Sleep: do you feel refreshed every morning? If not, read this blog to optimize your sleep.

We all want to sleep like a log every night, that would be the dream wouldn’t it? (Pun intended). But for many of us, this isn’t the case. We either struggle to fall asleep, maintain the sleep or just get into a good quality sleep.

If you have poor quality sleep or are sleep deprived, you may have some of the following symptoms:

· Waking feeling unrefreshed

· Fatigue during the day

· Increased hunger

· Increased sensitivity to stressors

· More irritable

· Low libido

· Poor concentration

· Loss of motivation

· Falling asleep during the day

· Slowed reaction time

· Poorer memory

· Constant yawning

· Stimulants don’t help

Do these all sound too familiar? Keep reading!

Over the course of the night, we go in and out of various cycles of sleep that consist of different sleep stages. So lets get in to the different sleep stages:

Stage 1: NREM (non rapid eye movement) – usually 1-5 minutes in length. This is when you begin to doze off and although body isn’t fully relaxed, you begin to relax with brief movements (twitches).

Stage 2: NREM – usually 10-60 minutes in length. The body begins to drop in temperature, heart rate and breathing slows, muscles begin relaxing. Brain activity slows with short bursts of activity. Half of someone's overall sleep time is usually in this stage.

Stage 3: NREM – usually 20-40 minutes in length. Also known as deep sleep - muscle tone, breathing rate and pulse decrease. This stage is where we would see delta waves and experts believe this period of sleep is most critical for recovery and repair.

Stage 4: REM – usually 10-60 minutes in length. Brain activity picks up again and body experiences atonia (temporary muscle paralysis). This is the stage responsible for vivid dreams and is essential for cognitive functions. This stage usually makes up about 25% of sleep time.

It is important for us to get a variety of these stages in our sleep cycle, specifically Stage 3 and 4 to get the best restorative sleep.

So what can disrupt our sleep?

  • Thyroid hormone imbalances

  • Blue light exposure before sleep

  • Irregular sleep/wake cycle (shift workers)

  • High intake of stimulants or intake close within 8 hours of sleep time

  • Alcohol consumption

  • Nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin D

So, what easy things can you do to optimize your sleep?

  1. Implement a nighttime routine 1 hour before bed that involve no screens and nothing stimulating (e.g. think 20 minutes of slow stretching, 20-minute reading, 10 min cuddling dog and 10 min meditation)

  2. Try to reduce the amount of fluids you drink 1-2 hours before bed to avoid waking due to needing the toilet

  3. Reduce or omit stimulants such as caffeine (black and green tea included!) within 6-8 hours of sleeping time

  4. Try to keep a regular sleep/wake cycle – even on weekends!

  5. Expose yourself to natural light as soon as you wake up

  6. Ensure your bedroom is pro-sleep (dark, quiet, comfortable, cool, comfortable mattress and pillow)

  7. Keep your bedroom to sleeping and pleasure only

  8. Exercise regularly during the day, instead of late in the evenings

I hope you found this blog useful and you have amazing sleep as a result. However, if you already do all of these and still have no improvement in your sleep, make sure you book in for a consult and/or see your GP to rule out sleep disorders.

Let me know below if you found this blog helpful by commenting below and sharing with your friends or family!

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