Sleep is fundamental to our good health. It’s crucial role in immune and stress support makes it even more of a priority at the moment. Studies show that the longer we sleep, the longer we live and vice versa. It helps us manage stress and boosts resilience and focus and can even help weight regulation. We can all feel the impact of a bad night’s sleep straight away. But getting even slightly too little most nights chips away at our ability to cope on an ongoing basis. So why aren’t we getting enough?
So how much do we need?
- WHO and other organisations recommend 7 – 9 hours for adults i.e. an average of 8 hours sleep and more for kids. Yet two thirds of us fail to get this.
- Sleep quality is as important as quantity and some food and lifestyle choices can reduce both and disrupt our ability to get enough deep, restorative sleep.
What are the stealers?
- Using phones and other devices in the hours before bed. As fun as scrolling through Instagram is, the blue light from screens can be a road block to melatonin, our precious sleep hormone
- Strenuous exercise 1 – 2 hours pre bed, this can raise our body temperate and inhibit sleep
- Research shows us that alcohol is a sleep stealer. It’s sedative effect might help us get to sleep, but can reduce the amount of deep recovery sleep we get by up to 30%.
- Caffeine is another sleep stealer to watch due to it’s stimulant properties. Small amounts can increase concentration and focus, but too much reduces our ability to get into deeper, restorative sleep. It stays in our systems a long time – 6 hours after we have had a cup of coffee, half of the caffeine is still in our system. It’s also found in black tea (about half the amount as in coffee), colas, decaf coffee and even decaf coffee. And, sadly, dark chocolate.
But it’s not all bad news if you need help with sleep
- Back, white and especially green tea all contain an amino acid called L-theanine, shown in studies to promote relaxation and sleep
- Magnesium helps sleep – while dark chocolate has some caffeine, it is also a reasonable source of magnesium. Even more is found in nuts and seeds like cashews, almonds, and seeds like pumpkin and chia seeds and in wholegrains like oats and in green leafy veg. It is estimated that close to 50% of the population are eating too little magnesium in their diet and numerous studies have shown that increasing magnesium intake improves sleep and effectively reduces insomnia by helping to calm down the nervous system and prepare the brain to turn-off at night
- Some herbs can help establish a restful evening routine and support sleep quality and quantity. We recommend specialist advice for strong herbal blends (they can interact with some medications) but at entry level, try herbal teas like chamomile or blends of different calming herbs like hops and lemon balm. As an added bonus, herbal teas increase hydration, which is important for the production of melatonin.
If you would like more information about the services we offer, including testing, please get in touch. Assessing sleep and stress hormones via DUTCH can be helpful. Gut microbes can also play a role in insomnia and we can assess this too.