- A longer lifespan
- Improved memory
- Reduced inflammation
- Slower ageing
- Increased stamina
- Better focus
- Healthy weight levels
- Lower stress
- Improved libido
- Happier mood
- Reduced depression
- Increased immunity
- And more.
Sleep (or lack thereof) has such a profound effect on our health due to the complex deluge of hormonal and chemical signals that are released in our bodies while we rest. These changes allow the body to repair itself, enabling us to wake feeling refreshed and energised, and ready for the coming day.
What happens when you sleep?Generally, sleep structure follows an alternating 5-stage pattern that consists of a sequence of NREM (non-rapid eye movement - four stages) followed by one stage of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This pattern repeats itself every 90 minutes. A typical night consists of 75% NREM and 25% REM.
There are four stages of NREM: Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM):
- Stage 1: This is the time between being awake and falling asleep. Sleep during stage 1 is very light, and usually lasts around five minutes. Your eyes move slowly under the eyelids, muscle activity slows down, and you are easily wakened. During stage 1, between 60-70% of people will experience involuntary muscle spasm, referred to as ‘hypnagogic jerk’. This can be in the form of hallucinations, the sensation of falling, or bright lights or loud noises coming from inside the head.
- Stage 2: The onset of sleep. Your body becomes disengaged from its surroundings, breathing and heart rate become regular, and your body temperature drops. This stage generally lasts between 10 and 25 minutes.
- Stage 3 & 4: The deepest and most restorative part of sleep. Your blood pressure drops, breathing becomes slower, muscles are relaxed, the blood supply to muscles increases, tissue growth and repairs occur, energy is restored and hormones essential for growth development are released. Because the blood flow is directed away from your brain during this stage, waking in these stages will leave you feeling groggy and disorientated.
- Provides energy to the brain and body
- Supports daytime performance
- Helps process and consolidate emotions, memories and stress
- Stimulates the parts of the brain used for learning and developing new skills
- Helps boost your mood upon waking.
Each stage of sleep plays its role in the body’s recovery and, when combined together, form a sleep cycle. Ideally, you want to ensure that this cycle repeats between four to six times to maximise the length of the REM stage.
The best stage of sleep to wake up in is during Stage 1 of NREM sleep, ideally after four to six REM cycles have been completed. This is because during Stage 1 you are more likely to be easily awakened, and the effect of waking up will be less of a shock on your system than if you are in the deeper stages of NREM or REM sleep.
So how much sleep do you need?
According to an Australian study on the sleeping habits and levels of tiredness in participants, a staggering 96% of those surveyed reported feeling constantly tired upon waking in the morning. Other studies have found that the average Australian adult sleeps less than seven hours per night. This may sound adequate when you consider all of the things you need to do in a day, however there is a significant difference between the amount of sleep you can get by on and the amount of sleep you need to function optimally. Consistently getting less sleep than your body requires can have huge detrimental side-effects.
While sleep requirements vary from person to person, most healthy adults need between seven and a half to nine hours sleep to function at their best. Children and teens need even more.
One way to gauge whether you are getting enough sleep is to take note of your energy levels throughout the day. If you’re logging enough hours at night, you should feel alert and fresh all day long.
The Profile Filter
You can access a profile Filter at the link below. It will help you to determine how much sleep you need each night. The Filter works by adjusting your required sleep cycle to suit your age, work habits, sleep patterns and diet, so that you can ensure you’re adequately rested.How this Filter works
Check the below categories to find the one that best describes you and your lifestyle. Once you have found your age group, work habits, sleep habits and diet, select your categories on the filter to receive specific advice. From your entered information we can provide advice on how much sleep you should be getting, and how best to work it into your lifestyle.
Let’s look at these strategies for creating better behaviours surrounding sleep. These include:
- Get at least 30 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise during the day, but don’t do this within 2-3 hours of going to bed.
- Resolve problems or relationship issues early in the day to prevent issues from keeping you up at night.
- Stick to the same bedtime and waking hour every day, even on weekends.
- Reduce your exposure to blue light emitted from TV, computer, tablet and electronic reading device screens and avoid blue light altogether an hour before bedtime. If you must be subjected to it, wear blue light blocking glasses.
- Create a quiet, relaxing environment in the bedroom.
- Limit your alcohol.
- Hide the alarm clock under the bed. Don’t clockwatch.
- Go to sleep as soon as you feel sleepy. Don’t fight your tiredness.
- Minimise nicotine in the evening.
- Take a warm bath, read a book and enjoy a warm drink before bed.
- Keep a regular bedtime and waking hour, even on weekends or during holidays.
- Avoid napping during the day.
- Set your bedroom to the optimal ambient room temperature - 18 degrees.
- Plan your morning the night before. Lay out clothes, pack your lunch and avoid a morning rush.
Here are some of the diet habits you can introduce that will help you achieve a better sleep:
- Eat a low fat healthy breakfast in the morning sun. 30 minutes exposure to early morning sunlight helps set up a chemical and hormonal sequence of events that help your internal body clock to work properly.
- Eat spicy foods for lunch instead of dinner.
- Avoid caffeine or chocolate after 2pm.
- Eat your evening meal at least 2 - 3 hours before bedtime.
- Consume complex carbohydrates such as whole grain breads, cereals, pasta and crackers. Avoid consuming alcohol, soft drink and caffeine which can inhibit serotonin levels.
- Add fresh herbs to your evening meal. Basil and sage in particular have a calming effect.
- Enjoy a warm, soothing drink an hour before bed, such as warm milk with a little honey, chamomile or peppermint tea.
Put this advice into practice today and start enjoying the benefits of better sleep, and it won’t be long before you see the difference!
Adapted from an article found at:
Debbie McMahon, Registered Nurse with the Chronic Disease Management Program at HSS
You can find the Profile Filter at this website: