Benefits of Sleep
Sleep, we all love it but we don’t seem to be getting enough of it. More and more research is coming out about the importance of sleep and how much we should be getting every night. When we don’t get enough sleep or poor quality sleep, we have a slower reaction time, low concentration, higher stress levels and can often feel fatigued. We need to be getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night to ensure we are feeling re freshed and have enough energy throughout the day.
Allowing our body to rest and repair, sleep helps to regulate moods, reduce stress and keep the body’s immune system strong. After a good night’s sleep we feel fantastic throughout the day, have better decision making skills, and a longer attention span.
Benefits of quality sleep include:
Reduce stress: After a good night’s sleep, our blood pressure will lower as well as our cortisol levels. Cortisol is our stress hormone and is released during high times of stress, it makes us feel alert and over time if it is too high it can wreak havoc on our health. Getting enough sleep is the best way to lower our levels of cortisol which will help lower our stress levels.
Regulate our appetite: Getting enough sleep helps to regulate our hormones that are responsible for our appetite. When we haven’t had enough sleep or poor quality sleep, our body releases a hormone called ghrelin. Ghrelin is a hormone that increases our appetite, causing us to eat more. Not getting enough sleep also slows down our metabolism, which leads to weight gain.
Helps with mood: I think everyone can agree that when we haven’t had enough sleep we feel moody and get irritated easier. When we have had an adequate amount of sleep, we are generally more pleasant to be around and have a more productive day.
Deep breathing before bed time: After a stressful day some of us are taking short, shallow breaths. Take 10-20 minutes before bed to focus on your breath, make sure you are breathing into your belly. I also love to put my legs up on the wall, I find this exercise so relaxing after a busy day of rushing around.
Turn all electronics off an hour before going to bed: This is one of the hardest tips I have found to stop. I use the time before bed to answer emails, catch up on social media or watch TV. While some of these tasks might feel relaxing, the light emitting screens use by these devices interferes with the production of melatonin, a sleep-producing hormone. Reading before bed time is a great way for our body to relax, making it easier to fall asleep.
Get out in the sunlight each morning: Getting out in the sunshine every morning tells your body that it is daytime and not night-time; it helps your body clock restart. Try setting your alarm for 20 minutes earlier and go for a walk in the sunshine. This would have to be one of my favourite ways to start the day, especially with summer just around the corner. It’s also a great way to increase our vitamin D levels which is a vitamin that helps regulate our moods, boost immunity and regulate appetite.
Eat plenty of Tryptophan rich food: Tryptophan is the pre-cursor to melatonin which is the “sleep” hormone that helps us falls asleep and stay asleep during the night. Foods that are high in tryptophan are nuts and seeds such as walnuts, cashews, almonds, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, eggs and seafood.
Eat plenty of Magnesium rich food: Magnesium is the mineral that helps to strengthen bones and teeth, promotes healthy muscles by helping them relax, important for heart muscles and the nervous system and it helps with energy production. Magnesium works by decreasing the release of cortisol, a known cause of sleep disruption. Insomnia is a sign of magnesium deficiency so it’s important we are getting enough of the mineral through diet and/or supplementation. Foods that are high in magnesium include walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashew nuts, figs, quinoa, legumes, eggs, fish and vegetables.
Cut down on alcohol: This is something that a lot of people struggle to do. Many people think that drinking alcohol before bed can give us a better sleep. Alcohol can make you drowsy so you fall asleep easier but it is also a diuretic and due to it being high in sugar, it can cause you to wake up during the night making your quality of sleep poor. If you have trouble falling asleep each night, chamomile and lavender tea are perfect to have perfect bed as they both promote sleep.
Cut down on caffeine: It seems obvious that having a coffee after dinner will keep you awake. What people often don't know is that the stimulating effects of caffeine are quite long-lasting. For many people even their late afternoon pick-me-up of coffee could still be impacting on their sleep. If you are a coffee drinker and find it hard to fall asleep, don’t have one any later than lunchtime or try to cut it out of your diet and replace with herbal tea.
Exercise in the afternoon or the morning: Exercising too late in the evenings can impact on our quality of sleep. When we exercise l we are raising our body’s core temperature which can make it difficult to fall asleep so going for a run or going to the gym late at night will impact the quality of your sleep. Aim to exercise in the mornings or in the afternoon, this makes it easier for you to fall asleep each night.
Focus on having a regular bedtime and wake up time: This is something that I struggle with but something I am slowly starting to change. I have started going to bed at 9.30pm each night and waking up at 6.30am-7am each morning. Once we have got into a regular sleep routine our body clock can adjust and we will start to wake up without the use of an alarm.
Sleep for at least hours 8 of sleep each night: Some people function completely different with lack of sleep but I am one of those people who does not function well. Everyone should be getting between 8-9 hours of sleep each night and should be asleep by 11pm every night. Both of these factors are going to help our body get rest and repair.
If you want to check out some more of our holistic lifestyle tips, grab a copy of the Alison’s Pantry recipe booklet in your local New World supermarket.