The healing power of sleep
We continue to live in quite uncertain times and as a result may see an increase in sleep issues, new sleeping habits and changes to routine which may be affecting the quality of our rest.
Inadequate sleep can have a serious and detrimental effect on health. In the short term we may be hungrier, tired the next day and find it difficult to concentrate or stick to healthy eating patterns. In the longer term it can contribute to cognitive decline, a weakened immune system, weight gain and many chronic diseases.
Sleep is vital for optimal brain health. During sleep our body cells detoxify and cleanse, and our brain cells are no exception. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for restful sleep, however as we age, we produce less, and therefore older individuals often experience more trouble sleeping.
Melatonin has a significant role to play in neurodegenerative disorders as it is an antioxidant and helps optimise the healthy function of nerve and brain tissue.
Although eight hours of uninterrupted sleep may seem an impossible dream for many of us, it is important and useful to find sleep strategies that work most effectively for each of us.
Healthy Sleep: Good Habits and Tips
Creating a sleep ritual, a set of little things you do before bed to help ready your system physically and psychologically for sleep, can guide your body into a deep, and healing sleep. It may take some weeks, but using these tools in a coordinated way, will eventually reset your biological rhythms:
- Ensure you get daytime full light exposure. Take a break from your desk and go for a walk during your lunch break.
- Avoid screens and fluorescent lighting before bedtime. These emit blue light which suppresses melatonin production. Using the ‘night shift’ setting on your phone in the evening helps reduce blue light exposure.
- Fight after dinner drowsiness otherwise you will find yourself waking through the night. Instead, consider an earlier meal and a walk or a gentle yoga class before bed.
- Avoid late night snacking as this can play havoc with blood sugars and cause night-time waking. Instead, have a cup of chamomile tea which acts as a mild sedative to get you feeling sleepy.
- Take a bath or shower, the drop in body temperature helps stimulate the release of melatonin – our sleep hormone.
- Set a regular bedtime routine – go to bed at the same time each night. Choose a time when you generally feel tired each night, so you are ready to sleep. Start to bring forward by 15 minutes every week until you are getting to bed before 11pm. Try not to break the routine.
When you are getting enough sleep, you should wake naturally without an alarm.
Ify Akpuaka is Registered Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist, Yoga Teacher and Licensed Brain Health Practitioner. She offers nutrition and lifestyle programmes to help optimise your health, using cutting-edge science alongside natural therapies to create truly bespoke well-being plans.
To find out more about Ify please visit her website or follow her on Facebook or Instagram