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Are you getting a good night’s sleep?

14 July 2016


Sleep is an essential part of survival and is paramount for a healthy body and longevity. It is as important for wellbeing as a healthy diet! As a result of our busy lives our sleep is often short and of poor quality. The invention of computer screens, tablets and mobile phones drastically affects the way our bodies prepare for sleep. The bright lights from this technology stop our natural sleeping hormones from activating, preventing us from keeping with our usual and healthy sleep pattern.

Research tells us that sleep is divided into two stages. REM (rapid eye movement) and Non-REM.
REM is the type of sleep that occurs about 25% of the night and is characterised by electrical activation of the brain. During this phase our body relaxes and our eyes dart back and forth under closed eyelids. This sleep provides energy to the brain and body and supports daytime performance. Dreams often occur during REM sleep although they can occur at any stage. Non-REM sleep occurs during the other 75% of the time and can be further broken down into four stages. Stages 3 and 4 are very restorative and known as delta sleep. During this time blood pressure drops, breathing slows, muscles relax and receive more blood supply, tissue repair occurs and hormones are released (including growth hormones which is why teenagers need more sleep).

These 2 main stages alternate throughout the night. Both REM and Non-REM are important for the maintenance of good health.

Our body’s desire to sleep is controlled by our circadian “body clock”. When your clock is in synch, sleepiness is high during the night and low during the day.

Shift work, jet lag, drug medications and recreational drug taking can really upset these delicate rhythms of our body. Poor sleep quality really impacts how well and alert we feel during the day.

Many lifestyle indulgences, habits and stress can upset our sleep quality as well as caffeine ingestion, sugar ingestion and heavy food late at night.

The long and short of this is that the need to take our sleep seriously. We will also benefit by preparing the body for sleep. These few little tips will make a big difference:

• Turn computers and bright screens off at least 2 hours before bed; keeping away from them once dinner is finished is even better.
• Try to do some exercise each day to burn up the day’s stress, but don’t exercise less than 3-4 hours before sleep.
• Keep away from stimulating drinks and foods in the evening. Coffee, tea, carbs, alcohol and sugars will often cause a lower quality sleep.
• Eat lightly at dinner. Your body trying to slow down for sleep and your digestion trying to ark up for breaking down food often causes problems with trying to get to sleep. Have your main meal at lunch time and something lighter and easier to digest in the evening really makes good sense.
• The soothing warmth of a nice shower, a few drops of relaxing Lavender in your bath water or some Lavender Essential Oil in your shower stall can really settle you nicely for sleep.
• Certain nutrient deficiencies can contribute to sleep difficulties. At the clinic we have a number of strategies that can help you get to sleep and lead to a longer, more peaceful and refreshing sleep.

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