There is a lot of talk online in the health and wellness community, about nutrition, movement and even detoxification as a means of achieving good health. Yet, the incredibly essential benefits that sleep has to offer are long forgotten about. There is a huge push in our society to be more productive and to always be on the go, but adopting this mentality long term can lead to burn out and be detrimental to your long term health. Slowing down our lifestyles and resting creates balance in our lives, bodies, emotions and hormones. Let’s dive into why ensuring that we maintain adequate sleep stands as a key pillar for achieving good health.
Sleep is essential, as it allows all systems of our body time to recharge, rest, restore and repair. Restful sleep is required for our bodies to effectively fight off disease, repair cells, generate better brain function, regulate our central nervous system and process the day. Without sleep, it is not possible for our bodies to function at their optimal state, thus it is a key pillar of health!
Studies have shown that sleep deprivation leaves people vulnerable to mood swings, reduced cognition and attention lapses. It is also linked to increased inflammation within the body, as a loss of sleep is known to activate inflammatory signaling pathways, which over time can lead to many chronic conditions, including obesity, heart disease, certain types of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and type 2 diabetes.
Whilst you are asleep, pathways form between neurons in your brain that solidify new information you have learnt and improve concentration abilities. Without this, the signals sent to your body may be delayed, decreasing coordination and increasing your risk for accidents. Always being on the go and working hard may feel productive in the short term, but it is very clear that a lack of good quality sleep is dangerous to our long term health, physically, mentally and emotionally.
Most adults require between seven and nine hours of sleep, whilst children and teenagers need a lot more. There are many factors that can interrupt our ability to achieve a solid sleep schedule including, work, stress, disruptive bedroom environment, medical conditions and blue light emitted from screens. Our bodies are hardwired with a circadian rhythm that governs our sleep-wake cycle every 24 hours. Our circadian rhythm triggers specific hormones like melatonin and cortisol at different times of the day, signalling to our bodies to slow down or to fire up. Tuning into this 24 hour cycle and knowing what influences it, is key in optimising our sleep quality and energy throughout the day.
Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, makes you more alert and awake, as your body produces more of it in the morning. Whilst melatonin is the hormone that makes you feel sleepy, and is released as the sun sets. Cortisol production drops to its lowest around midnight and peaks about an hour after you wake up. In addition to the circadian cycle, around 15 to 18 smaller pulses of cortisol are released throughout the day and night. Some of those smaller bursts of cortisol correspond to shifts in your sleep cycles.
Light also influences circadian rhythm, as when they eyes are exposed to natural or artificial light, this signals to the brain to determine whether it is day or night, thus triggering the release of cortisol or melatonin. This is the main reason that blue light emitted from technological devices largely impacts the quality of our sleep. The content on the screen also matters, as if you watch a scary movie, read a stressful news article or fast-paced anxiety inducing content, it can affect your ability to fall asleep.
There are some tips you can follow to best set your body up for a night of high quality sleep. This involves setting you environment up to ensure the natural production of hormones are not interrupted.
- Put your technology away at least one hour before bed. Try reading or writing to wind down from the day instead.
- Adhere to a night time routine daily. Whether you have a warm shower and a cup of tea, or watch the sun set.
- Spend time outside during the day to boost your energy levels.
- Get enough exercise throughout the day.
- Sleep in a comfortable environment, with a supportive mattress and ideal temperature.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine in the afternoon.
Float therapy can also assist in the healing of sleep disorders and improve sleep quality overall. After spending an hour in the float pod, you will be sure to notice a reduction of pain and inflammation, leading to a great night of sleep the night of as well. Each float pod is filled with 550kg of magnesium salt, which eases muscle, joint and back pain. Magnesium also plays a role in improving sleep, as it helps activate mechanisms that calm the nervous system. Float therapy is also known to help with jet lag, insomnia and other sleep disorders.
In a 2006 study involving a range of patients with stress related pain, found that after twelve float therapy treatments, pain, stress, anxiety and depression decreased. Sleep quality also increased for up to four months after treatment.
Anette Kjellgren of the Karlstad University, Sweden reported in her 2010 peer reviewed paper on float therapy found, “Clients reported generally improved sleep during the course of treatment, in particular, during nights that followed flotation-REST…The quality of sleep was enhanced by a deeper, more tranquil sleep, with fewer awakenings during the night, and a sense of renewed energy upon awakening in the morning” (Kjellgren, 2010).
As much as we prioritise, nutrition and adequate exercise, sleep is just as important for a healthy body. Whether you’re after better athletic recovery, brain function or increased energy throughout the waking day, sleep is your way there.