The healing power of sleep

We often make time to exercise, socialise and eat well, which are important for our health, but are you making time for sleep? We all need to sleep, it is physiologically important. Make it one of your priorities to try and get more sleep.

Sleep is vital for many functions in the body including the regulation of mood, modulation of the immune system and hormones, detoxification, memory and concentration (1). Specifically, when you are sleeping your body heals and repairs cells and blood vessels, as well as encourages tissue growth (2). Your body and mind break also take a break, as it lowers blood pressure, slows down breathing and relaxes the muscles. Sleep also regulates your blood sugar levels and has a big impact on weight (2).

When you don’t get enough sleep, the body essentially cannot utilise these healing and restorative benefits, and thus can alter the normal regulation of our body. In the short-term sleep deprivation can negatively affect your mental health and has been linked to depression, as well as weight gain, daytime sleepiness, poor memory and concentration, lowered libido and inflammation (4). Long-term effects of sleep alterations can increase the risk of many diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia and Alzheimer’s (1, 2).

I bet you are thinking, ‘how am I going to get more sleep’. Well, you have come to the right place. To get a good night’s rest you need to look at a variety of aspects in your life, such as diet, lifestyle, disease and exercise and even your circadian rhythm (which is a regulated process in the body that makes us sleepy at the right time and increases wakefulness in the morning (3, 4).

  • Common dietary triggers for altered sleep include caffeine, sugar or alcohol close to bed, not enough protein or good fats.

  • Lifestyle factors such as shift-work, partying, technology use or working/studying close to bed, poor sunlight exposure also need to be considered.

  • Menopause.

  • Not enough exercise, or exercise close to bed time.

  • Many conditions and disease states can affect how we sleep, which can include sleep apnoea, thyroid issues, depression, diabetes or blood sugar fluctuations, restless leg syndrome, allergies, digestive conditions and nutritional deficiencies.

  • And, stress! We can’t forget stress, one of the main contributors to changes in sleep, whether this be falling or staying asleep.

These are all factors that may be influencing your sleep and more often than not it may be a variety of these. At times, we may need a little extra support from someone to help us take control of our health. Working with a qualified naturopath can help you to get more sleep and essentially gain all the healing powers of sleep.

References:

  1. Zielinski, M. R., McKenna, J. T., & McCarley, R. W. (2016). Functions and Mechanisms of Sleep. AIMS neuroscience, 3(1), 67–104. doi:10.3934/Neuroscience.2016.1.67

  2. Mullington, J. M., Simpson, N. S., Meier-Ewert, H. K., & Haack, M. (2010). Sleep loss and inflammation. Best practice & research. Clinical endocrinology & metabolism, 24(5), 775–784. doi:10.1016/j.beem.2010.08.014

  3. Zisapel N. (2018). New perspectives on the role of melatonin in human sleep, circadian rhythms and their regulation. British journal of pharmacology, 175(16), 3190–3199. doi:10.1111/bph.14116

  4. Shochat T. (2012). Impact of lifestyle and technology developments on sleep. Nature and science of sleep, 4, 19–31. doi:10.2147/NSS.S18891

Jess is a degree qualified Naturopath. She has a special clinical interest in mood disorders, sleep and mental health. She assists many clients with maanging stress levels, anxiety, insomnia as well as diegstive conditions like IBS. She is available for consultation Fridays and Saturdays at The Sana Co. Book your appointment HERE

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