The Importance of Sleep

Woman stretching in bed after wake up, back viewDid you know?

Did you know we spend a third of lives in bed?  It’s no wonder a goodnight’s sleep is key to our overall health. Deprivation can have serious effects to our health including poor concentration, low immunity and has even been linked to being overweight and obesity.

The Sleep Controls

The circadian rhythm, otherwise known as our internal body clock, helps regulate a number of processes in your body causing alertness to rise and fall during the day. It signals to the body when to release hormones affecting our appetite, hunger and sleep. Melatonin, an essential hormone released by changes in light, controls our sleeping patterns.  Melatonin is produced in the brain and interestingly the gut and is created by the hormone serotonin.

According to research, the average Briton experiences 6 hours and 35 minutes of sleep per night. With so many of us missing out, what can we do to improve our chances for a good night’s rest?

Environment:

For optimum melatonin levels, ensure your bedroom is dark room as possible. Melatonin is extremely light-sensitive and even the lowest light stream can inhibit its production.

  • Purchase a comfortable sleep mask to block out all light.
  • Consider blackout lining for your bedroom curtains. Every little helps when it comes to melatonin.
  • We’ve all heard it but it’s important. Stay away from your phone, tablet or laptop before bed to give yourself and your brain a break.

Diet:
When your body’s clock is disrupted, this can cause an imbalance in your hormone production and as a result can impact your gut health. However, research shows as your sleep becomes regulated again so will your gut.

  • Although it’s advisable to avoid high GI foods for weight loss, for improved sleep it’s a different story. By combining protein and high GI carbs you optimise the hormone tryptophan which when converted into serotonin, will in turn produce melatonin.

Tryptophan-rich foods include:
-Chicken
-Eggs
-Bananas
-Almonds
-Sunflower seeds

  • Coffee. Some of us can have double espresso late at night, others stay clear from after 11am if they even want any chance of sleeping that evening. However, taking note when you enjoyed your last coffee can reveal caffeine-induced sleep problems. Try pushing back the time to give your system enough time to react and process the caffeine and its effects.

Exercise:
With many us desk-bound, it is crucial to exercise. Whether it’s in the morning or evening, it can help you feel tired, eager for your slumber and promote overall well-being. Not feeling motivated? Find a class, a workout partner or reach out to a personal trainer to make exercise a part of your weekly routine. With exercise comes a healthy and balanced lifestyle promoting sleep benefits.