Most of us neglect sleep. Why? Mainly because we don’t understand its importance. Plus, we have lots more important things to do (Hello late night Instagram scrolling aka stalking…). . But is it so important anyway? After all, some of the most successful people in the world claim to thrive off 3 or 4 hours a night. Is this realistic or sustainable? Getting enough sleep is not only important if you want to stay young, but it is also key to strong immunity and adequate recovery. Without good sleep your body (and life) deteriorates.
Your body is not the only thing that is affected by sleep. Our brain and emotions are highly sensitive to not only the quantity but the quality of our sleep. Research shows that without enough sleep, our moods, cognition and behaviour are diminished. Less sleep = less nice and less smart.
The reality is that the quality of sleep is much more important than the quantity. In order to get truly restorative sleep we must go to bed early in the night – this is when the most slow-wave deep sleep is available. During the first part of our sleep cycle is also when we secrete the most amount of growth hormone (growth hormone = youth hormone = young and beautiful forever).
To get adequate growth hormone, it is vital to get to bed by 10pm and sleep deeply between 12-2am as this is when the most growth hormone is secreted. Also, staying asleep between 2am – 4am will supply you with further growth hormone for repairing the brain.
1/3 of our lives are spent on SLEEP. That means 26 YEARS of your life are spent in bed!
Sleep cycles go in 2.5 hour cycles, so 5 hours of sleep should be a minimum. However, for many this is not enough to obtain enough growth hormone, as we get more released in the third sleep cycle. The last stage of sleep is what we call rapid eye movement (REM) or “dream” sleep. REM sleep is important for the development and health of the brain. Hence the suggestion to get at least 8 hours of sleep nightly – equating to a minimum three cycles of sleep.
In order to sleep well, we need low cortisol and high melatonin. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is secreted during the first portion of our day. It wakes us up and puts our bodies in a state for work and action. However, cortisol suppresses melatonin, which is necessary for sleep and is one of the most potent antioxidants in the body.
Melatonin increases with darkness and causes drowsiness. It decreases in the morning as the sun rises and cortisol is secreted. Because melatonin is suppressed by light, being exposed to computer light, phones, televisions or simply working late into the night can lead to melatonin deficiency, insomnia and lowered immunity and aging.
SO here are our tips for deep sleeping:
1. Get at least 7.5 hours of sleep per night (2.5hr sleep cycle x 3).
2. Eat light at night and eat carbs: Eating earlier in the evening helps you sleep as your body is not on overdrive trying to digest a heavy meal. Also, eat wholesome carbs in the evening - think sweet potatoes, quinoa, butternut squash, rice. These healthy carbs contain tryptophan that help create more serotonin, which then turns into melatonin.
3. Create a sleep schedule: The body loves routine. Try and go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday so get your body accustomed to sleep.
4. Cut the electronics: Hard but vital. Light pollution is a big problem. The light interferes with melatonin production. Sleep with your phone in the other room and try and stop using it late at night, especially in bed!
5. Melatonin: If you really suffer from sleep problems or jetlag take a high-quality melatonin supplement. This is not a long term solution but can help in the short term. Take it 45 minutes before sleep.
6. Set time to relax: Celebrate sleep in the evening by starting to wind down an hour before bed – take a bath with essential oils, or journal in a quiet space, light candles. Whatever you want to reduce that cortisol!
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