Sleep is in my top 5 essential elements for health but unfortunately, it’s often overlooked. Poor or insufficient sleep has a profound impact on your health both in the short and long term.
In the short term, a lack of sleep directly affects your mood, energy, eating patterns, food cravings and ability to concentrate.
Over extended periods of time, a lack of sleep can impact your weight, metabolism, blood sugar levels, hormonal activity and ability to manage stress.
I see these physiological effects of poor sleep in clinic all the time. Especially in women.
If we address sleep in the early stages of a healing plan, it’s often easier to improve other symptoms later.
But it’s not as easy as saying ‘go get some sleep’.
If it were easy, we wouldn’t have 60% of Aussies reporting at least one sleep symptom (like trouble falling or staying asleep), or 14.8% with symptoms of clinical insomnia.
Insomnia, left unchecked, increases your risk for both anxiety and depression. Not surprising considering the areas of your body affected by poor sleep.
Good sleep is so important, but it sure ain’t easy
There’s so much to consider when it comes to improving sleep, and it’s personal. Your age, life stage, health history, emotional circumstances, diet and lifestyle choices all play a role in how well you sleep. Or don’t.
But there are some common causes of sleep disruption that can be easily modified to improve most people’s shut eye soon.
Here are some simple actions to help you get a better night’s rest…
Excess light at night interferes with how your brain prepares for sleep because light slows the release of melatonin, your sleepy hormone. Blue light from phones, screens, TV and fluorescent lights is worse. It tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime, so melatonin production and release are impaired. On the flip side, exposure to natural in the morning can improve and reset healthy melatonin activity.
Solution? Turn off your screens at least an hour before you plan to sleep. Use Blue light blocking glasses, screens, or software. Use low lights or lamps at night and always get natural sunlight on your eyes first thing in the morning.
You know that buzz you have after a concert? You can’t wind down because you feel the sound in your body? That’s an extreme example of your brain’s reaction to the combination of noise + light, a sleep disrupting duo that have crept into daily life.
A video game, a television show, most night-time workplaces and scrolling through your phone all combine light and sound in a way that stimulates your brain and your energy and sets you up for difficulty sleeping.
Add other noise disturbances - crying babies, garbage trucks, noisy neighbors, and you see how noise disturbs sleep. Noise can cause problems falling and staying asleep. It reduces time spent in each sleep stage resulting in unrefreshing sleep.
Solution? Wind down quietly before bed with a book or quiet activity, use noise canceling headphones, share baby or dog duties, and use ear plugs if you need to.
What you eat affects your health, but when you eat plays a significant role too. Your digestive system, immune system, circulatory and hepatic systems are in business whenever food or drink is consumed. Digestion takes and makes energy, it releases heat and insulin and ultimately stimulates and keeps you ‘up.’
Solution: Allow at least 2 hours to digest and metabolise food before you plan to fall asleep.
So many people use alcohol to help wind down and relax at night. And it helps! Unfortunately, while it may help you fall asleep, hours later, you’ll get a spike in blood sugar and a rise in body temperature, both of which will wake you up. This is often mistaken by women as hormonal, and in many cases, when the alcohol goes, so do the night sweats.
Solution: No booze at night. Especially in the last few hours before sleep.
These are just some natural sleep strategies that may help you get a better night’s sleep. If you're having trouble sleeping, give them a try and see how you go!
If sleep remains a problem for you - or you’re experiencing some of the short or long term consequences, reach out for a consult or a free chat to explore healing your sleep issues naturally.
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