I never use to really understand the importance of sleep. I was one of those crazy go getters trying to seize every minute of every day claiming that,
“ Ill sleep when I’m dead”.
Then when I became a crazy science nerd I realised that when we sleep our body goes into this miraculous repair and rejuvenate mode thats essential for hormone production, for helping sugar cravings, for energy, for happiness, clarity of thought, weight loss, the list is endless. It’s like our body has an appointment every night at the best health spa in the world, attending treatments that rejuvenate our soul, organs and mind. So if you are one of those crazy go getters, trying to fit a weeks work into one day, running house erin’s after dinner or replying to emails, compromising sleep or have poor quality sleeps often this ones for you.
Ironically I was reminded of the magical process of sleep when i was in fact volunteering at not only one of the best spa’s in the world but also one of the best health retreats on our magical planet. So with my science mind and contemporary knowledge let me sell you one of the most important health pills that is free to all of us that we often forget to take.
When we sleep
There are 5 stages of sleep. Stage one and two are our light sleep stages which occupy 50% of our total sleep in one night. In these stages we lower our blood pressure and heart rate. We can wake up out of light sleep with no detriment in missing our spa treatments and can often get back to sleep quite quickly if we are woken in this stage.
Stage three and four is our deep sleep, the powerhouse, the whole body treatment. It is this stage where most sleep problems reside. We only spend 20% of our sleep in deep sleep if we are healthy, however it is where all the magic happens. In deep sleep we regulate sex hormones, rebuild neurotransmitters i.e. GABA, Serotonin, Dopamine and Endorphins, release anti-ageing hormones DHEA and GH, restore physical energy, restore DNA, organs, blood, cells, tissues, immunity. Deep sleep is amazing!!! Can you imagine not having enough energy, feeling sad because your not producing serotonin, have low immunity, sex and stress hormones are out of balance how much havoc this can create in our body.
Not getting sufficient deep sleep is a sure way to deplete your health and have you feeling tired, stressed, sad or craving sugar.
Our final stage is dream sleep. Dream sleep is where we build memory, sort thoughts and retune our emotions. This stage is observed by rapid eye movement and should be the stage we wake up out of in the morning. If you are not waking up out of a dream then you are lacking dream sleep which can lead to emotional pain such as feeling teary and or sad because your brain hasn’t had the chance to retune itself.
To get to quality sleep we need sufficient amounts of the hormones GABA, Serotonin, Dopamine and Endorphins. Critical nutrients for making these hormones are zinc, magnesium and B vitamins. A deficiency in these nutrients is likely to reside in insufficient hormone production and likewise quality sleep. Another important reason why it’s the amount of nutrients we consume that matters not calories.
Other inhibitors of quality sleep include, poor liver function, caffeine or alcohol consumption, a diet high in sugar, the use of technology the hours before bed and/ or stress.
- Get to bed before 10pm to maximise deep sleep and reduce cortisol levels.
- Caffeine takes up to 8 hours to be metabolised out of our system and can effect deep sleep. Don’t consume caffeine after midday.
- If you wake up between 1am and 3am and find it hard to get back to sleep your liver is likely to be under stress.
- It should take around 15 minutes to fall asleep. If you get to sleep in less than 3 minutes you are running on empty and most likely adrenally fatigued. If it takes longer look at the inhibitor paragraph above.
- If you wake up and feel somewhat disoriented, it takes you a while to realise where you are, what day it is, or you can’t get back to sleep you probably have been woken up out of deep sleep. If you wake up out of deep sleep something is out of balance i.e. hormones or nutrients.
- The best time to nap is between 2pm and 4pm as it is wired into our natural body clock. Try and do this on days off work or on the weekend.
- Foods with tryptophan in them assist with sleep. Foods high in tryptophan include spirulina, almonds, pumpkin seeds and turkey.
- Avoid stimulating foods such as bananas, chocolate, meats, cheeses, caffeine, wine or fermented foods before bed.