Sleep Your Way To Better Health

Did you know that a whopping 94% of us Aussies are not getting enough sleep? There is only 1 out of 4 of us that is getting a solid 8 hours a night, with the average being only 6.5 hours of sleep per night.

Sleep is so incredibly important and it is a crucial time that allows our bodies to rest and repair, and without enough quality sleep, our health will suffer the consequences.

Our sleep needs vary greatly across the ages and are influenced by our lifestyle, illness and/or health. To determine how much sleep you need, it is important to assess not only where you fall on the "sleep needs spectrum", but also to look at the lifestyle factors that may be affecting the quality and quantity of your sleep such as work schedules, stress and night time routines.

Where do you fall on the Sleep Needs Spectrum according to the National Sleep Foundation?

  • Newborns: 14-17 hours

  • Infants: 12-15 hours

  • Toddlers: 11-14 hours

  • Preschoolers: 10-13 hours

  • School-aged Children: 9-11 hours

  • Teens: 8-10 hours

  • Adults: 7-9 hours

  • Older Adults (65+) 7-8 hours

  • If you are have an illness you may require more sleep to aid the body's healing processes

Do you ever have nights where you are tossing and turning, struggling to switch off and drift off into a slumber? Feeling so incredibly exhausted but also ridiculously wired? Unfortunately this is the reality for many people, because 1 in 3 are regularly affected by insomnia.

Most of us conscious humans know what happens to our bodies and our state of mind when we don't get enough sleep. Fogginess, lack of coordination, poor concentration, sluggish immune system, just to name a few obvious symptoms. People may also experience more colds, flus, headaches and migraines. When we don't get our recommended quality and quantity of sleep we interfere with the body's night and day circadian rhythms, the seasonal adjustments, which can impact many facets of our health. Our brains produce a hormone called melatonin which is involved in the regulation of the body's circadian rhythms such as the sleep-wake cycle and it's release leads to feelings of "sleepiness". The hormone is it's most active prior to bedtime if the environment is right. Melatonin is released in higher amounts when the environment is darker and in smaller amounts when there is more light. When we are exposed to artificial lights (phones, tablets, TV, computers) before bedtime, we are essentially disrupting this hormone production and our melatonin levels thus impacting on our sleep. People who are sleep deprived have a compromised immune system that will never reach its full potential. It is important to remember that sleep is important for so many different aspects of our health including our digestion, lymphatic, circulatory, respiratory, reproductive and mental health.

Dietary Inclusions to Improve the Quality of your Sleep

If you are looking to improve your sleep quality, you will be happy to know that there are many dietary changes/inclusions that you can make in order to do so. Foods that aid sleep include:

  • Herbal Tea Non caffeinated herbal teas such as chamomile tea are know to have mild natural sedative effects, helping people to doze off. Chamomile tea is associated with an increase of glycine, which is a chemical that is known to relax muscles and have a mild sedative affect on the body.

  • Foods Rich In Magnesium Magnesium is involved in the functioning of GABA receptors, which is the primary neurotransmitter that acts to calm the central nervous system, relax the body and prepare it for sleep. Dietary sources of magnesium include; sesame seeds, spinach, cacao, pumpkin seeds, and Brazil nuts. You may also be interested to know that can absorb magnesium through your skin and that an Epsom salt bath salt bath will help ensure you are getting plenty of it.

  • Foods Rich In Vitamin B One of the most important vitamins for sleep help is the B vitamins, with some deficiencies linked to insomnia. B vitamins together with a number of important enzymes work together to help promote sleep by stimulating serotonin, dopamine, GABA and melatonin activity. Dietary sources of this amazing vitamin include; tuna, salmon, chicken, bananas, chickpeas, green leafy vegetables, organ meats such as liver and eggs.

  • Leafy Green Vegetables Dark leafy green vegetables are packed full of calcium, which assists the brain to use tryptophan to manufacture melatonin. Dietary sources include; kale, spinach and mustard greens.

  • Walnuts Well, well, well... researchers have found that walnuts actually contain their own source of the melatonin which can help you to fall asleep faster - how convenient is that?

  • BananasWe all know that bananas are loaded with potassium and magnesium but what you might not know is that they are natural muscle relaxants and contain tryptophan which serves as a precursor for serotonin and melatonin.

Lifestyle Tips to Improving Quality of Sleep

  • Ensure your room is as dark as possible, this allows your circadian rhythms to get back in sync with their natural rhythms.

  • Avoid caffeinated drinks after lunchtime, allow your body time to wind down from caffeine so that you will be feeling nice and drowsy come bedtime. Opt for herbal teas and water, but not too much and too close to bedtime causing you to wake in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.

  • 30min-1hr before bed switch off from electronics (TV, computer, tablets, phone) as these bright, artificial lights can interfere with the body's ability to sleep and for the brain to switch off.

  • Avoid sweets and treats late in the night as these can cause a blood sugar spike and stimulate you making you feel like you could run a marathon rather than settle in bed for the night.

  • Meditation and yoga before bed may be helpful when trying to relax the body and mild, a great way to de-stress from the day.

  • Essential oils have a positive effect on our limbic system and may assist with falling asleep and sleep quality. I love to use doTERRA's Lavender Peace. Knocks me out every time.

  • Herbs have also been found to help achieve a deeper sleep, chat to a herbalist or naturopath for more information and tailored advise.

So tonight before bed, grab a nice, warm cup of chamomile tea, a handful of walnuts and jump into an Epsom salt bath, switch off from your electronics and allow yourself time to wind down from your day before jumping into bed and let me know how you feel in the morning. I have a feeling you will be thanking me. Sweet dreams...