Feeling sleep deprived? You’re not alone. Chronic sleep deficiency is believed to be widespread in Western societies, with insufficient hours being only half the problem- poor sleep quality is also to blame. Waking unrefreshed when your alarm goes off isn’t a great feeling, and it certainly isn’t doing your short or long-term health any good either.
Sleep deficiency adversely affects our alertness, cognition, memory and mood but the detrimental health consequences go much deeper with carry-on effects to our metabolic, cardiovascular and mental health. A growing body of research is suggesting that there is a direct link between how much people sleep and how much they weigh, with the results from a number of studies finding that those who sleep less tend to weigh more. This may be due to a lack of energy to exercise, and the fact that insufficient sleep disrupts the balance of key hormones that control appetite. And we all know that when we’re tired we’re more likely to reach for a sugary snack in order to gain some energy, albeit it short-lived.
So how many hours should we be getting? Experts recommend adults get 7.5-9 hours of good quality sleep per night, teenagers need 9-10 and infants need 14-16 hours depending on their age. Going to bed earlier may be the answer for some, but for others the quality of sleep needs some work too.
You may have heard of the term ‘Sleep hygiene’ and be wondering what that means. Sleep hygiene is all about the environment you create around bedtime which involves habits and rituals which are conducive to sleeping well on a regular basis. Many of these ideas are common sense, however in the busy world we live in they are often forgotten or neglected. Try to include these rituals every night and watch your sleep quality improve:
- No screens for 1-2 hours before bed (put that phone on Do Not Disturb!)
- Go to bed at the same time each night – the earlier the better, aim to be asleep by 10pm
- End your day with a good book and a cup of herbal (non-caffeinated) tea in bed
- Turn down the lights- use only a bedside lamp to read
- Spend time outdoors in natural light during the day to remind your body of its natural circadian rhythm
- Use your bed for sleep and sex only! The brain is clever and will make associations between places and activities, so doing work, being on your phone etc in bed during the day will create the association in your brain that bed = activity
Still having trouble falling asleep or waking up feel unrested? Enter Magnesium. You’re probably familiar with the role magnesium plays for alleviating muscular stress and tension, and it does a similar thing for our nervous systems. It helps our bodies to wind down and relax, nourishing our burnt-out adrenal glands and allowing our body to exist in the ‘rest and digest’ mode. Furthermore, magnesium is required for the synthesis of serotonin, a neurotransmitter required for regulating our sleep cycles. Serotonin goes on to make melatonin (am I losing you?!) and melatonin is the hormone DIRECTLY associated with healthy and restful sleep. Our bodies are depleted of magnesium during stressful periods, so supplementing is necessary to bring our levels back up and ensure we are getting the good quality sleep required. As with all supplements, the quality and type of magnesium used makes all the difference (don’t waste your money on the cheap supermarket brands), so ask your practitioner to recommend a supplement.
Now, turn off your screen and jump into bed with a chamomile tea! Sweet dreams.