The Secrets of Sleep

Do you bounce out of bed at roughly the same time every morning or do you wake up to the piercing sound of an alarm, drag your weary body out of bed and hit the coffee hard to function?

 

How about the weekend, do you sleep in much later than on week days?

 

Did you know that according to research waking up naturally at the same time each day could be one of the crucial keys to keeping our body’s and specifically our cardiovascular system healthy.

 

So why is this so important?

 

Well our bodies have an internal biological clock which is called our Circadian Rhythm or our sleep/wake cycle. All the organs in our body run on this cycle, for example, our heart rate  and blood pressure peak during wake times and trough during sleeping time.

 

When this rhythm is messed with by going to bed late, waking up late, insomnia or broken sleep the effect can be a lot more than just feeling tired. Differing studies have shown that one night of disrupted sleep can give you the blood sugar levels of a type 2 diabetic. According to the study “Habitual Sleep Deprivation Is Associated with Type 2 Diabetes” (1)  sleep deprivation predisposes individuals to type 2 diabetes.

 

Furthermore in the research article “Circadian Rhythm, Lifestyle and Health: A Narrative Review” (2) It states “The circadian rhythm regulation plays a crucial role in people’s healthy lives affected by factors consisting of cosmic events related to the universe and earth, environmental factors (light, night and day duration, seasons) and lifestyles. These factors changes lead to disturbance of circadian rhythm and it causes increasing the incidence of mental diseases like depression and physiological problems like cancers, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

 

As this article suggests having an undisturbed circadian rhythm is crucial for health, but unfortunately many of us have wildly eratric sleeping habits.

 

This may be due to the fact that modern day technology such as electric lights, TVs, smart phones, laptops etc mean we can keep going 24/7. Prior to the invention of the light bulb and homes having electricity our bodies weren't exposed to bright lights during the night time hours and therefore most people slept or maybe gathered around a fire doing relaxing activities once the sun went down, which would signal to the brain that it's time for sleep.

 

This is because the amount of light we let into our eyes sends tells our brain which hormones to create "sleeping" hormones or "waking up" ones.

One of the biggest disruptions to these hormones is blue light. This is emitted by screens and stimulates the brain to think it's daytime, which isn't a problem if you're working on your laptop at 10 am however if it's 10pm and you're planning to go to bed at 10.30pm your brain may have trouble turning off due to the exposure to the blue light.  This can lead to a disrupted sleep or make it hard to fall asleep, which can have a knock on effect on all of our organs and immune system.

 

An example of how sleep disruption can effect our health was cited in a study published in the Canadian Medical Journal Association (3) they found that a lack of sleep was directly correlated with an inability to lose weight. All subjects were put on the same diet and exercise routine however the subjects who slept less than 6 hours per night consistently lost less weight and body fat than those who slept 8 hours + per night. Interestingly being over weight also increases risk of heart disease along with the previously mentioned symptoms of higher blood sugar and predisposal to type 2 diabetes.

Therefore ensuring we have good sleep patterns can not only improve our state of mind, our heart, our overall health  but also assist those wanting to lose weight. So how can we improve our sleep?

Lets look at some top tips on how to improve sleep:

 

  • Stick to a sleep schedule even on weekends
  • Exercise daily
  • Turn Electronics off before bed
  • Practice a bedtime ritual i.e. relaxing bath or reading in dim lighting
  • Ensure bedroom is a cool temperature, is dark and quiet (wear a sleep mask and ear plugs if necessary)
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillow
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine as they can disrupt sleep
  • Supplement with magnesium

 

All of these pointers can help us to get better quality sleep, I would also recommend avoiding blue light from screens a few hours before bedtime, if you are unable to avoid it then try using the app f.lux, which you can set to your time zone or to your individual sleep routine.

 

 

Articles:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5099401/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6123576/
  3. https://www.cmaj.ca/content/184/18/1975

 

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