By Sam Botica, Naturopath – We need sleep to stay healthy, for the mind and body to rest and repair at a cellular level, including muscle repair, fat burning and releasing important hormones. Without good sleep we lower our metabolism, weaken our immune system and predispose ourselves to many of the chronic illnesses. But did you know that the more sleep-deprived you are, the more your brain tells you that you are not?
Ask yourself these questions: How do I look? How do I feel and perform? If you’re not sleeping well, then you may need to change your mindset around sleep. Make sleep a priority and educate yourself about it to gain overall wellness.
Sleep affects how you look and your body composition. It’s the number one thing! It is the driving force behind what you eat and how you perform mentally, and physically.
So what is sleep?
It’s a series of unconscious and semi-conscious states, correlated with different brain wave frequencies. Each of these frequencies results in different physiological changes. The main ones are:
Gamma Waves: These impact memory and cognition.
Beta Waves: These dominate our normal waking state of consciousness and are present when we are problem solving and using our judgement.
Alpha Waves: Can represent a relaxed awareness in our minds and are increased by closing the eyes and relaxing. They impact intuitive thinking and creativity.
Theta Waves: Can represent the transitional state in and out of consciousness.
Delta Waves: Represent the deepest stage of sleep, indicating refreshing sleep that allows your body and brain to rest and repair.
We transition in and out of all these states during sleep and we need enough time in each of these states to get all of the benefits.
Tips for better quality sleep
- Get more sunlight, especially between 8am and midday. 10 to 20 minutes will make a difference. Sunlight increases seratonin, which is a precursor for melatonin, the sleep hormone. Sun exposure significantly decreases cortisol at night. High cortisol levels at night equals low melatonin and you’ll be climbing the walls.
- Switch off your gadgets at least an hour before bed. No mobile phones in the bedroom.
- Set a regular time for bed and dim the lights at night before bedtime.
- No coffee after midday.
- Try lavender essential oil or other sleep blends. Use as a pillow spray or in a diffuser.
- Room temperature should be cooler. A lower body temperature raises melatonin for better sleep.
- Pillows need to be changed every 18 months to 2 years. If you’re a side sleeper you need a thicker pillow. If you’re a back sleeper use a thinner one.
- Care with memory foam if you’re a hot sleeper.
- Napping should only be for 20 minutes and only to make up for lost sleep. Any more than this and you might wake up feeling worse.
- Mindfullness and meditation can be helpful. Learning to experience yourself rather than everything else around you, even for 5 to 20 minutes a day, will be beneficial.
- Check for mouth breathing. Sinus congestion and allergies can contribute to this and can be treated. If you snore you may have sleep apnoea. Both of these can be improved with an anti-inflammatory diet.
Natural supplements are safer in the long term rather than pharmaceutical drugs as many of these drugs have side effects like memory loss, drowsiness and headaches …
Supplements such as Magnesium, Vit D, Vit E, 5HTP, GABA and herbs like Valerian, Passion Flower, Chamomile and Kava are all good but do get guidance as you need what’s appropriate for you and at the right dosage. Some of these are contra-indicated with certain pharmaceutical medicines.