Updated: Apr 20
Sleep is our body’s way to heal, restore, and recharge. We need enough of it to function effectively each night other wise problems both mentally and physically start to arise. Our sleep quality is determined by our ability to produce the hormones Adenosine and melatonin. If we are struggling to produce these two getting to sleep becomes hard work which is NOT fun. Not to worry though as there are plenty of ways to improve your sleep so read on. :) “When I wake up, I am reborn.” - Mahatma Gandhi
But before we do that let's take a look at what's going on...
There are two terms that describe sleep problems - sleep deficiency and sleep deprivation.
Sleep deficiency: is when you don’t get enough good QUALITY sleep - tossing and turning, sleeping at irregular times, or having a sleep disorder that prevents good quality sleep such as insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, etc. Sleep deprivation: means you are not getting the needed hours of sleep. Adults need 7 to 9 hours per night. Children and teens need more as they are in the growing stage.
Sleep, just like food and water, is a basic necessity in life. It's very important for overall health and well-being.
Important to note: How well-rested you are is far more important than the actual number of hours you have slept. Seven hours of good quality sleep is much better for you than 10 hours of restless sleep.
Healthy Hormones Are Essential For Sleep
We all have an internal body clock (circadian rhythm) that is responsible for our sleep-wake cycle. This cycle wakes us up as the sun rises and tells us to go to sleep when the sun sets. Environmental cues play a major role in the correct function of our internal body clock hence practicing sleep hygiene (explained below) at night is essential when wanting to improve sleeping habits.
Adenosine is the hormone linked to the desire to sleep. When you are awake, adenosine levels rise throughout the day. Higher levels in the latter part of the day signal the drive to sleep. While you are asleep, adenosine is broken down.
Melatonin is your sleep hormone, it’s released when it gets dark. This hormone tells your body to sleep. Melatonin levels start to significantly drop as the sun rises. This is why it is so important to turn off bright lights and only use warm side lighting in your house at night. TIP: If you're wanting to wake up earlier in the mornings the best thing to do, is to leave the curtains open so the sun naturally wakes you up.
Cortisol is the hormone that wakes you up. It is released as the sun rises, signalling your body that it’s time to get up and get moving.
Regardless of age, it is very important that we observe proper sleep hygiene and minimise disruptions in your sleep-wake cycle. Such as getting up to pee unnecessarily at night - this is a common one. In the absence of physical sleep disorders, most of us are able to sleep without artificial sleeping aids. This is because our body knows what it has to do. Therefore its often more about us providing the right environment for our body to get to sleep well. This usually comes down to diet, stress reduction and healthy sleep routines.
How Well Do You Sleep?
Do you know that the quality of your sleep depends on whether you have completed the different stages of sleep?
There are two phases: Non-REM sleep and REM sleep.
Stage 3 Non-REM Sleep is the "DEEP SLEEP" stage.
It's the restorative stage of sleep and is very important for you to feel well-rested and energetic during the day. Deep sleep occurs most in the first half of the night. This is why I am always telling my clients to get to sleep at 10 pm no later!
The second half of the night is when the majority of the rapid eye movement (REM) stage occurs and it’s when we experience dreaming. Eyes move rapidly even though eyelids are closed; breathing is rapid, shallow and irregular, we also have an increased heart rate and blood pressure compared to Deep Sleep. To prevent you from “acting out” your dreams, your arms and legs muscles are temporarily paralysed. You wouldn’t want to hit your partner while you’re asleep now, would you? :D
Throughout the night these sleep stages repeat. Disruptions or an inability to reach DEEP SLEEP OR REM SLEEP can cause you to feel tired, sluggish, and generally not well-rested.
TIPS: Sleep Hygiene: How to Have a Good Night’s Sleep
So far we have learned that we need at least 7 hours of good quality sleep for our bodies to be recharged and for us to wake up feeling well-rested. So, how can we do this? Here are some tips for you that can help you get the best night’s sleep.
Routine: Train yourself and your body to go to bed at the same time every night. Once your body gets used to it, it becomes automatic for the body to go to sleep at 10 pm - meditation, deep breathing, diffusing essential oils can help you feel relaxed if extra help is required.
Complete all strenuous exercise at least 2 hours before bed: Doing exercise too close to sleep time will make it difficult for you to fall asleep.
Turn off your devices at least 1 hour before going to sleep: The light from the devices tricks your brain into thinking it's still daytime this may inhibit the release of melatonin, our natural sleep hormone.
Don’t eat large meals after 7 p.m.: Sometimes a light, healthy snack can help you sleep. Foods rich in the amino acid tryptophan (required for serotonin and melatonin production) are particularly useful and include: bananas, organic dairy products e.g. natural yoghurt, warmed milk with a pinch of cinnamon, hazelnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds.
Sleeping in the dark is the best!: A dark room is conducive for sleep because this triggers the release of melatonin, our natural sleep hormone.
Read a few pages of a book: This can help you relax. Just make sure it’s only a few pages as sometimes when the story is really interesting, we can’t put the book down. Oops!!
Sip sleepy-time teas before bed: Teas such as chamomile, passionflower, lavender, valerian, skullcap, or lemon balm may help you relax.
Don't get up: unless you have to don't get up if you wake up in the middle of the night. Just close your eyes and relax. You’ll fall asleep again in no time.
Can’t sleep because your partner snores? Try sleeping in another room. Some people find that having their own room or separate bed not only improves their sleep but also has other positive benefits on their relationship.
Declutter your room: Your sleeping environment plays a factor in your ability to sleep. A space that is clean, well ventilated, uncluttered and tidy is an ideal place to sleep.
Find the sleep strategy that works for you.
Remember that the goal here is to have restful, refreshing sleep. Your ability to focus, do your job well, be more productive all depends on how many hours of quality sleep you had last night.
If you want more help with your sleep and overall hormone health click here.