We all have difficulty getting off to sleep or staying asleep from time to time but for those who suffer from insomnia or other sleeping issues, ongoing lack of sleep or poor quality sleep can have serious effects on your health and wellbeing. Thankfully there are some very effective natural measures you can take to help you get a great night's sleep.
RESTORE & REVITALISE
It’s during sleep that our body rests, restores and revitalizes, and our immune system is replenished and strengthened. This is when cells produce and release proteins essential for growth and tissues repair. Research shows that poor sleeping habits negatively affect your Human Growth Hormone (HGH) levels. Optimal levels of HGH are crucial for repair and recovery because HGH helps regulate cell repair. HGH levels are at their highest while you are sleeping, and they’re affected by your sleep cycle.
Sleep is also vital for improving your brains ability to learn and remember. While you sleep your brain processes all the information from your day and forms new memories. If you’re not getting adequate sleep your memory will be impaired and you will find it difficult to retain and recall new information.
Not getting enough sleep can affect the body’s regulation of ghrelin and leptin, which are two hormones important for controlling appetite. Ghrelin promotes hunger and leptin makes you feel full and satisfied. The body naturally increases and decreases levels of these hormones throughout the day. Lack of sleep triggers an increase in ghrelin and a drop in leptin, leading to increased appetite and diminished feeling of fullness.
INCREASED CORTISOL & ANXIETY
Your sleep-wake cycle follows a circadian rhythm and your body’s production of your stress hormone cortisol also follows a similar circadian rhythm. Cortisol drops to its lowest point at midnight and peaks an hour after you wake up. Sleep disturbances and not getting enough sleep can affect your body’s production of cortisol, and may result in you producing more cortisol during the day in an attempt to make you feel more alert. This can lead to increased feelings of anxiety.
Lack of sleep can also accelerate ageing. Researchers have found that the quality of our sleep impacts the functioning of our skin and how quickly it ages. Poor sleepers were seen to show increased signs of skin ageing and slower recovery from a variety of environmental stressors including sun exposure.
Here are some top tips for getting the perfect night’s sleep.
- OPTIMISE YOUR BEDROOM FOR SLEEP
Set up your bedroom so it’s quiet and relaxing. Limit your exposure to bright lights in the evening. Turn all lights off or away from your bed. Get off computers and phones a couple of hours before bed if possible. Keep TV, phones, and computers out of your room. Your bedroom should be used for sleep, meditation and sex.
Keep your room a comfortable temperature and well ventilated. A cooler room will help improve the quality of your sleep. Opening up a window or using a fan to move the air around is also recommended to improve night-time breathing and sleep quality.
Make sure that you have a comfortable good quality mattress and pillow. Buy bedding that is comfortable and will maintain a good temperature.
- OPTIMAL HOURS
Adults should be aiming to get around 7-9 hours sleep a night. The ideal sleeping hours for optimal healing and anti-ageing effects are between 10am-6am. You should try to be asleep between 10-11pm to get a good boost of HGH. Levels peak at midnight so the hours of sleep you get before midnight are important. Research has shown that levels start to rise an hour after you fall asleep. Try to keep a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and get up at the same time each-day.
- RELAXING BEDTIME ROUTINE
Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. Great ways to wind down before bed are to read, meditate, have a relaxing bath with calming essential oils like lavender, write in a gratitude journal.
- CALMING HERBAL TEAS
Drinking calming herbal teas such as chamomile, passionflower, valarian, zizyphus, kava, lemon balm, lemon verbena or skullcap before bed is a lovely way to relax the nervous system and aid the transition into a restful sleep. These herbs are beneficial for people who have trouble sleeping. You will find these soothing botanicals in Bodhi Organic SereniTEA (CALMING) and TranquiliTEA (SLEEP).
- REDUCE CAFFEINE
Having too much caffeine can affect our ability to fall asleep easily, reducing the depth and quality of sleep. Caffeine stimulates the production of stress hormones, and inhibits the absorption of the hormone adenosine, needed to give us a sense of calmness, which can contribute to sleep problems. If you have problems sleeping, avoid coffee or caffeine-containing drinks like black tea, soft drinks or energy drinks after 2 pm.
- LIMIT BLUE LIGHT AT NIGHT
Blue light is one of the colours of the light spectrum. The main natural source of blue light is from the sun. Blue wavelengths are beneficial during the daylight hours, they boost mood and alertness. It is important to get some sunlight each day. However blue light can be disruptive at night as it puts your circadian rhythm out of balance. Exposure to light in general suppresses the secretion of your sleep hormone melatonin, a hormone that influences your circadian rhythm to help you sleep. Blue light has the biggest impact on suppressing melatonin levels. Blue light from electronics (TV, computers, mobile phones, Fluorescent and LED lights) is linked to sleep problems. Wearing blue blocking glasses when you’re working on the computer or watching TV at night can be very beneficial.
Magnesium is considered the ‘anti-stress’ nutrient as it helps to calm and support the nervous system making it beneficial for people who find it difficult getting off to sleep. Taking a magnesium supplement is recommended if you’re having trouble sleeping. Dosage: 400mg elemental magnesium before bed.
- LIMIT ALCOHOL
Drinking alcohol regularly can cause sleep problems. Alcohol may help get you off to sleep initially, however it will interrupt your sleep cycle. It is also thought that people who consume alcohol regularly have lower levels of natural melatonin in their body, which can contribute to sleeping difficulties.
Written by Lisa Guy, naturopath and founder of Bodhi Organic Tea.