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Just five more minutes! The importance of sleep hygiene

Written by Laima Hareer | Wednesday, 6 April 2022

natural leaders naturopathy

Do you sleep late and wake up yearning for that extra five minutes of sleep? If you answered yes, you’re not alone. It's estimated that 4 in every 10 Australians are not getting an adequate amount of sleep!

Most of us know the importance of getting a good night’s rest, although few of us prioritise the required seven or more hours in bed. As a result, many of us end up in sleep deficit and forget how it really feels to be truly rested and restored. Modern life pressures often lead to longer hours awake to meet deadlines. Workaholics such as Elon Musk (CEO of Tesla, Neuralink, and SpaceX) who apparently logs 120 working hours a week is a prime example of an extolling work ethic that may be problematic later.

Sleep is not only a necessity, but it is vital for well-being and quality of life. The quantity and quality of sleep are essential in helping to protect your body’s organs from deterioration. Humans aren’t machines, but our bodies work like a factory. Just like a Tesla needs to recharge, so do our bodies. How you feel when you are awake is a result of what happens while you sleep. During sleep, the body works hard to support various aspects of physical health.

Benefits of sleeping

  • Improved productivity: A sharper brain boosts productivity and performance.
  • Healthier heart and immune system: Adequate sleep leads to optimal heart health and reduces the risk of disease.
  • Feel good: More energy and maintained weight mean that feel good both mentally and physically.

Less sleep means less life

The damage because of sleep insufficiency can happen over time or can be seen instantly. For example, short-term detriments of reduced sleep include fatigue, headaches, foggy brain, mood disturbances, and the proper inability to socially interact with others. Long-term detriments can have a more severe influence on the body.

According to a recent systematic review, individuals that received less than 6 hours of sleep were at a higher risk of health complications such as diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), metabolic issues, and mortality.

  • Diabetes: Adequate sleep is required for normal hormone production such as insulin (blood sugar-regulating hormone) and cortisol (stress hormone)
  • Hypertension: Sleep is required to help regulate stress hormones, which support the nervous system. This helps keep your blood pressure normal and your heart healthy
  • Increased appetite/weight: Sleep deficiency is linked to increased levels of hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin, which leave you craving for energy-dense foods
  • Cardiovascular disease: Sleep deficiency causes multiple body disruptions leading to underlying health concerns. Glucose metabolism, hypertension, increased weight gain, and inflammation collectively contribute to a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease
  • All-cause mortality: Poor health because of sleep deprivation has the potential to put you to sleep for life by triggering biological systems that lead to the decline of normal bodily processes. Lack of sleep also impacts judgment, productivity, and increases the rate of errors and accidents

Alternatives to counting sheep

Resetting sleeping patterns is part of habit formation, and as such readjustment may take some time. In the meantime, the following tips might help in regulating your sleeping cycle.

  • Blue light: Reduce screen exposure (computer, phone, iPad, television). Screens emit blue light, which can reduce melatonin (sleep hormone) production.
  • Reduce intake of stimulants: Caffeine and alcohol may keep you up. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is a stimulant and can disrupt a good night's sleep.
  • Stay out of bed: Associate your bed with sleeping and intimacy only. Don't use your bed for work.
  • Set a sleeping routine: Going to bed and waking up at the same time will help regulate your body clock.
  • Exercise: Physical activity can help deep sleep. Morning workouts are ideal and may help with your body's natural circadian rhythm
  • Avoid day-time naps: Napping for too long or at the wrong time can backfire and render you restless/awake.

Whilst finishing projects and meeting deadlines are paramount, getting adequate sleep is equally as important. Although a few poor nights of sleep may not be as damaging, the impact of sleep deprivation long-term should not be taken lightly. For more advice on how to reset your sleeping cycle speak with a qualified natural health practitioner.

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Itani, O., Jike, M., Watanbe, N., & Kaneita, Y. (2017). Short sleep duration and health outcomes: a systematic review, meta-analysis, and meta-regression. Sleep Medicine, 32, 246-256.

Laima Hareer

Laima is a highly motivated and enthusiastic evidenced-based integrative health practitioner who is dedicated to helping people restore balance in their lives through natural and nutritional remedies. As a clinical Naturopath with both industry and academic experience, Laima has mentored practitioners, students, and successfully treated patients in acute and chronic settings.

Laima is currently taking a break from completing her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetic Practice, as well as a Post-Graduate degree in Neuroscience and Mental Health. She is currently mentoring Endeavour students on their clinical placements as well as working in collaboration with a biotechnology company, as part of the science research and product innovation team; focusing on microbiome health advancements.

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