While sleep has always been a hot topic in the world of wellness, in a modern society fuelled by the perceived need to constantly be ‘switched on,’ the topic of sleep and the importance of sleep, has gained even greater traction over the last several years.
Studies have shown that 35-45 percent of Australians are not getting enough sleep, while in the United States, more than one third of the population are also sleep deprived. Sleep has been officially declared as a public health problem.
There is no doubting the fact that as a human race, we live a very different life to our ancestors. With daily life characterised by a seemingly harmless smorgasbord of caffeine, blue light, screen time, wifi signals, sugar, preservatives, chemicals, coupled with a sedentary lifestyle and a severe disconnect from nature, we have become far removed from our natural sleep patterns and circadian rhythms.
To function at our best we need adequate and consistent nightly rest- at least 7-9 hours every night. Unfortunately, when we’re falling behind in one area of our lives, sleep is often the first sacrifice we make, which comes at a huge cost to our overall health and wellbeing.
Having one or successive nights of poor sleep not only leaves us frustrated and ill-prepared for the day, but can lead to a multitude of ailments and serious conditions in body and mind. Even a few days of sleep deprivation can increase appetite and caloric intake, increase levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, increase blood pressure, increase cortisol levels, as well as elevate insulin and blood glucose. Unfortunately, no matter how many green smoothies you drink or how much yoga you manage to do, nothing else can make up for the loss of sleep that our body endures! Therefore, making sleep an absolute priority in your life is essential.
Why is sleep so important?
We all know how much better we feel in general after a good night’s sleep. When we sleep, the body has a chance to heal and recalibrate. There are five stages of sleep, progressing from stage 1 (light sleep) through stages 3 and 4 (deep sleep) to stage 5 known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. After an initial five to ten minutes in stage one, your brain moves into a deeper stage two, and over the next hour it goes to stages three and four, then into REM sleep. Your brain runs through these sleep cycles about every 90 minutes, which explains why restless and interrupted sleep is less restorative to your brain.
Our body uses the hours of shut-eye to perform various tasks such as controlling your body temperature and energy use, bolstering your immune system, controlling your brain functioning and restoring your memory, keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy, repairing tissues and stimulating growth, regulating appetite and controlling your blood glucose levels. If you aren’t getting enough sleep on a regular basis, these processes are interrupted and your risk of developing long-term health problems increases.
The Benefits of Deep Sleep:
Adequate deep sleep has been shown to have vast benefits including and not limited to:
- Improved memory and cognitive function
- Improved longevity
- Lower inflammation
- Lower risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and arthritis
- Reduce the appearance of premature ageing
- Increase creativity
- Improve mental functioning
- Improved productivity levels
- Sharpen attention
- Healthy weight maintenance
- Efficient metabolism
- Balanced hormones
- Lower stress and anxiety
- Improved mood and reduced depression
- Emotional stability
- Healthy digestion
There are obviously plenty of reasons to prioritise a little extra snooze time! Yet as mentioned above, sleep often rates low on our list of priorities when the pressures of daily life build up. While the immediate and short term effects of sleep deprivation are more noticeable, we may not be aware of the long term dangers.
The Side Effects of Sleep Deprivation:
Greater Chance of Illness & Disease
After just one night of poor sleep, the body experiences changes in mood, headaches, and hormone imbalances. After just one restless sleep the brain also shows noticeable shrinkage and damage. The body requires the deep stages of sleep for sufficient repair. Ongoing sleep deprivation has been linked with a vast list of diseases including heart disease, diabetes, depression, and a higher risk for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke and multiple sclerosis.
Weight Gain & Slower Metabolism
Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sectors of the brain, so if your body is fatigued or doesn’t have enough time to do its overnight maintenance, your metabolism will compensate by slowing down in an effort to conserve what precious energy you do have. Sleep loss disrupts the hormonal system, resulting in high blood glucose levels and increased insulin resistance, which leads to higher levels of cortisol and increased hunger. Furthermore, when we are not getting enough sleep, we tend to reach for high-calorie carbohydrates- quick energy foods- that the body is craving. Studies done on two identical groups with the same diet and exercise regimen were compared with one difference: sleep. The group that had sufficient sleep lost weight while the sleep-deprived group actually gained weight
Lack of Clarity & Concentration
Everyone knows the feeling of waking after a bad night sleep and feeling groggy, unmotivated and particularly unfocused. It’s important to experience all stages of sleep, especially deep sleep for mental processing. Lack of sleep slows down your thinking, impairs your memory, concentration, judgment, and decision-making, and impedes learning. Studies have shown that lack of sleep affects our mental capacity in the same way that a hangover does. Sleep allows the brain to process information, consolidate memories, make connections, and clear out toxins. Restricting the brain of this important time doesn’t just leave us feeling foggy and unclear, long term sleep deprivation can potentially accelerate neurodegenerative diseases.
Anyone who has a young child will be aware of the effect of sleep deprivation in children. Funnily enough, we are not all that much better as adults! Hormone imbalances create a perfect environment for emotional meltdowns, both personal or professional in nature. After a poor night’s sleep, you are far more likely to be irritable and have difficulty regulating your emotions. We’ve all heard the saying about waking up on the wrong side of the bed. Lack of sleep makes us all feel grumpy and flat. Feelings of stress, anger, sadness, and even mental exhaustion all occur with less than 7 hours sleep. Continuous lack of sleep can increase negative emotions and thoughts, and can even lead affect mental health or lead to depression in the long run.
Tips for a restful nights sleep
Evidently, adequate sleep is essential for our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. There are so many reasons to make sleep a number one priority. Yet, for many people, deep sleep can be an elusive thing. Setting yourself up for a good night’s sleep starts with the choices that you make throughout the day, and ends with creating healthy bedtime routines that set you up for the perfect slumber.
While there are many factors influencing the quality of sleep, striking the right balance can take some experimentation. These tips should help you on the way to understanding your own sleep needs.
Studies have found moderate exercise will improve overall sleep patterns and sleep quality. Even a little exercise can go a long way – just 10 minutes of yoga or light exercise can be beneficial. Physical activity helps to improve and synchronize circadian rhythms, reducing stress and causing many favourable neurochemical changes in your brain. Vigorous exercise is best in the morning or late afternoon and not directly prior to bed.
Avoid Technology & Blue Light
Our circadian rhythm is influenced by natural light, so it is important to shut out as much light as possible for a deep sleep. Modern electrical lighting has been found to disrupt the body clock, sending signals to your brain that indicate it is time to be alert. Blue lights from computer and smartphone screens are particularly stimulating, so it is important to avoid using devices near bedtime. If you can’t pull yourself away from the screen, there are computer and phone apps available that can adjust the colour of your computer’s display to adapt to the time of day.
Designating the bed as a space for sleep and rest alone can help your mind to associate the bedroom with its primary function- sleep! Try and avoid overly doing any mentally stimulating tasks in your bed such as work or using technology. Make sure your bed is comfortable and inviting. Clear your bedroom of clutter and anything stress or work-related. Make this room one where you feel completely at peace.
Stick to Consistent Sleep Times
Maintaining roughly the same bedtime and waking time has been found to assist natural circadian rhythms and make it easier to sleep deeply and wake easily. While not everyone feels ready to drop off to dreamland at 9pm, studies show that we do ALL need 7-9 hours of sleep. If you sleep later, then make sure you have the ability to wake a little later. Try sticking to these times even on weekends, holidays and days off when possible too to stay in sync.
Studies have found meditation to be a positive aid in improving sleep quality. A gentle 5 or 10-minute meditation before bed can calm the nerves and reduce anxiety, making it the perfect psychological and physiological preparation for sleep. Try a guided meditation or yoga nidra if you are new to meditation or looking for a little extra guidance.
Focus on Diet
Diet and nutrition play a big role in sleep duration and quality. Make sure that your dinner includes protein-rich foods. These foods are a common source of tryptophan, which is an amino acid that helps to promote sleep. Avoid eating too close to bedtime as digestion can interfere with sleep. Avoid stimulating foods and drinks in the afternoon and evening and also limit drinks before bedtime so you won’t need to make frequent bathroom trips at night. While going to bed feeling full is a bad idea, going to bed hungry is also detrimental to quality sleep, so if need be, have a simple snack like a banana before bed.
Try a nurturing cup of tea as part of your pre-bed ritual. Tea ingredients such as chamomile, lemon balm and passionflower have been found to improve sleep through helping to regulate nerves and calm stress and anxiety.
Avoid Napping During the Day
While it can be tempting, if you’re having trouble sleeping at night, try to avoid falling asleep during the day time. Naps can disturb your normal pattern of sleep and lead to bad habits and cycles that only perpetuate the problem. If you absolutely have to nap, set an alarm for 20 minutes which is enough to give you a little boost without keeping you awake come nightfall.
Avoid Caffeine, Nicotine, & Alcohol
Caffeine is one of the major culprits that disrupts sleep cycles and reduces the quality of your sleep. While coffee is a common choice for many people, try limiting your intake to one or two coffees and avoid it completely in the afternoon and evening. When it comes to your nightly tipple, alcohol can speed up the onset of sleep, yet it disrupts sleep later as alcohol inhibits the body’s ability to reach those deep cycles of sleep. So while you may wake up feeling as though you slept through the night, the quality of sleep is far less restful and rejuvenating.
Sunshine & Vitamin D
Getting out in the sunshine during the day will boost serotonin, a neurochemical, which improves melatonin release, allowing your brain to shut down and sleep come the end of the day. Upon waking, exposing your skin to the sun is also a great way to stay in tune with natural circadian rhythms. Try sleeping with your blinds open (if there are no bright street lights outside!) which will help you to rise naturally with the sun.
Establish a Bedtime Routine
We all wash our face and brush our teeth before bed. Adding a few more things to your nightly routine can go a long way in setting you up for a good sleep. Meditating or reading a book is a great bedtime ritual. Winding down after dinner with quiet time, lowering the lights in the house, lighting candles, using essential oils, taking a bath, listening to soothing music- all of these things can help your body prepare for bed and promote better sleep by easing the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness. Try to avoid heavy conversations, vigorous activity, technology, bright lights and emotional activities before bed.
One of the key things that keeps us awake at night is stress. If you carry your mental to-do list to bed and you have trouble turning off your mind, your sleep is sure to suffer. To help put your mind at ease, consider healthy ways to manage stress. Start by getting organised and setting priorities. Before bed, write down your to-do list and then set it aside for tomorrow so you don’t have to think about it. Make sure you give yourself enough time to wind down before bed rather than trying to switch from work mode to sleep mode. Throughout the day try and keep stress in check with things like yoga, deep breathing techniques, exercise, time in nature, time with friends and loved ones. Keeping stress at bay is one of the best ways to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Sleep is one of the most important factors of a healthy life, and at the same time, it can be one of the hardest things to achieve in our fast-paced world. Getting into the habit of getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night is such a great goal, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for prioritising sleep- no matter how big your to-do list is! Think of it as an investment in your health, productivity and longevity.
Sleep Indulgence at Escape Haven
At Escape Haven, we truly value your sleep. We have so many women join us that suffer from sleep deprivation either from stressful jobs, parenthood, recovering from an illness, or any number of things that causes us to lose precious sleep these days. We ensure that every single private bedroom is a sleep sanctuary with efficient air conditioning, huge comfortable beds, high-quality linens, plenty of low lighting options and lamps, dark curtains and peaceful surroundings.
This year we also introduced our ‘sleep indulgence package’ which is a complementary option for all guests on retreat. The sleep indulgence package includes a nighttime ritual with lavender essential oil, a butler-drawn bath, soothing music, herbal tea and a pre-bed massage or guided meditation track. Every element of the retreat experience is designed to ensure that all guests have a deep, restful, healing slumber every single night on retreat, and also create healthy new habits and bedtime rituals to take back home again.
Your Escape Haven Bali Retreat offers a luxury wellness experience for body, mind and soul
We invite you to experience our award-winning yoga Bali retreat. If it’s time to fill up your cup and reconnect with yourself on a deeper level, we’d love to help you rejuvenate, unwind, reawaken and experience the very best of Bali. Dive into transformational yoga and meditation classes, exhilarating surf lessons in the warm waters of Bali, fun fitness classes and restorative healing sessions. How much or little you do is all up to you.