The Third Pillar of Health – Sleep

Most of us know that diet and exercise are key parts of staying healthy and boosting our energy levels. No one would dispute the fact that they are important to our overall well-being. These are the first two pillars of health.

However, there is a third pillar that many people over look and yet it is just as important to our body and mind as diet and exercise. This is of course sleep.

We have for centuries neglected our sleep at great cost to both our physical and mental being. Thankfully this is starting to change with a real movement towards the understanding of the body’s circadian rhythms and the science of sleep. The research undertaken in the last quarter-century has brought a greater insight into sleep and our bodies internal clock.

Why is sleep as important as diet and exercise?

  1. Sleep is essential to our brain function. This includes how our nerve cells communicate with each other. Ours brain don’t go to sleep when we do! They are remarkably active and recent findings suggest that sleep helps your brain to detox, by removing harmful toxins that build up while we are awake.

 

  1. Sleeping well improves learning no matter how old we are! We all know we never stop learning, so sleep is just as important to an adult as it is to a child or a teenager.

 

  1. Sleep helps to enhance your problem-solving skills, makes decisions easier and makes us more creative.

 

  1. Studies have shown that sleep deficiency alters our brain activity. We can have trouble focusing on tasks or problems, even controlling our behaviour or emotions and coping with change. Next time you are feeling a bit short tempered, ask yourself if you have had enough “quality” sleep.

 

  1. Sleep is a key factor in our physical health. Did you know that sleep is linked to the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels? Ongoing sleep deficiency has proven links to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.

 

  1. Losing sleep increases the risk of obesity. It’s all linked to the hormones that make you feel hungry or full (ghrelin and leptin). When you don’t get enough sleep, your hungry hormones go up and your full hormones go down. So, if you ware well rested you won’t feel so hungry.

 

  1. Sleep has an impact on your body’s reaction to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood sugar levels. If you are sleep deprived your blood sugar levels will be higher than normal which in the longer term can lead to diabetes.

 

  1. Sleep is your bodies defence against infection. Long term sleep deficiency changes the way your immune system responds, and you may find you have trouble fighting common bugs.

 

  1. People who sleep well are more productive, they complete tasks faster, have quicker reaction time and make less mistakes. If you have several nights of losing sleep, even if it is only an hour or two per night, your ability to function will suffer as though you haven’t slept at all for a couple of days.

 

  1. You might be Microsleeping! Microsleep is where you experience brief moments of sleep that happen when you are usually awake. You may not even be aware it is happening! You can’t control it and it can affect how you function. Have you ever driven somewhere and then thought that you couldn’t remember part of the trip? Then, you may have had an episode of microsleep.

Many people aren’t aware of the risks of sleep deficiency. Many don’t even realise that they are sleep deprived and think that they can still function perfectly well. It is estimated that driver drowsiness is a factor in around 12% of fatal crashes in NZ (Ministry of Transport statistics).

Too Hot to Sleep?

Now that we are approaching the summer months we know that its going to get hotter and for many that means restless and even sleepless nights. Sure, we all love summer, the longer days, BBQ’s and the beach, but how do you keep cool during those hot sticky summer nights and get a good night’s sleep?

We have put together a list of life hacks that will help you out and ensure that when it’s too hot you still sleep soundly and wake up refreshed in the morning.

  1. The heat tends to make us all a little frazzled, especially if you aren’t sleeping well. Try to keep your head, lie still and accept the heat. The more you thrash around, the more your body heats up and makes it harder for you to sleep.

 

  1. Stick to cotton sheets. Avoid bedding that contains polyester, silk or satin. Save your silk and satin sheets for when the weather is a bit cooler. Cotton is breathable and will allow air circulation around you and your bedroom.

 

  1. Wear pyjamas. It is so tempting to ditch your jammies and go commando, but it really doesn’t help. Again, stick to cotton. It lets your skin breath and will encourage air circulation around you.

 

  1. We sleep better in a cool bedroom. The ideal temperature is 17° Unfortunately, we are not all lucky enough to have air-conditioning, so open a window, or invest in an electric fan. Place a bottle of frozen water in front of it to give an added cooling effect which should last all night.

 

  1. Those beautiful long summer evenings tend to lead to later nights, which often means eating and drinking closer to bedtime. We all like to relax with a beer or a wine with friends but it’s a well-known fact that alcohol can disturb our sleep levels, and food to close to bedtime can lead to trouble sleeping. To improve your quality of sleep, try to leave at least two hours between eating and sleeping and limit your alcohol intake close to bedtime.

 

  1. If you use a duvet select one manufactured form natural fibres, avoid polyester as it doesn’t breathe and will build up heat. A light weight/ summer duvet made from Wool, Alpaca, Tencel or Bamboo will allow airflow around you and help to disperse the heat from your body.

 

  1. Keep a glass of water beside the bed to sip on if you need it. Don’t drink a full glass before going to bed however. This can lead to multiple trips to the toilet through the night.

 

  1. Have a cool shower before you head off to bed. It’s a good way to drop your body temperature quickly. You should avoid a freezing cold shower however as this can overstimulate you and make you more awake. The idea is to bring your body temperature down enough that your body prepares for sleep.

 

  1. Keep the curtains and blinds closed during the day. If you are choosing curtains or blinds for your home avoid dark colours or metal blinds as these will absorb and store heat.

 

  1. Avoid too much sun during the day, and don’t get sunburned. It will raise your body temperature and make sleeping very uncomfortable.

 

  1. Chose your bed carefully. You should make sure that your bed has breathable foam layers and products like Silk, Alpaca and Wool in the comfort layers. Products like Outlast® that were specially designed for NASA absorbs, stores and releases heat for optimal thermal comfort.

Routine is a very important part of good sleep hygiene

Routine is a very important part of good sleep hygiene. Get yourself into a routine not only at night time but also during the day.

One of the best ways to train your body to sleep right is to go to bed and to get up at the same time every day. Even at the weekends and on your days off. Your body works on rhythms and cycles so keeping a regular cycle will give your body a sound basis to work from.

Don’t think that after a late-night sleeping in will help you catch up on your sleep. Unfortunately, your body just gets out of its cycle and you simply disrupt your next sleep cycle.

Even if you have a bad night’s sleep and are tired the next day, don’t change your planned activities just because you are tired. All this does is help to reinforce insomnia and begins a cycle of sleep issues.

An introduction to Sleep Hygiene

No, it’s not all about how often you change your sheets! Although there is nothing better than getting into a nice fresh bed. Sleep Hygiene is a term that is used to describe good sleep habits. There has been a considerable amount of research into developing guidelines and tips that will enhance a good night’s sleep and there is a great deal of scientific evidence to support the strategies the can provide long-term solutions to sleep problems.

As we all know there are many medications that can help, and are used to treat insomnia, but these tend to only be useful in the short term. Using sleeping pills long-term can lead to a dependency and will interfere with good sleep habits which in turn can lead to prolonged sleep difficulties.

You should of course talk to your doctor or health professional about what is right for you, but remember, good sleep hygiene is an important part of reducing those sleepless nights whether it is in conjunction with medication or on its own.

Over the next few weeks we will bring you a series of sleep hygiene tips that will help you to improve your sleep patterns and gain a better understanding of why you perhaps aren’t sleeping as well as you could.

Welcome to Sleep Tight Beds and our first blog

Our regular blog spots are all about helping you to discover better sleep by giving you useful information on Sleep Hygiene, products and innovations in the bedding market and just general information on anything that can help you improve your overall wellbeing and health through a better night’s sleep.

We will bring you tips and advice from some of the leading experts around the world and keep you up to date with the latest developments in sleep science. Remember to check back regularly or subscribe to our regular updates.