Holistic health benefits of sleep
How to get better sleep and improve your wellbeing
Did you know that the longest documented period without sleep is just beyond 11 days?! Whilst this seems significantly absurd, the reality is that so many of us are not receiving adequate levels of rest, leaving us feeling like the world record holder for sleep deprivation. Despite the fact that average rest requirements are not being met, sleep is a major player in ensuring full and optimal body function, as well as a range of other restorative and maintenance factors.
Why is it important to receive adequate sleep?
If you’re like the many thousands of Aussies jumping on the wellness bandwagon, receiving sufficient sleep is one of the easiest ways to make the most of your wellness efforts. For example, combining the likes of Strath Tonic, (which promotes healthy brain function, stamina and speedy quick recovery), with a quality sleep, allows you to maximise the benefits you receive from both the tonic and sleep. Similarly, if you combine sound levels of sleep with Echinaforce® Cold & Flu Hot Drink Syrup, (known for its ability to prevent, relieve and treat flu symptoms), you’ll experience an increase in immunity and a more restful sleep. The bottom line: sleep promotes wellness and wellness promotes sleep, so make sure you’re getting a good balance of each.
• Improves memory
While your body rests, your brain is actually hard at work consolidating everything that happened during the day and subsequently transferring this to your long-term memory bank. It is for this reason that if we spend all day studying and not enough time sleeping, our chances of remembering this knowledge is significantly diminished.
• Increases concentration
Ever experienced the inability to concentrate after a late night? Maybe you’ve felt so tired the next morning that you’ve forgotten what you were doing whilst in the middle of doing it? In the absence of other determining factors like alcohol or medication, lack of sleep has been linked to impaired mental performance time and time again, especially with regard to concentration and information retention.
• Reduces stress
Whilst stress is an important part of being human, it also has the potential to severely impair our bodily processes, in turn leading to significantly deteriorated overall health. Conversely, receiving healthy levels of sleep can significantly reduce stress by increasing the production of melatonin and other hormones.
• Promotes physical health
In addition to mental and psychological benefits, sleep can also promote a range of advantages to your physical health too. Among a plethora of other benefits, healthy levels of sleep allow your body the downtime it needs to combat weight gain, synthesise proteins for muscle growth and normalise blood pressure by reducing the level of work required for your heart to pump blood.
• Increases libido
Struggling with sex drive? Yep, you probably need more sleep! As testosterone (the hormone accountable for controlling your libido) production occurs during sleep, people who receive a regular 8 hours per night generally experience an increased desire for sex and intimacy. So, if you’re having trouble ‘getting in the mood,’ the first and easiest solution to try is increasing both your quality and quantity of sleep.
• Live longer
Whilst we are yet to ascertain a definitive answer as to why, many studies have found that giving yourself adequate amounts of sleep can promote an increased lifespan. Some researchers pose that this may be due to heightened function of the immune system which also supports cellular regeneration – a process that has been substantiated to promote longevity.
How much sleep do I need?
There is a major disparity between the hours of sleep you can function on and the amount you need to function optimally. While most of us get around 6 or 7 hours per night (sounds pretty good, right?) in reality, even just an hour or 2 more could significantly increase associated benefits.
In general terms, sufficient levels of sleep are attained between approximately 7 and 9 hours per night for adults. It is important to note, however, that sleep requirements vary depending on age, personality and a range of other factors. For example, newborns and young children require almost double the amount of sleep required by teens and adults. And while the notion that the need for sleep decreases with age, older adults may struggle to stay asleep for the entire night leading to another form of sleep deprivation. Each age group presents its own set of challenges regarding sleep patterns, so it’s important to be aware of these and work to combat them accordingly.
• Quality over quantity
Everyone is always talking about the quantity of required sleep but often fail to introduce quality of sleep into the conversation. If, for example, you’re getting an average 8 hours per night but are still struggling to start your day bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, there’s a good chance you’re not spending adequate time in the different stages of sleep. This is because each stage provides different advantages which together provide a deep, restful and restorative sleep.
• Quiet Sleep or Non-REM Sleep
As the name suggests, your brain is quiet in this stage of sleep, but your body may still be somewhat restless, causing you to toss and turn. This is also the stage of rest where hormones are injected into your bloodstream and your body works to repair itself after a day of activity.
• Dream Sleep or Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (REM)
REM sleep is what we associate with the term ‘deep sleep’ as it is more difficult to wake from. However, despite the fact that your muscles are relaxed and the sleep seemingly deep, brain activity is very high and eye movement is rapid, facilitating the notion of vivid dreams.
If you’re struggling to get adequate sleep, try avoiding alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and other external factors such as noise that could inhibit your ability to sleep. Another alternative is to try sleeping a little longer in the morning when your REM stages will be increased.
Signs you may be struggling with sleep:
If you’re experiencing two or more of the following, chances are you probably need more sleep.
- Find it difficult wake up on time without an alarm
- Struggle to get up in the morning
- Feel slow or lethargic by the afternoon
- Feel tired during meetings
- Experience tired eyes while driving or after a meal
- Fall asleep while relaxing at home
- Need a nap to make it through the day
- Fall asleep within minutes of hitting the pillow
Negative effects associated with lack of sleep:
For those of us who are experiencing sleep deprivation, there are a range of negative impacts you may experience, some of which include:
- Tiredness, lethargy, fatigue
- Impaired brain function
- Lack of motivation and concentration
- Irritability or moodiness
- Inability to cope with mood
- Increased risk of anxiety & depression
- Diminished libido
- Struggle to solve problems or make decisions
- ‘Tired’ or dull skin
- Increase in illnesses and infections
- Compromised motor skills
- Heightened risk of serious health problems such as heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes and even certain cancers
What can I do if I’m struggling with sleep?
In addition to the obvious avoidance of alcohol, nicotine and caffeine, there are a number of strategies you can employ to ensure you’re falling asleep quicker and staying asleep longer.
• Sleep environment
Ensuring sleep environment is accommodating for a decent sleep is the first thing to tick of your sleep checklist. Is your bedroom void of intrusive noise, light and heat? Is your pillow and mattress right for your body? All of these factors can have a significant impact on the quality of your sleep so try experimenting with a few options to see what works best for you.
• Stick to a schedule
Pick a bed time and stick to it! Supporting your biological clock by having a regular and consistent sleep routine will enable your body to know when it should be sleeping and when it should be working – meaning, come bed time, your body will have already started preparing itself for sleep.
• Avoid digital screens
This isn’t just something your mum used to stay to get you off your phone during family time, there’s actually some cold hard facts to back it up! Digital screens such as phones, tv’s and laptops all produce a blue light that disturbs melatonin and essentially fights the effects of drowsiness. Try reading a book, listening to music or maybe spending some time chatting with loved ones.
• Avoid stimulation
Aside from digital stimulation, things such as stressful situations, arguments, work and intense concentration can stimulate the brain sufficiently enough to make sleep seem impossible, so leave these things until the next day if you can.
• Natural remedies: A.Vogel Sleeplessness and Insomnia Relief®
If sleep is a struggle for you, it’s perfectly okay to reach for an ingestible aid so long as it comes from all-natural ingredients that don’t leave you feeling groggy or clouded the next day. Contrary to a ‘sleeping pill’ you might get from your doctor or chemist, Sleeplessness and Insomnia Relief® is a herbal tincture that combines the power of freshly harvested Valerian root (known for its ability to improve sleep, decrease stress and control hyperactivity, among other things) and Hops (used for insomnia, anxiety, tension and irritability) to promote a more natural and restorative sleep.