Author - Good Health
Sleep is a fundamental function; yet it takes a third of New Zealanders over 30 minutes each night to get to sleep. Waking up tired is common, but not normal. Difficulty sleeping often stems from either physical or emotional factors (caffeine, alcohol or stress); identifying the source can go a long way in creating healthy sleep habits.
The importance of sleep
Sleep is critical for everyday functions. When we feel exhausted, everything in our life feels difficult; our mood, cognition and resilience is compromised, and no matter how many coffees we have, we are still tired. Creating better sleep habits will help you feel energised throughout the day and improve your long-term health. Sleep requirements are influenced by gender, age, and daily demands; however, one thing is certain; sleep is essential for the rest and repair of your body and mind.
The health and safety of not enough sleep
A good night’s sleep leaves us refreshed and ready for the day. Not enough sleep or quality sleep however can mean low concentration and high stress and fatigue. Studies suggest, one night’s sleep deprivation can be as impairing as driving with alcohol intoxication. Ensure you have enough sleep each night so you can be attentive and decisive when you are awake.
Melatonin and other hormones
The production of serotonin (our feel-good brain hormone) and melatonin (our primary sleep hormone) is essential for mood regulation during the day, and our state of sleep at night. Produced from tryptophan, their production is assisted by eating tryptophan rich foods such as chia seeds, bananas and cheese; or by taking a supplement of 5HTP, the precursors to these hormones. Magnesium also aids their production as it relaxes our nervous system and decreases the release of cortisol (our stress hormone), a known sleep disruptor. Magnesium rich foods include fish, nuts and seeds, and dark leafy greens; however as New Zealand soils are magnesium deficient, a supplement may be the answer to a better sleep.
The sleep cycle
Our brain cycles through distinct phases during sleep; NREM (non-rapid eye movement) and REM (rapid eye movement). NREM prepares our body for deep sleep and occurs over three stages; it is responsible for your afternoon powernap and that feeling of disorientation upon waking. REM is the final stage of sleep and it is during this stage that we dream. REM is crucial for our wellbeing as it allows our brain to process stimuli, and prepares us for the commotion of the coming day. Creating healthy sleep habits will ensure a balanced sleep cycle so that you wake feeling energized.
Eat for a better tomorrow
Nutrients not only give us energy to take on the day, they improve our sleep and our eating habits. Sleep influences the regulation of the hormones responsible for our appetite, and is why we often find ourselves searching for energy inside the fridge. To ensure your energy lasts throughout the day, kick start your metabolism with a wholesome breakfast. Eating whole foods with ensure you get more from each bite, and the vitamins and minerals consumed will help with cellular repair when you are asleep.
Herbs for a better sleep
In 2012, nearly 680,000 sleeping pill prescriptions were written for New Zealanders.
It is clear we are suffering from sleep difficulties, however there is a natural way to help. Herbs have been long used to promote sleep; Traditional Chinese Medicine used Panax notoginseng, found in Fast Asleep, to support the quality of sleep; Passionflower and Californian poppy are used to promote relaxation and to reach REM sleep; and 5HTP supports the nervous system and melatonin production. Deep Sleep is a unique formula which combines 5HTP and the above herbs for a better night’s sleep.
5 Sleep habits you can stick to
1. Make sleep a priority. Sleep is often compromised, to achieve more during the day. Make sleep a priority and aim to go to bed earlier. Start with 5-10 minute increments until you are sleeping between 7-9 hours each night. You will be amazed at how much you can fit into the day once you have energy that lasts.
2. Detox your bedroom. Many of us catch up on emails or social media before bed, however blue light emitting from digital devices interferes with melatonin production. Make your bedroom a device-free zone; go there an hour before you sleep and use this time to catch up with your partner, read a book or write tomorrows to-do-list. For a great night’s sleep, make yourself a cup of Deep Sleep Night Cap, the malt, butterscotch, and vanilla flavour will be a delicious end to your day.
3. Deep breaths make for even deeper sleep. After a busy day, many of us are taking short, shallow breaths. As you get into bed, take 10 minutes to focus on your breathing. Relax your nervous system and decrease cortisol production by taking long, deep breaths allowing your stomach to rise and fall. This is not only relaxing but a great way to fall asleep.
4. Rise with the sun. Upon waking, open the curtains and notice the new day. Go for a morning walk or sleep with the curtains open and reset your body clock to rise with the sun. Exposing yourself to morning light will increase your vitamin D, remedy drowsiness and leave you energised.
5. Create a sleep diary. A sleep diary is an easy way to track the influence your daily habits have on sleep. As you get into bed, take some notes; How many coffees did you drink compared to water? Did you exercise today, what did you do? In the morning, rate your energy on a scale of 1-10. If it is low, alter your daily habits and watch both the quality and quantity of sleep increase.