Updated: Jun 27, 2019
Many people do not prioritise sleep and think it is ok to survive on less then 5 hours of sleep every night! Your body goes into cell repair when you sleep and if you are struggling to get enough sleep or have poor quality sleep; you will never feel fully energised. Good sleep equals a good environment for your body which equals good bacteria.
The recommended duration of sleep is 8 hours. If you find you only get six hours (because you are wakeful) or consistently need nine hours or more, you may want to check in with a Health Professional. If you’re not allowing yourself enough sleep time, it’s important you work to change this.
Rhythm of sleep is important too. It has been shown that maintaining the same sleep rhythm (circadian rhythm) is as important as duration. By “rhythm” this refers to roughly the same bedtime and rising time every night and day. Maintaining this sleep rhythm might be more important than the amount of sleep itself.
What if I don’t sleep well?
Inflammatory, digestive, blood sugar and hormonal issues can interfere with your sleep. These issues can cause you to be unable to fall to sleep or cause you to wake up and struggle to get back to sleep.
Stress is another factor that interferes with our sleep. Elevated levels of adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones) actually block the release of melatonin (our sleep hormone). It is imperative you take steps to mitigate your stress and restore your sleep.
There is so much research and systemic reviews out there that show there is an incontrovertible trend in data showing poor sleep with: Increased risk of heart disease Weight gain, obesity and metabolic syndrome Poorer cognitive performance Increase risk of autoimmune conditions Poorer Immune Function.
Sleep and your Gut
It has been shown in studies that digestive tract inflammation causes poor sleep quality. Melatonin is a hormone released by your body when you sleep. Usually, the better you sleep, the more melatonin you release. This hormone might be the major connection between sleep and your gut. In a study, it showed that supplementing with melatonin helped symptoms of IBS. It has been shown that poor sleep leads to lower melatonin, which then directly correlates to gut damage. A study was conducted on mice which showed the effects of poor sleep and the effect on gut microbiota. When mice who had their sleep rhythms disrupted (via jet lag) were fed an unhealthy diet, they gained weight. There was no weight gain in the other mice fed the same unhealthy diet who maintained a normal sleep cycle. This was correlated to change in gut microbiota due to sleep disruption.
Tips on how to Improve your Sleep
Reduce the blue light at night: use blue-light filters (which can be downloaded for computers, tablets, and phones) or use blue-light-filtering glasses.
Ensure you are having balanced meals throughout the day to balance out blood sugar levels (good quality protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fat).
Keep your sleeping environment cool.
Keep your bedroom quiet or use ear plugs.
Avoid stressful pre-bed activities (avoid anything that will stress you out before bed).
Strive to be in bed at a reasonable time so you get 8 hours sleep every night.
If you can’t sleep, nap. Napping helps protect against negative effects of sleep deprivation.
Try meditation for at least 10-15 mins. There are some great apps like calm, guided mind and headspace that you can download.
Try music therapy, read a book or do something that relaxes you before bed.
If you are serious about being healthy, sleep must be a priority. You cannot achieve optimal health if you are not sleeping well. You must make this a priority if you want to feel and perform at your best!