While it may seem like a basic concept, don’t underestimate the huge impact that getting enough sleep can have on your health. Good sleep is one of the basic pillars of health, alongside optimal nutrition, hydration, and exercise and stress management. It might sound simple, but you need to have all of these area’s working for you to experience better health.
One of the most common links I see in the clinic between a chronic health presentation and good treatment outcomes is addressing quality of sleep. At night while we are asleep, there are many bodily functions being performed and if we are unable to maintain good sleep then these functions will be disrupted and may contribute to existing conditions or put us at risk of developing serious health issues.
How do I know if I’m getting good sleep?
There is an ideal amount of hours for sleep that differs for each age group. Studies have shown that adults function better on 7-9 hours of sleep per night and children will range from about 15 hours and a toddler needs around 10 hours up to the age of 12. Adolescents need around 9 hours of sleep per night to function on an optimal level. You need to fall asleep between 10-30 minutes after hitting the pillow. Any less or any longer could mean that you are suffering from sleep deprivation. Minimal waking and an earlier bedtime (before 11pm) will also help to ensure you wake feeling refreshed. Getting 4-6 hours per night will lead to a progressive decline in cognitive and mental functioning.
If you express any of the following behaviours during sleep, some further investigation or support may be needed:
• Teeth grinding
• Bed wetting
• Increased bladder emptying
• Periodic leg movements
• Repeated waking
• Night sweats
• Sleep talking
What happens in the body while we are asleep?
This is where things get interesting….did you know that feeling tired during the day won’t always mean that you will sleep well? In fact, you will sleep better at night if you have good energy levels during the day. Sleep actually requires a lot of energy. There are many functions that happen while we are asleep and if the body lacks energy then we may not be able to maintain good sleep. This may be one of the contributing factors if you are having issues getting to sleep and staying asleep.
Our body does some amazing things that we are totally unaware of during the night, these include:
• Regulation of inflammation
• Tissue repair
• Liver detoxification
• Kidney detoxification
• Memory consolidation
• Emotional healing
• Hormone regulation
• Reduction of oxidative stress
• Recovery from illness
What are the potential consequences of poor sleep?
Apart from feeling tired and lacking energy to get through the day, there can be extensive health implications of long term sleep deprivation. Studies have shown there is an increased risk of developing heart disease or stroke in people who are sleep deprived. Links have also been made with lack of sleep and obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
One of the contributing factors to this is the impact sleep deprivation has on our hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin. Other consequences of poor sleep may include:
• Chronic fatigue syndrome
• Lower back pain and neck pain
• Reduce work performance and cognitive function
• Reduce immunity
• Behavioural abnormality
What can I do to sleep better?
If you are having trouble sleeping there are a number of things you could try to get a better night’s sleep.
These could include:
• Reducing caffeine intake
• Avoiding sugar and refined carbohydrates
• Reducing alcohol intake
• Regular exercise
• Epsom salt bath
However there are times when further investigation and support are needed. Your Naturopath may be able to identify potential contributing factors to your sleeping issues and help to come up with an individualised treatment protocol to suit your needs…sweet dreams! Emma Tippett is the principle Naturopath at Empowered Health. With a special interest in digestive issues, no stone is left un turned in determining what is causing a health issue. In many cases, lack of sleep can be either a cause or contributing factor to someones health concern. For more information or to book an appointment with Emma, call 1300 21 44 25.