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World Sleep Day

March 15th is World Sleep Day when sleep health advocates across the world will take action in their local communities to raise awareness of sleep health (1). The theme for...

March 15th is World Sleep Day when sleep health advocates across the world will take action in their local communities to raise awareness of sleep health (1).

The theme for this World Sleep Day is Sleep Equity for Global Health. Sleep is essential to health, but differences in sleep health persist in populations across the world, creating additional burdens and reinforcing health inequities.

Healthy sleep involves getting enough uninterrupted sleep on a regular basis. When you鈥檙e getting good sleep, it鈥檚 easy to take this vital body function for granted. But if you aren鈥檛 getting healthy sleep, everyday tasks like reading a book or paying attention during a meeting can feel challenging 鈥 and you鈥檙e more likely to get sick, have an accident, or forget something important.

Because your health and wellbeing depend on your ability to sleep well, it鈥檚 important to understand how sleep works and what you can do to support healthy sleep.

Your Sleep Patterns and You

Healthy sleep involves cycling through several stages of sleep a few times every night. The sleep cycle progresses through stages of non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep 鈥 moving from light sleep to deep sleep 鈥 and concludes with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the stage in which dreaming takes place. Over the course of a night, non-REM sleep stages become gradually shorter, and REM sleep occurs in longer intervals.

This pattern is essential to getting a good night鈥檚 sleep. If your body has cycled through all sleep stages as many times as it needs to, you should wake up feeling refreshed.

Quantity vs. Quality

How much sleep is needed varies from person to person and may change over the course of one鈥檚 life. Not getting the sleep your body needs can lead to being in sleep debt which can affect your mood, health, work and relationships.

Healthy sleep isn鈥檛 just about the amount of time you spend asleep but the quality of the sleep. One of the primary markers of sleep quality is sleep continuity, in which you cycle through all stages of sleep without interruption (2). Common sources of sleep disruptions include:

  • Sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Caregiving responsibilities
  • Night sweats
  • A noisy, light, or hot sleep environment
  • Snoring or movement of a bed partner

Sleep Schedule

One of the best ways to ensure that you get healthy sleep is to commit to a consistent sleep schedule. Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day can help you get the amount of sleep you need, as long as you allow seven or more hours for sleeping.

A regular sleep schedule can also help boost the quality of your sleep. That鈥檚 because your behaviours and your environment affect your body鈥檚 circadian rhythms鈥 the natural cycles that operate according to a 24-hour internal clock. For example, darkness triggers production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Similarly, having a regular bedtime, and a pre-bed routine, can serve as a sleep cue that supports healthy sleep and aligns your circadian rhythms with your sleep schedule (2).

Signs you may not be getting enough good quality sleep

You may not be getting enough good quality sleep if you find it hard to get out of bed in the morning, feel tired during the day, nod off during meetings or while watching tele, feel moody, depressed or anxious or have difficulty paying attention.

If these persist consult with your doctor.

Top Tips for a Good Night鈥檚 Sleep

The sleep habits you follow each day 鈥 known as sleep hygiene 鈥 can have a positive effect on how well you sleep.

Daylight 鈥 Get outside in daylight, or sit by a window or light box first thing in the morning,

Exercise 鈥 being physically active during the day can promote good quality sleep. Avoid exercising in the evening as exercise raises cortisol which is stimulating.

Go Caffeine Free After 2 p.m. - tea, coffee, chocolate and colas all contain caffeine which is a stimulant. Some people are best off avoiding caffeine altogether.

Short Naps are OK - the best time to nap is shortly after lunch in the early afternoon, and the best nap length is around 20 minutes.

Beware Alcoholalthough alcohol may induce drowsiness it does not lead to good quality sleep.

Avoid Eating Late going to bed on a full stomach can disrupt sleep. Also best to avoid fatty or spicy foods.

Try Herbal Teas 鈥 chamomile and lemon balm are relaxing teas to drink in the evening.聽 Valerian can be taken as tea but is strong tasting so may be better taken as a supplement.

Avoid screen time 鈥 the light from electronic devices can suppress the production of melatonin. Disconnect at least an hour before bed.

Have a bedtime a routine 鈥 do relaxing activities, such a reading or breathing exercises before bed.

Sleep in a cool, dark, quiet room 鈥 use eye masks, white noise, ear plugs or headphones as needed. Make sure your mattress, pillows and bedding are all comfortable.

Sleeping pills can have side effects such as drowsiness during the day so are not recommended in the long term.

Supplemental Help

聽Tom Oliver鈥檚 Nutritional supplements may help with various aspects of sleep.

Vitamin D - Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to poor sleep. Vitamin D is needed in all parts of the brain, including those associated with sleep.

Curcumin - A study examining the consequences of rapid eye-movement sleep-deprivation with or without curcumin treatment found that curcumin has potential neuro-restorative effects (3).

Magnesium - Helps regulate our circadian rhythm and relaxes the nervous system. Low levels of magnesium are associated with poor sleep.聽聽

Omega 3 - Adults with very short sleep have been found to have lower levels of EPA, DHA and total omega-3 fatty acids. Healthy levels of omega-3 fatty acid levels are associated with healthy sleep duration (4).

Probiotics - Some studies have found that sleep latency, sleep length, and cortisol levels improve after probiotic, prebiotic or postbiotic treatment (5).

Tom Oliver鈥檚 Protein Powders - Research suggests that a combination of whey protein with or without vitamin D supplements taken before sleep results in beneficial increases in muscle mass in young males undergoing resistance training or endurance exercise that exceed the changes observed without these supplements (6,7).

Zinc - Zinc deficiency can lead to sleep disorders (8), while zinc supplements can increase the amount and the quality of sleep (9).


References

  1. https://worldsleepday.org
  2. sleepfoundation.org
  3. Life Sci. 2017 Nov 15:189:63-70. Restorative effects of curcumin on sleep-deprivation induced memory impairments and structural changes of the hippocampus in a rat model. Ali Noorafshan et al.
  4. Sleep Health. 2022 Jun;8(3):294-297. Association of omega-3 levels and sleep in US adults, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2012. Rachel A Murphy et al.
  5. Benef Microbes. 2022 Aug 3;13(3):169-182. Probiotics, prebiotics and postbiotics for better sleep quality: a narrative review. J E Haarhuis et al.
  6. Sports Med. 2023 Jul;53(7):1445-1455. Pre-sleep Protein Ingestion Increases Mitochondrial Protein Synthesis Rates During Overnight Recovery from Endurance Exercise: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Jorn Trommelen et al.
  7. 2022 May 30;14(11):2289. Muscle-Related Effect of Whey Protein and Vitamin D3Supplementation Provided before or after Bedtime in Males Undergoing Resistance Training. Yan Chen et al.
  8. 2022 Jul 18;12(7):1000. Zinc in Cognitive Impairment and Aging. Ruize Sun et al.
  9. Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Nov 5;18(11):2334. Dietary Zinc Acts as a Sleep Modulator. Yoan Cherasse et al.

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