sleep.
This deep breathing exercise is also a great way to relax, de-stress and fall asleep.