Product Focus - Sleeping Soundly
Sleep is an essential pillar of health that goes far beyond simply banishing under-eye bags. Quality rest helps you handle stress, refuels your energy tank, and improves your overall wellbeing; it’s your body’s time to rejuvenate, restore, and recharge.
It may surprise you that your brain doesn’t go on standby mode when you sleep; it conducts important housekeeping, consolidating new skills and entrenching memories. A good night’s sleep can improve recall and cognitive functioning. One bad night, on the other hand, can make you feel fuzzy and scattered the next day.
Sleep is often described as ‘overnight therapy’ for your emotional health. When you get enough rest, you wake up optimistic, bright, and ready to take on the day. Small challenges – traffic, a stressful workload, or running out of milk – aren’t met with the usual frustration. Regularly shortchanging yourself of sleep, however, can have the opposite effect on your mood, making you more emotionally reactive. And chronic sleeplessness can quickly trigger a cycle of low mood, anxiety, stress – and more sleeplessness.
Making quality rest a non-negotiable part of your daily routine may see you taking fewer sick days. Prioritising sleep will help keep your immune system healthy, supporting your ability to fight colds, flu, and other pesky infections. Even one night of reduced sleep can drastically hijack your body’s defences. Now can you understand why your first instinct is to get back under the covers when sickness strikes? Your body is attempting to sleep better.
Your heart also enjoys plenty of quality rest each night. Sleeplessness can lead to a surge in stress hormones, like cortisol, which may increase blood pressure and other heart conditions. A lack of sleep might lead to weight gain, too, which can put additional strain on your heart.
Sleep isn’t a magic bullet for weight loss, but it can help with healthy weight management. Poor sleep revs up the production of ghrelin, the hormone that increases appetite, and suppresses leptin, the hormone that signals food satisfaction. Sleep deprivation can also lead to fatigue and stress, making unhealthy food choices more appealing.
The circadian rhythm
Can you pinpoint the moments you feel energised and lethargic during the day? You have the circadian rhythm to thank for that. The circadian rhythm is the body’s 24-hour internal clock that oversees the sleep-wake cycle. Humans are diurnal, meaning we’re most active during the day and rest at night. This ‘clock’ is regulated by a collection of nerve cells in the brain called the hypothalamus.
For many people, the most noticeable energy crash occurs in the middle of the night (between 2 am and 4 am) and just after lunch (between 1 pm and 3 pm). With enough quality z’s, these highs and lows won’t be so obvious. But if you’re sleep deprived, you will be hankering for that post-lunch siesta even more.
Get to know your hormones
Cortisol and melatonin are the two primary hormones that regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Often known as your ‘stress hormone’, cortisol peaks in the morning to make you feel alert and then declines as the day progresses – at which point, you start to secrete melatonin, the ‘sleep hormone’, helping prepare the body for rest.
How much sleep do we need?
There’s a sizeable difference between the amount of sleep you can just about get by on, and the amount your body requires to function optimally. Though most healthy adults need 7-9 hours each night, sleep requirements differ from person to person. Be mindful that the definition of a ‘good night’s sleep’ is not always a number; it’s also about quality.
To find out more about supporting your sleep visit our Sleep Health Hub by clicking here.
You can finesse your bedtime routine, fit blackout blinds in your room, and use copious amounts of lavender essential oil before bed, but without good nutrition, quality sleep can still escape you. And it’s not just about what you eat; when you eat matters, too.
Time your meals
Whether you’ve worked a long day in the office, need fuel for twilight study, or enjoy grazing in front of a movie, eating just before bed is far from uncommon. But late-night nibbling has earned itself a bad reputation, especially where sleep is concerned.
Late-night eating interrupts sleep cycles
Filling up on sweet treats before bed, in particular, can pull you out of deep, restorative non-REM sleep and place you in a lighter REM sleep pattern, affecting your overall sleep quality. Heavier, fatty foods, on the other hand, are believed to have the opposite effect. One study reported that, after eating high-fat foods, participants enjoyed less time in REM sleep and took longer to reach this stage entirely.(1) Since REM sleep is the point at which your brain is most active, this has several drawbacks for your emotional, cognitive, and physical wellbeing.
How long should I wait between meals and bedtime?
Try to leave between 2 to 3 hours after your last meal before sleep. This provides enough time for digestion and for the food in your belly to move into your small intestine.
Culprits that keep you up
Besides timing your evening meal right, it’s well worth re-evaluating what you’re eating later in the day, too. Alcohol and caffeine (more on these later), as well as cheese, spicy meals, and fatty foods, are some of the main saboteurs known to disrupt sleep.
Involved in over 300 biochemical processes, magnesium supports normal psychological and nervous system function, making it a useful addition for sleep. Eat it: Spinach
The long-chain essential fatty acids, DHA and EPA, are widely recognised for their role in health and wellbeing. These nutrients make great bedtime companions. Eat them: Salmon or chia seeds
The family of B vitamins is very clever. Many of them are involved in normal psychological function, including vitamins B1 and B12, and nervous system function – namely, vitamin B3, B2, B6, and B7 – all of which are important for sleep. Eat them: Green leafy vegetables
Vitamin D3 is also essential for good health. The body synthesises vitamin D3 from direct sun exposure, which helps recalibrate our circadian rhythm or 24-hour internal clock. Eat it: Eggs or fortified plant milk
5 hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP, is the natural compound the body manufactures from the amino acid, tryptophan. The brain converts 5-HTP into serotonin, the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter, which affects sleep, mood and appetite.
PEA is an endocannabinoid-like compound found in almost every cell, tissue, and fluid. Naturally produced when cells are damaged or threatened, PEA is a well-researched alternative to CBD. It’s an increasingly popular choice to support sleep hygiene.
Valerian root is a traditional herb used for the temporary relief of sleep disturbances and mild anxiety.