The Importance of Sleep to Your Health
Do you feel like you can never get enough sleep? You are not alone. Approximately 50-70 million US adults suffer from sleep disorders. There are various sleep distractions that can affect anyone, at any age. We all know a night of tossing and turning can make us feel tired, moody, and out of sorts, but research also shows that there is a link between the amount of sleep you get and health problems, including weight gain, cardiovascular disease, a weakened immune system, memory and mood problems, low sex drive and diabetes, among others. Good sleep is an essential foundation for good health. Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep per night to feel rested. According to The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) individuals who lack sleep may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, remembering things, controlling their emotions and behavior, and coping with change. You may take longer to finish tasks, have a slower reaction time, and make more mistakes. So what can you do to help make sure you get a good night’s sleep?
The Dark Side of Light
One way you can improve your sleep is to turn out the lights, especially the ones that are blue. We are most sensitive to blue lights – the kinds that are most often found on our electronic devices. When we’re exposed to light at night, it changes our biological clock and acts as a sharp stimulant, which alerts our brain. The blue light emitted by many devices disrupts the natural production of melatonin, a hormone that facilitates sleep and can throw off your circadian rhythm. According to the Sleep Foundation, using devices tends to delay the time when you actually go to sleep, reducing sleep duration and stimulates your mind making it harder to fall asleep. Sounds and blinking lights can also cause unwanted awakenings when sleeping next to electronics.
Breaking Bad Sleeping Habits
Just like there are good eating habits, there are also good sleeping habits. One good sleeping habit is to avoid eating heavy foods before you sleep. Another habit is to avoid exercising close to bedtime. Be sure that the room you are sleeping in is very dark. You can use curtains or eye masks to make the room even darker. You should also avoid having caffeine after 3 p.m. as your body takes a long time to process and eliminate it from your system. As best as possible, avoid using electronics for an hour or more before you plan to go to bed.
Nutritional Supplements that May Help
You may also want to consider certain nutritional supplements which may help support natural relaxation and therefore may help you fall asleep such as:
Magnesium: Some studies show magnesium may help regulate neurotransmitters that are directly related to sleep and may make it easier to fall asleep, improve sleep quality and reduce symptoms of restless leg syndrome, which can interfere with a good night’s sleep.
5-HTP: 5-HTP produces serotonin, which can be converted into the hormone melatonin. Melatonin plays an important role in regulating sleep. Its levels begin to rise in the evening to promote sleep and fall in the morning to help wake you up. Therefore, supplementing with 5-HTP may promote sleep by increasing melatonin production in your body.
Theanine: Several studies have suggested that L-theanine (an amino acid found primarily in green and black tea and some mushrooms) could help people relax before bedtime, get to sleep more easily, and sleep more deeply. These benefits may result from the specific effects that the amino acid has on brain chemicals that play a role in sleep.
Inositol: Research has found Inositol may help balance important chemicals in your brain, including serotonin, known to play a role in the sleep/wake cycle and a chemical precursor to melatonin, the main hormone involved in sleep.
Different methods work for different people. Sleep is one of the most important factors in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Not having enough sleep can have serious consequences on your body and your overall happiness.
- Does magnesium help you sleep? Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved March 22, 2022, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/does-magnesium-help-you-sleep/
- Insufficient sleep is a public health problem. (2015, September 3). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/features/dssleep/
- MediLexicon International. (n.d.). L-theanine: Benefits, risks, sources, and dosage. Medical News Today. Retrieved March 22, 2022, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324120#research
- Technology in the bedroom. Sleep Foundation. (2022, March 11). Retrieved March 22, 2022, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment/technology-in-the-bedroom#
- Walle, G. V. D. (2018, May 21). 5 science-based benefits of 5-HTP (plus dosage and side effects). Healthline. Retrieved March 22, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/5-htp-benefits#TOC_TITLE_HDR_6
- Wartian Smith, Pamela. (2008). What you must know about vitamins, minerals, herbs & more. Garden City, NY: Square One Publishers.