Sufficient sleep is essential for good health. I mentioned the areas affecting good health in Blog 3. We tend to overlook how important a good night’s sleep is in our busy lives. A lack of sleep can lead to increased risks of hypertension or high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack and stroke1. A lack of sleep lowers our immune function, depletes our adrenals, affects our ability to think clearly and function optimally.
Stress affects our sleep patterns. Long-term stress causes adrenal burnout and thyroid issues, leading to hormone and neurotransmitter imbalances, which disrupt our sleep patterns.
Studies have found that the ideal period of sleep required by most people to maintain good health and wellbeing is 7-8 hours a night. In 1999 a study found that volunteers who were allowed only 4 hours sleep a night for 6 days became pre-diabetic1.
The largest study conducted on the link between sleep and mortality followed over one million participants for over six years. It found that people who sleep around 7 hours a night have the highest survival rate. Those who sleep less than 4.5 hours had the worst mortality rate, and also those who sleep 9 or more hours a night also had poor mortality1.
Dr Mercola includes the following as being benefits of good sleep2:
- Makes one’s bones stronger
- Increases muscle mass through the creation of new muscle cells
- Promotes lipolysis, which helps one lose body fat
- Increases protein synthesis and stimulates optimal maintenance
of all internal organ
- Supports your pancreas’ ability to make insulin
- Stimulates your immune system
Brain scans show that sleep deprivation robs the neurons in your brain of the ability to function properly3. A lack of sleep slows down the rate at which brain cells communicate and causes temporary lapses in memory and vision3. You simply don’t function as well as you should.
Things you want to avoid doing before going to sleep:
- Avoid blue light from your computer, phones, tablet or TV before going to sleep. Some televisions and phones (OLED, not LED) are free from blue light. Blue light blocks melatonin production which is needed to maintain our Circadian Rhythm and ensure good sleep.
- Sleep in a dark room free from light. Use blackout blinds to block out the morning light. Even the smallest amount of light during sleep can disrupt your Circadian Rhythm and affect the production by your pineal gland of melatonin and serotonin1. So don’t turn on the light when you go to the bathroom during the night as even this will affect you.
- Eat at least 2 hours (ideally 3 hours) before going to bed so your meal is fully digested.
- Stop drinking fluids 2 hours before going to bed so your kidneys don’t have to work during the night and you aren’t woken by needing to pee.
- Sleep when it is dark. Studies have shown that the ideal time to go to sleep is 10.00pm. Any sleep before midnight is worth two hours of sleep after midnight.
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom cool and no more than 20C.
- Don’t have electrical devices near your bed such as your mobile phone.
- Alcohol interferes with sleep so drink with awareness.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks after 2pm.
- Go to bed at a regular time.
- Start the day by looking at the morning (hopefully sunny) sky for a couple of minutes. If it’s sunny close your eyes and let the rays fall on your body. You don’t need to be outside! This wakes your body up, supports your Circadian Rhythm and has a balancing effect on your adrenals.