Every night our head hits the pillow we drift into a sweet slumber filled with dreams, tosses, and turns. These (ideally) eight hours make up more than simple relaxation. Restful sleep proves crucial for our overall health and well being. But what is “good” sleep, anyway?
Glad you asked! Good sleep is defined as:
- Falling asleep within 30 minutes or less
- Waking up for five minutes or longer no more than once a night
- Falling back asleep within 20 minutes
- Sleeping 85% of the time you’re in bed
When you check all those boxes, good sleep does miraculous things for our bodies and our health. Some of our favorite benefits of good sleep include:
Regulates menstrual cycles: Many different neurotransmitters and hormones contribute to the female reproductive system, including melatonin. Melatonin can help regulate the menstrual cycle. But too much or too little melatonin can affect the frequency, duration, and heaviness of a period.Stress reducing: According to Raymonde Jean, MD, director of sleep medicine and associate director of critical care at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, "Sleep can definitely reduce levels of stress, and with that people can have better control of their blood pressure." Your body goes into a state of stress if your sleep is deficient. When this happens, your body’s functions go on high alert, causing high blood pressure and stress hormone production. Not only does this increase your risk for heart attack and stroke, but it also makes it harder to fall asleep.
Reduces inflammation: When your body is inflamed, you’re more likely to develop heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, premature aging, and more. Research shows people who get six hours or fewer of sleep a night have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get more sleep. Getting continuous good nights of sleep can lower inflammation in the body and reduce the risk of inflammation-related ailments.
Improves memory: Your body is busy at work when you sleep. In a process called memory consolidation, your brain processes your day and makes connections between events, sensory input, feelings, and memories. According to David Rapoport, MD, director of the NYU Sleep Disorders Program, "If you are trying to learn something, whether it’s physical or mental, you learn it to a certain point with practice. But something happens while you sleep that makes you learn it better."
Helps weight loss: If you’re dieting, you may want to consider an earlier bedtime. According to researchers, people who sleep fewer than seven hours per night are more likely to be overweight or obese. Additionally, researchers at the University of Chicago found dieters who got higher quality sleep lost 56% more fat than those who were sleep deprived, who lost more muscle mass (note: they lost similar amounts of total weight1.) Interestingly, dieters in the study felt hungrier when they got less sleep. That’s because hormones ghrelin and leptin, which regulate appetite, become disrupted by lack of sleep. "Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sectors of the brain," Dr. Rapoport says. "When you are sleepy, certain hormones go up in your blood, and those same hormones drive appetite."
There are real dangers in getting poor or a lack of sleep. Sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss can put you at risk for:
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
Additionally, according to some estimates, 90% of people with insomnia also have another health condition. Knowing that we bet you’re wondering how you can improve your night’s sleep. The key is to develop and stick to healthy habits that promote a healthy lifestyle and routine. Follow these tips and watch your sleep dramatically improve.
Don’t use caffeine as a crutch: Band-aid solutions always have repercussions. While caffeine or energy drinks may boost your energy and concentration temporarily, it can disrupt your sleep patterns even more in the long-term. Caffeine stays in your system much longer than you would expect, so skip that 4pm cup!
Make a regular sleep schedule: By sleeping at regular, consistent hours, your brain and internal clock become programmed to a set routine. This displays itself when you get sleepy at the same time and automatically wake up at another time. Most adults need between six and nine hours of sleep. By figuring out what time you need to wake up, you can set a regular bedtime schedule.
Take time to wind down: This is critical for preparing for bed. As your body winds down, your mind winds down. A calm person will fall and stay asleep more easily. Some of our favorite ways to wind down include:
- A warm bath
- Writing to-do lists for the next day
- Relaxation exercises (think yoga or meditation)
- Listening to relaxing music
- Reading a book
Try to be asleep by 11pm: Cortisol gets a bad reputation, but the hormone isn’t produced solely in response to stress; chronic stress just puts it into overdrive. Normal levels are critical for maintaining steady energy throughout the day. Optimally performing cortisol follows a pattern called the “cortisol curve.” In a healthy curve, cortisol is high in the morning and tapers off through the day and evening — like a slow-release energy pill that wears off just in time for bed. However, when we stay up past our bedtime, there is an extra spike in cortisol from our adrenals around 11pm, which causes our sleep to be lighter and of lesser quality.
Optimize your bedroom: Your bedroom should be a calming sleep haven. Experts say there’s a strong link in people’s minds between sleep and the bedroom. TV, electronics, light, noise, and a bad bed or mattress weaken that link. Keep your bedroom for sleep and sex only. It should be dark, quiet, tidy, and kept at a temperature between 64 degrees Fahrenheit and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
When life gets in the way of your sleep schedule, it's ok to seek help. Our herbal blends help to reduce the affects of less-than-optimal sleep by countering inflammation and balancing hormones: