What is sleep?
Have you ever rolled out of bed at 6am when your alarm goes off, sat on the edge of your bed and wondered how on earth you will face the day on 4 hours sleep?
It’s an issue we’ve all faced at some time or another and for many years humans have been searching for ways to get around the fact we need to stop working, worrying or partying and lay down, close our eyes and drift off to sleep.
Unfortunately there’s no way around needing to get a good nights sleep the majority of the time and in this blog you’ll see why!
Sleep is a naturally recurring state of mind and body, characterised by altered consciousness, low sensory activity, inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles, and reduced interactions with surroundings. Even though we may feel as though we are dead to the world the brain continues to operate your bodies systems and physiology to keep you alive and well while resting.
What happens when we don’t get enough sleep?
We all know how it feels to try to operate at a functional level on little to no sleep, its physically mentally and emotionally draining. There are a few reasons why this is the case.
1) Your body’s systems including your brain have had little or no opportunity to reset and remove waste products.
2) Essential functions such as memory decision making and reaction time are severely inhibited.
3) You suffer from increased anxiety, irritability and fatigue due to your body operating without sufficient rest.
4) Months and years being deprived of sleep can lead to mental disorders such as depression and personality changes.
5) Over time your stress hormone cortisol is increased to dangerous levels leading to immune system problems and higher susceptibility to illness.
What happens when we do get enough sleep?
We can all relate to the effects of a poor nights sleep, simultaneously we have all experienced the feelings and results of a good nights sleep. We open our eyes in the morning feeling rested, refreshed and energetic, ready to start our day. Once again there are a few reasons why this is the case.
1) Once we enter the deepest part of sleep our blood pressure and heart rate drops significantly giving these essential organs some time to operate at a lower intensity.
2) Our brain clears waste from cells and rebuilds damaged tissues and cells.
3) There are a number of different hormones released during sleep, all with different purposes. Melatonin, released by the pineal gland, controls your sleep patterns. Levels increase at night time, making you feel sleepy. While you’re sleeping, your pituitary gland releases growth hormone, which helps your body to grow and repair itself.
4) While you’re sleeping, your immune system releases a type of small proteins called cytokines. If you’re sick or injured, these cytokines help your body fight inflammation, infection and trauma. Without enough sleep, your immune system will not be able to function at its best.
5) Cognitive function is elevated and complex tasks become easier to accomplish with a full nights sleep.
How can we get the best nights sleep possible?
1) Get exposure to am sunlight. Natural sunlight or bright light during the day, especially in the morning helps keep your circadian rhythm healthy. This improves daytime energy, as well as nighttime sleep quality and duration.
2) Exposure to light during the day is beneficial, but nighttime light exposure has the opposite effect, this is due to its impact on your circadian rhythm, tricking your brain into thinking it is still daytime. This reduces hormones like melatonin, which help you relax and get deep sleep Blue light — which electronic devices like smartphones and computers emit in large amounts is the biggest culprit in this regard.
3) Optimize your bedroom environment; try to minimize external noise, light and artificial lights from devices like alarm clocks. Make sure your bedroom is a quiet, relaxing, and clean and enjoyable place. Endeavour to keep your bedroom cool as a lower room temperature helps to put you to sleep quicker.
4) Limit or exclude caffeine and alcohol from your system during the day as much as possible. Coffee stimulates your nervous system and may stop your body from naturally relaxing at night. Drinking alcohol can negatively affect your sleep and hormones. Alcohol is known to cause or increase the symptoms of sleep apnea, snoring and disrupted sleep patterns. It also alters nighttime melatonin production, which plays a key role in your body’s circadian rhythm.
5) Exercise is one of the best science-backed ways to improve your sleep and health. It can enhance all aspects of sleep and has been used to reduce symptoms of insomnia In people with severe insomnia, exercise offered more benefits than most drugs. Studies have shown that exercise reduced time to fall asleep by 55%, total night wakefulness by 30% and anxiety by 15% while increasing total sleep time by 18%.
Sleep and Health:
In this blog we have looked at some of the key benefits of sleep and the adverse effects minimal sleep can have. Unfortunately in order to maintain ones health, sleep is not something that we can consistently dismiss without having adverse effects in the long run. Remember being fit, strong and healthy is much more than diet and exercise. If you feel you are lacking in the sleep department we hope the tips in this blog will set you on the right path towards taking action for longer and better nights sleeps!