Sleep is an essential factor in a healthy lifestyle and it is important to get the recommended quota of at least 7-9 hours of shut-eye every night. If you think that the body shuts down while you sleep, that is not how sleep works. The body uses this time to process and consolidate memories and experiences, so it is important to give it enough time to effectively carry out the process.
Importance of Sleep
Sleep is a significant component of the body clock and can be noticed even in plants and animals. If it is important for them, imagine the role it plays for us. Sleep is typically controlled by the body’s circadian rhythm, the sleep-wake cycle that is influenced by light and darkness, and other factors like temperature, hormones, coffee, and bright lights.
Some common sleep disorders that are known to disrupt our daily routine and affect health include insomnia, hypersomnia (daytime drowsiness), sleep apnea, and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder.
Just like irregular eating habits and a lack of exercise can have adverse effects on our health, so do bad sleep habits and disorders. Lack of sleep can have adverse effects on the body and can lead to problems like weight gain, weakened immunity, issues with memory and concentration, the risk of heart diseases and diabetes, and poor balance.
Research has shown that optimal sleep is key for good health and the National Sleep Foundation recommends the following hours per day for different age groups:
- Newborns – 14-17 hours
- Infants – 12-15 hours
- Toddlers – 11-14 hours
- Preschoolers – 9-11 hours
- School going children – 9-11 hours
- Teens – 8.5-9.5 hours
- Young adults – 7-9 hours
- Adults – 7-9 hours
- Older adults – 7-8 hours
Tips for Getting 8 Hours of Shut-Eye
- Turn off all gadgets like smartphones, laptops, and the television at least 30 minutes before bedtime
- Make sure the mattress and pillow(s) are comfortable
- Follow a sleep schedule, even on weekends
- Exercise everyday
- Have a relaxing ritual, like a warm bath or deep breathing routine before bedtime
- Make sure the bedroom has an optimum temperature, lighting, and sound
Natural Sleep Aids
- Valerian root: Brew a tea containing valerian root and it will help increase Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), which can help calm the nerves and promote sleep
- St. John’s Wort: Depression can impact healthy sleep and St. John’s Wort could work as an anti-depressant to help induce sleep.
- Passion Flower: Has a calming effect that can relax the mind and promote sleep
- Tryptophan and Seratonin rich foods: Foods rich in carbohydrates and proteins, like whole grains, turkey, and nuts could help promote the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone
- Calcium: Could help the brain cells use tryptophan efficiently to create more melatonin, the natural sleep aid produced in the body
- Magnesium: Can help induce deep slumber
- Essential Oils: Lavender and bergamot, especially combined with sandalwood, frankincense, and mandarin can become the perfect sleep blend
It is not recommended to eat a heavy meal just before going to sleep but there are some light snacks that could promote good sleep, including half a banana and some almonds, a small glass of warm milk with turmeric and a pinch of cinnamon, or an herbal tea with a blend of chamomile, valerian, and passion flower.
Follow these tips and you may also be able to sleep like a baby again!
- “Healthy Sleep Tips.” National Sleep Foundation, sleepfoundation.org/sleep-tools-tips/healthy-sleep-tips.
- “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?” National Sleep Foundation, sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need.
- Stöppler, Melissa Conrad. “Sleep Disorders, Deprivation, Disturbance & How to Fall Asleep Fast.” MedicineNet, www.medicinenet.com/sleep/article.htm.
- “How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep.” The New York Times, The New York Times, www.nytimes.com/guides/well/how-to-sleep.
- “9 Natural Sleep Aids That Are Backed by Science.” Healthline, Healthline Media, www.healthline.com/nutrition/sleep-aids.
- “Sleep Disorders Guide.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/default.htm.
- Oliver, Kyra. “Improve Sleep Naturally with These Natural Sleep Aids.” Dr. Axe, Dr. Axe, 4 Nov. 2017, draxe.com/natural-sleep-aids/.