Why Is Sleep So Important?
One of the biggest improvements we can make for our health is to have a nightly replenishing sleep. However, a solid 7–9-hour sleep can evade many of us, for a multitude of reasons. Committing to a healthy sleep schedule could be the best gift you give yourself this year.
As Thomas Decker said, ‘Sleep is the golden chain that ties our health and our bodies together.’
Why? Because as you sleep your body is busy carrying out essential processes to keep you in tip top functional health!
Whilst your sleep your body is busy taking care of essential processes such as:
- Building and restoring tissues and cells
- Removing toxins
- Producing essential hormones
- Solidifies and retains new information – aiding in memory, cognition, and recall.
- Strengthens neural connections
Getting a goodnight sleep:
- Improves stress management
- Sharpens Concentration and Memory
- Boosts Immune System
- Enhances Emotional and Physical health
- Increases Energy
If we do not have a good night’s sleep, less than 7 hours, or an interrupted night, we feel groggy the next day – and much more.
Lack of sleep:
- Impairs judgement and concentration
- Slows our reaction time and more accidents occur
- We release more appetite stimulating hormones which encourage you to eat more, which can lead to weight gain
- Emotions are heightened which cause irritability, anger and anxiety or depression
- The immune system is suppressed, and your risk of illness increases
Eating nutritious foods are one of the keyways we can influence better sleep, with studies showing correlation between diet and sleep quality, duration, and a lower reported instance of insomnia.
Melatonin is our sleep hormone which signals to the body that it is time to sleep. Darkness triggers the release of Melatonin which makes you feel drowsy and ready for bed. Therefore, sleeping in a dark room and having at least an hour away from television, tablet and phone screens before bed is essential for keeping our circadian rhythm in check.
Food can also help you to create the right internal environment to cultivate a regular sleep cycle. L-tryptophan – is the amino acid precursor to melatonin – so having a meal with foods that contain this amino acid is essential for a good night sleep. These are foods such as turkey, salmon and chicken, beans, chickpeas, chia seeds, oats, soybeans, nuts and seeds.
To make melatonin we also need plenty of nutrient co-factors, these include the B vitamins, Magnesium, Iron and Vitamin C, which can be found in a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, plant foods and wholegrains, opt for organic where possible.
Eating good quality, slow-release carbohydrates will keep your blood sugar stable overnight and provide energy for the body to carry out essential repair and regeneration activities.
Store cupboards staples such as oats, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, beans, lentils, chickpeas and wholegrain products provide excellent sources of slow-release carbohydrates, ensure you have these with your evening meal.
Stock up at the indigo Herbs Whole Food Section: https://www.indigo-herbs.co.uk/shop/buy/wholefoods
Sleep Super Foods & Herbs
There are some stand out sleep heroes which are easily incorporated into your diet
Fatty fish contain Omega 3 fatty acids have been found to improve sleep length quality as studies have shown that lows that lower levels of omega 3 fatty acids also have lower levels of melatonin.
Almonds and Walnuts are also sleep super nuts – they contain magnesium and plant sourced omega 3’s.
Tart cherry juice has been shown to give an increase in melatonin and from its plant phytochemicals it reduces oxidative stress in the body which helps us to sleep, rest and repair. Whole cherries are also rich in Melatonin, so eat these when in season.
Chamomile tea – is a fantastic tea that contain antioxidants which promote sleep, it has also been shown to reduce insomnia and improve overall sleep quality.
Passionflower is another lovely herb which helps promotes sleepiness. It has also been shown to increase the production of GABA which is our neurochemical that inhibits and slows our stress promoting neurotransmitters. Which helps us to become calmer and relaxed. Passionflower is perfect as a tea or taken in a tincture.
A member of the mint family, this herb has been used medicinally for over 2000 years.
It is excellent for calming and rebalancing the nervous system, especially in anxious and stressed states. It works to increase the production of GABA, promoting relaxation, relieving anxiety, and improving mood. For sleep Lemon Balm has been found effective in reducing insomnia, aiding in falling asleep and interrupted waking.
Reishi is a medicinal mushroom which helps to promote sleep through its adaptogenic powers which balance stress and promote calmness. Recent studies in rats have demonstrated that within three days of continuous use improvements were seen in subjects including increased sleep time, easier to fall asleep and decreased non-REM sleep.
Ashwagandha is another adaptogenic which rebalances the effects of stress upon the body. Reducing the negative effects of anxiety and cortisol on sleep, reducing insomnia and promoting sleep quality.
Valerian has been used for its medicinal properties as far back as Ancient Greek and Roman times. It was noted by Hippocrates to treat headaches, nervousness, trembling, and heart palpitations. Valerian contains a substance called Valerenic acid that is believed to affect gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain. One of the purposes of GABA is to control fear or anxiety experienced when nerve cells are overexcited.
Due to this activity valerian may act as a mild sedative and have anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) properties.
There is some evidence that Valerian improves insomnia and aids in sleep latency (time to fall asleep). Valerian is often combined with other herbs such as Lemon Balm or Passionflower in sleep formulations.
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