The importance of sleep cannot be underestimated. We all know it is necessary, but few of us really stop and think about how sleep, or a lack thereof, actually impacts how we function. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about it, as I have recently changed mattresses to a new SleepX mattress. I can’t tell you how critical a quality mattress is! Both for the physical effects on the body (i.e. comfort and muscular ease), but also the mental and biochemical benefits of sleep we go into below. SleepX sent me their mattress to trial and I can safely say I absolutely love it. It has reminded me just how important sleep hygiene is and why healthy sleep patterns are such an integral part of a healthy lifestyle.
The body’s sleep cycle plays a crucial role in many important bodily processes including learning, memory and mood, temperature, energy levels, heart rate, appetite, digestion, detoxification and hormone regulation. Interestingly, research shows us that a sleep deficit is inflammatory. Elevated inflammatory markers can contribute to conditions such as metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and autoimmunity. With so much inflammation from pollution, toxins, poor dietary choices and stress, we simply do not need to be adding to the problem through sleep disturbances.
When it comes to weight-loss or maintenance, a lack of sleep has been shown to prompt heightened appetite and less feelings of satisfaction after eating. This is largely because poor sleep increases Ghrelin (the hormone that signals we are hungry) and decreases Leptin (the hormone which decreases our appetite). Although everyone agrees that diet and movement are integral to our health, sleep actually influences everything from how much we eat and what we crave to exercise performance, results and recovery. So it would seem, sleep sets us up to follow through on our good intentions!
Consistency around a healthy diet, regular sleep patterns and good sleep hygiene will improve the quantity and quality of your sleep.
- Do not use computers or phones 1 hour prior to sleep;
- Ensure you don’t exercise too close to bed. Sleep experts agree that leaving a minimum of three hours between your workout and bed-time, to allow the body time to cool off before sleep;
- Take a hot bath/shower 2-3 hours before bed – similar to the above, the temperature drop signals to your body it’s time for sleep;
- Take large diaphragmatic breaths to unwind, either in bed or just prior;
- Ensure you choose a quality mattress. This cannot be overlooked! I have been sleeping on my SleepX* for one month now, and can honestly say that it is heavenly. It is a hybrid of the highest quality memory foam and high-resilience foam for longevity and support. I feel it moulds to my body, whilst still remaining firm. There are three comfort choices, soft medium and firm (I chose firm and absolutely love it).
- Stick to a consistent bedtime and waking up schedule to form solid sleep patterns.
- Reassess caffeine and alcohol intake and be honest with yourself about how “moderate” your intake is, and how close you consume these things to bedtime. It might seem like you fall asleep quicker when you drink alcohol but research has shown us that sleep quality is diminished with REM sleep (the most restorative kind) impairment;
- Avoid processed, sugary and excessively salty food, which can interfere with sleep, digestion and mood;
- Consume moderate amounts of healthy fats daily such as 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds, ⅓ cup raw nuts or seeds, ¼-½ avocado, to increase Leptin production;
- Eat dinner at least 2-4 hours prior to sleep;
- Eat magnesium and tryptophan rich foods for dinner e.g. pumpkin seeds, leafy greens, legumes, tofu, brown rice, quinoa, figs, walnuts;
- Sip chamomile tea 2 hours prior to induce calm. Avoid liquids 1-2 hours before bed.
*SleepX is an online bedding retailer offering premium Australian made “bed-in -a-box” mattresses and accessories with the largest range of choice available. They even have customised alternate feels on each side of the mattress surface to cater to partners who have different bedding tastes! So if your partner likes soft and you like firm, both needs can be met in the one mattress. All products are non-allergenic, anti-bacterial, recyclable and certified by Good Environmental Choice Australia. Plus, they offer a 120-night free trial and a 10-year guarantee on their mattresses.