This year the World Sleep Society celebrates World sleep day on Friday 19th March. The slogan for this year’s World Sleep Day is ‘Regular Sleep, Healthy Future.’ Its aim is to educate the world about the importance of sleep for achieving health and an optimal quality of life.
It’s now recognised that regular, good quality sleep has many benefits to health. Here we’ll explain some of the body processes involved in sleep as well as factors that affect sleep followed by 12 tips for getting a good night’s sleep.
Circadian Regulation and Homeostatic Control
Circadian regulation and homeostatic control play major roles in sleep.
Circadian regulation refers to our internal clock. It is regulated by a part of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the hypothalamus. This regulates the 24 hour sleep-wake cycle through the influence of light and the sleep hormone melatonin.
When light levels drop melatonin is produced. This induces sleepiness. As light levels rise the production of melatonin ceases leading to wakefulness.
Modern lifestyles can override these natural rhythms. Many of us are exposed to light well into the evening, thus delaying the production of melatonin and the desire to go to bed.
Homeostatic Control promotes sleep based on the amount of time we have been awake. During wakefulness the brain accumulates substances that promote sleep. These are cleared out during sleep leaving a feeling of alertness by the time we awaken. Ideally our sleep/wake times are synchronised to our internal clock.
There are many other factors and health problems that affect sleep. These include:
- The bedroom environment including temperature, comfort and noise
- Stress and the adrenal hormones
- Diet and lifestyle
- Pain and itching
- Menopausal symptoms such as night sweats
- Restless legs
- Nocturia – needing to urinate during the night
- Thyroid problems
- Sleep apnoea
- Digestive problems
- Some medications
It’s important to deal with underlying health problems, especially if they are impacting your sleep.
Sleep is an important part of many physiologic systems including:
- the immune system including inflammation and repair of the body
- learning and memory consolidation
- hormone regulation
- cardiovascular regulation
- digestive rhythms, appetite and detoxification
Insufficient sleep duration and poor sleep quality are associated with many adverse health outcomes including impairments in brain function and poor mental health.
12 Tips for healthy sleep
- Go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time each day are associated with improved sleep quality, better mood and improved cognitive function.
- Having a nap during the day is fine but should not last more than 45 minutes.
- Limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol might help you get to sleep but it interferes with the quality and duration of sleep.
- Avoid caffeine for at least 6 hours before bed. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, some soft drinks, chocolate and some medications such as pain killers.
- Avoid large meals for at least 3 hours before bedtime. Some people find a light snack before bed aids sleep.
- Eat a blood sugar balancing diet; include protein and fibre with each meal. Avoid sugar and heavily processed foods.
- Hydrate well during the day but avoid drinking a lot of fluid in the evening.
- Take regular, moderate exercise but do not exercise in the evening as exercise raises cortisol.
- Ensure your bed is comfortable and that your bedroom is not too warm.
- Ensure your bedroom is dark and quiet. Get blackout blinds or curtains or use an eye mask if necessary.
- Turn off your phone and computer at least 2 hours before bed. Do not work or check your messages in bed.
- Reserve the bedroom for sleep and sex only.
Supplements for Sleep
A study in the US suggests that there may be a relationship between sleep and micronutrient intake. Participants with short sleep duration had a lower intake of calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K, even after adjusting for other factors.
In females there was an association between short sleep and inadequate intake of calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, D, E, and K. Males reporting short sleep had an inadequate intake of vitamin D. The conclusion of the study is that short sleep is associated with nutrient inadequacy, and emphasises the possible need for dietary supplementation (1).
The following supplements from Tom Oliver Nutrition may help restore your sleep:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D3 with K2
- Men’s and Women’s multi nutrients
- Protein powders – having a protein powder drink in the evening may keep blood sugar levels stable thus reducing the likelihood of early waking.