One cannot think well, love well or dine well if one has not slept well, to paraphrase that famous quote by author Virgina Woolf.
And, it’s fair to say when you look at the research on sleep and its impact on our health, that one cannot expect to glow unless they go to bed on time.
Why is sleep such a hot topic right now?
On average, we are now sleeping two hours less a night than we did 70 years ago and the effects on our wellbeing are becoming impossible to ignore.
There is growing scientific evidence about the negative effects of short and long-term sleep deprivation.
Yet the arrival of smart devices has led to some less-than-smart screen behaviours and social media addictions that impact the quality and quantity of our sleep.
So how much is enough?
Most of us need at least seven to nine hours sleep a night. For some, 10 is the magic number.
If you feel like you don’t have time for sleep, think about what you have to gain. Studies have shown people who sleep more enjoy better moods, energy, mental agility, attention spans, memory, gross motor skills and faster reaction times. They also have more balanced hormones and are less likely to overeat and gain weight. Plus good sleep is vital for healthy skin and immunity.
What happens when we don’t get enough?
Short and long sleep deprivation have been linked to anxiety, depression, mood swings and irritability, a slow metabolism, overeating and weight gain, forgetfulness, foggy thinking, lethargy, inflammation, oxidative stress, premature ageing, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, alzheimer’s disease and compromised immunity.
Poor sleep can reduce your body’s production of important hormones such as human growth hormone, thyroid hormone and melatonin, plus it encourages the production of the stress hormone cortisol which can have a negative impact on your skin’s health and overall wellbeing.
During sleep is when your body protects and repairs damage from oxidation by mopping up free radicals and also when the body detoxifies. So it’s not surprising one study found people who sleep less have an increased risk of health problems.
But if that still isn’t enough motivation to send yourself to bed early, poor sleep also lowers male and female testosterone levels which support a healthy sex drive.
Good sleep needs to be scheduled …
Of course, not everyone finds it easy to get enough Z's. It’s estimated up to a third of Australian adults regularly have difficulty either getting to sleep or staying asleep. But there is plenty you can do before bed to improve your sleep.
Start by scheduling what time you need to get up the next morning and then count backwards nine hours to determine what time you need to go to bed.
Turn on your red light
The blue light emitted by screens has been shown to mess with our circadian rhythms and keep our brains awake. But you can go to the display settings on your device and switch the backlight on your screen from blue to red between certain times for example from 7pm to 7am.
Enforce an electronic sundown and shut down all your devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Then leave them to recharge in another part of your home. Resist the urge to take them in your bedroom.
Dim all of the lights in your home about an hour before bed to signal to your brain it’s time to produce melatonin, the hormone that makes you feel sleepy. If the light on your alarm clock is too bright, move it to another room too.
Practice good sleep hygiene habits…
Experiment with sleep rituals that will become second nature, just like cleansing your face and cleaning your teeth before bed. Avoid difficult conversations with your partner or housemates and resist checking social media before bedtime. Take a warm bath in dim light, do some gentle yoga stretches or spend 10 minutes with your legs up against the wall. Then read a book or magazine in bed instead of a screen for half an hour before turning the lights out. Or you could try writing in a journal or meditating to calm your body and mind.
Indulge in a nourishing nightcap…
Avoid eating for a few hours before bed because digestion disrupts deep sleep. While alcohol may help you relax and fall asleep quicker, it actually reduces the amount of deep Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep you get, thus reducing the quality of your sleep.
For a more nourishing nightcap, stir one teaspoon of Sleep Inner Beauty Powder into a cup of gently warmed nut or coconut milk.
Scientifically formulated to soothe your senses and promote deep sleep, it’s a potent, organic, bio-fermented, probiotic and antioxidant-rich turmeric, herb and spice blend.
Sleep Inner Beauty Powder includes passionflower and lemon balm, herbs which have been used in traditional western herbal medicine as sedatives to support sleep, soothe nerves and relieve mild anxiety symptoms. Plus it contains bio-fermented turmeric (to aid digestion), skin-loving pawpaw, melatonin-rich sour cherry and 1.5 billion probiotics per serve.
Stir mindfully, sip slowly and then sleep like a baby.