Sleep....so underrated but ohhh so necessary
Sleep…we all know we need it but do you get enough? Do you know how important sleep is? What happens when we sleep?
A few questions to ask yourself are:
Do you have a bedtime routine?
What time do you got to bed each night?
How many hours do you sleep a night?
Do you sleep soundly without waking up?
Do you wake up on your own before the alarm goes off?
Do you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to jump out of bed? Or are you sluggish and have trouble getting up and rely on coffee to get you going in the morning?
These questions are really important as the time you go to bed, the quality of your sleep and the amount of sleep you get all affects how you feel and perform the next day. If you go to bed early and sleep really well, then you are more likely to feel energised, focused and ready to go first thing in the morning. However, if you go to bed late and sleep poorly or don’t get enough good quality sleep, then you are more likely to be sluggish, tired, moody, can’t think clearly and make mistakes.
In general, most studies show that people are not getting enough sleep per night. In the Great Australian Sleep Report (Ref 1), out of 1000 people surveyed they found:
In regards to the amount of hours slept per night:
63% slept 6-7 hours per night.
20% slept 8-9 hours per night.
15% slept 4-5 hours per night.
47% didn’t have a specific routine before bed.
54% said they kept electronics in their bedroom and used them before bed, whereas 25% said that their bedrooms were completely tech free.
In terms of the quality of sleep:
32% slept well
42% described their sleep as being neither good nor poor
17.6% said they slept poorly
4.2% described their sleep as being good.
58% said they felt rested in the morning
23% said they woke feeling completely unrested
17% said they felt rested in the morning.
Another study done by Monash University (Ref 2) which looked at the sleep patterns of 1050 people (young adults, middle aged and older adults), found that on average people were getting approx. 7 hours of sleep per night, with 66% people reported their sleep being disturbed (due to going to the toilet, thinking about things, aches/pains/physical discomfort, noise).
In the Sleep Health Survey of Australian Adults Report completed by the Sleep Health Foundation, it showed that the average reported sleep time is 7 hours, with 12% sleep less than 5 ½ hours and 8% over 9 hours. Three-quarters (76%) who sleep less than 5 ½ hours report frequent daytime impairment or sleep-related symptoms (Ref 3).
Our bodies are in tune with the sun rising and setting. When the sun rises and the light stimulates your skin or eyes, your body thinks it is morning and it releases cortisol. This is a natural mechanism which activates the body to get it ready and going for the day – for movement and work. Cortisol is released in response to stress and in this case it is in response to electromagnetic stress (Ref 5).
Cortisol levels rise and peak between 6-9am which is in line with the sun rising. Here you would have the most energy to get things done and most people find they are most productive during these times. Between 9am and midday, your cortisol levels still remain high but drop a little. In the afternoon, your cortisol levels begin to decrease and continue to as the sun goes down. As cortisol levels drop, the body releases melatonin and increases the levels of growth and repair hormones (which are needed while you sleep to help repair your body) (Ref 5).
The sleep wake cycle:
sunlight releases stress/activity hormones (cortisol)
evening/night releases growth and repair hormones (melatonin)
What happens while we sleep
Our body repairs physically between 10pm and 2am while we are asleep (Ref 5).
Between 2am and 6am, our body repairs mentally (Ref 5).
If you go to bed late, work night-shift, or are constantly woken (due to little kids which may be unavoidable), then you will miss out on the physical repair and/or mental repair. This could lead to musculoskeletal injuries, increased incidence of headaches, moodiness, neurological symptoms (Ref 5).
What are the benefits of getting enough good quality sleep?
Strong immune system
Maintain weight or help you to lose weight (depending on your goals)
Lower blood pressure
Better food choices
Improved concentration and productivity
Better athletic performance
Decreased risk of heart disease and stroke
What environmental effects can stop you from getting enough sleep?
Ideally, our bodies should begin to wind down as the sun sets. However, in today’s modern lifestyle this is not always the case. People are working late or playing on their computers or using tablets and smart phones, watching tv and are exposed to florescent lights. Under these conditions, your body perceives it as sunlight and thinks it is daytime. When your body is exposed to these conditions, it perceives it as a stressor and releases cortisol. As it takes a few hours for cortisol to be cleared from the body, it is harder for people to relax and fall asleep easily. The release of cortisol in your body affects your sleep/wake cycle as it prevents the release of melatonin, growth hormones and immune factors which hinder’s your body’s ability to repair (Ref 5).
Other environmental effects that can affect your sleep/wake cycle include:
Stimulants such as caffeine, sugar, nicotine, energy drinks
Poor control of blood sugar levels
What happens when we don’t get enough good quality sleep?
When we don’t get enough sleep, it can affect the body and mind in so many ways and can cause a number of health issues (Ref 4 & 5) including:
Making errors, increased risk of injury or accidents.
Affects cognitive function (e.g. paying attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, problem solving).
Lack of energy.
Obesity and inability to lose weight.
Increased stress and inability to deal with stress.
Decreased work productivity.
Reliance on stimulants (coffee, sugar, energy drinks).
More prone to eating junk and sugar foods as lack of sleep affects your blood glucose levels and makes you crave sugary foods.
Can lead to a number of health problems including heart disease, heart attacks, heart failure, irregular heartbeats, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, depression, anxiety, weight gain, adrenal fatigue, increased risk of an early death.
There are also medical sleep conditions which need to be taken into account e.g. undiagnosed sleep apnea, insomnia, restless legs (Ref 3). These should all be taken into consideration when working on sleep issues. Trying to find and treat the cause is of utmost importance for dealing with these conditions.
So how much sleep should you get?
This is different for everyone as it depends on your age, physical and mental requirements. It is important to pay attention to how you feel on different amounts of sleep and how different environmental issues affect your sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the recommended amounts of sleep are (Ref 6):
What about tracking your sleep?
A number of people now track their sleep with wearables (e.g. smart watches), however you are emitting EMF’s into your body while you sleep which may affect the quality of your sleep. The Oura ring apparently is a much better option as it emits less EMF’s. However, it is better for you to not wear anything so that no EMF’s are transmitted into your body. Your body needs to rest and repair and if you have EMF’s coming into your body while you sleep, this will hinder the repair process. This is also true of having Wifi on at night so turn it off and let your body rest.
Although it is good to be able to track your sleep, I don’t believe you need to track it to know if you are getting enough good quality sleep. I know some people like numbers and statistics and like being able to analyse the data, but it is not really necessary. Humans have been sleeping for thousands of years without wearing anything to track their sleep and I don’t believe it actually improves your sleep quality. Sure, it can make you more aware of your sleeping patterns but you could just work it out from how you feel when you wake up and your energy and concentration levels. It is more valuable to become in-tune with your body and see how you feel.
What you can do to get better sleep?
Make sleep a priority!!
Have a wind down to sleep routine before bed e.g. read a book, have a bath, meditate.
Be in bed by 10-10:30pm at the latest.
No coffee or stimulants after 12pm as this can interfere with sleep. Therefore, avoid sugar, caffeine, nicotine, energy drinks, alcohol.
Exercise in the morning when your cortisol levels are high and you have the most energy. When you exercise at night, it increases your cortisol which takes hours for it to be cleared from your body. This can stop you from falling asleep or sleeping well.
Eat right for your body type. You may need to eat more carbs or more protein or fat. It all depends on your body. It also may mean that you need to eat 1-2 hours before going to bed so you don’t wake up hungry in the middle of the night or you need to eat 3-4 hours before bed. Find what works for you. (For more info on this contact me).
Drink plenty of filtered water throughout the day.
Dim the lights in your house. No bright lights or fluorescent lights especially when the sun goes down before bed. Use low watt bulbs and candles. Himalayan salt lamps are a great addition to any room and look great also.
No computers, tablets or smart phones one hour before going to bed. These devices often stimulate you and interfere with your sleep. If you need to use your computer, download the app f.lux as this helps to change your computer screen according to the location and time of the day, which is easier on your eyes. It helps to reduce eye strain during night time use and helps to reduce the disruption of sleep patterns. Alternatively can use blue blocking glasses.
A dark bedroom is optimal. No light should be coming in from outside. Use block out curtains.
Turn off all electrical points in your bedroom.
Turn off the Wifi as it doesn’t allow your body to rest and repair as it should as it is seen as an external stress on your body.
No phones, wearables, tablets, computers or TVs (esp smart TVs) should be on and/or in your bedroom. Your bedroom is for sleep only.
Address any underlying issues that may be preventing you from getting good quality sleep.
Use essential oils to help you relax and unwind like Young Living Lavender Essential Oil (contact me for more info on Young Living oils).
Let me know your thoughts below!
Koala – The Great Australian Sleep Report.
Manousakis, J (2015). The sleep habits of an Australian adult population: A report on the 2015 online sleep survey from the Sleep Health Foundation. Monash University.
Adams, R., Appleton, S., Taylor, A., McEvoy, D., Antic, N. (2016). Report to the Sleep Health Foundation 2016: Sleep Health Survey of Australian Adults. The University of Adelaide The Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health.
Peri, C. (2018). 10 Things to Hate About Sleep Loss. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/10-results-sleep-loss#1
Chek, P. (2004). How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy.
National Sleep Foundation (2018). How much sleep do we really need?https://www.sleepfoundation.org/excessivesleepiness/content/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need-0