Sleep is just as important for your wellbeing as balanced meals and regular exercise. So much goes on while you’re asleep…
Your pituitary gland releases growth hormone to help your body grow and repair; your immune system releases cytokines to aid your body to fight potential inflammation, infection and trauma; your liver cleanses and filters your body’s fluid by extracting viruses, particles, chemicals, pathogens, allergens and toxins to be secreted via the gall bladder; and a good night’s sleep helps your skin to recover from external stresses, improves blood flow and even boosts collagen production. They don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing!
Melatonin is the hormone responsible for making you feel sleepy. This hormone can become blocked from overexposure to blue spectrum lights from TVs, phones and fake lighting. Therefore, it is important to keep electronic devices out of your bedroom or at least put them on a blue light filter when using them at night. It is also a good practice to put your phone on airplane mode when you go to sleep and ideally put it in another room. If you rely on it for an alarm in the morning, you can always buy an alarm clock. Furthermore, melatonin can also be suppressed when you do not experience the sun on your skin or through your eyes in the day. Therefore, it is important to expose yourself to short periods of sunlight to keep your hormones balanced and boost your body’s levels of vitamin D.
Everyone has slightly different needs, but eight hours a night is a good target. Our natural circadian rhythm, which is like an internal 24-hour clock that cycles between sleepiness and alertness, coincides with the cycle of daytime and night-time. It works best when you go to bed and wake at around the same times each day.
Waking up early allows you to get ready for your day ahead in a relaxed manner, instead of waking up with high cortisol rushing around trying to get everything done. Stress, adrenaline, alarm clocks, traffic jams, work demands, arguments, deadlines, lack of sleep and so on all contribute to the build-up of stress and adrenal fatigue. This depletes your vitamins and minerals and may cause your hormones to become unbalanced. It is for this reason that stress reduction techniques, waking up early and going to bed earlier are so good for you.
If you are struggling to fall asleep, it can be helpful to read a book, journal, drink herbal tea, practice deep breathing, listen to relaxing music or a guided meditation just before bed. It’s also helpful to have your evening meal at least two hours before bed to aid digestion.