The average person spends about 26 years sleeping in their life which equates to 9,490 days or 227,760 hours. Surprisingly, we also spend 7 years trying to get to sleep. Stress is one of the biggest factors in why we lose sleep. If you frequently wake up in the middle of the night with nagging, looping thoughts, your body may be signaling that it is overwhelmed with stress.
Having one or more nights of disrupted sleep not only leaves you frustrated and ill-prepared for the day but can lead to a multitude of ailments and health conditions by constantly disrupting your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm or ‘internal clock’ regulates your physical, mental and behavioral changes over a 24-hour cycle.
Experts typically recommend between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night but 1 in 3 Americans is not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. We all know that starting your day off on the wrong side of the bed leads to fatigue and irritability. However, did you also know that even just a few days of sleep deprivation or circadian rhythm disruption can affect you physically and metabolically? If you miss out on quality sleep for a few consecutive nights, you may notice an increase in your appetite and caloric intake, your blood pressure can increase, your cortisol levels can increase and your insulin and blood glucose levels can become elevated. These chemical changes in your body from continued sleep deprivation can lead to an increase in anxiety and aggression, memory impairment, and an increased risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia. Inadequate sleep has also been linked to numerous issues including increased risk of heart disease or cancer, type 2 diabetes, along with the weakening of your immune system. Poor sleep can also contribute to the decrease of new neuron production, which is essential for brain health. Lack of quality sleep can also lead to stomach ulcers, obesity, constipation, and depression.
Improve your sleep by removing these key things:
1- Food and Alcohol
Eating heavy dinners too close to bedtime can impact your sleep as your body needs to work hard to digest this food, which in turn can keep you from falling asleep. Another culprit to poor sleep is alcohol. Alcohol before bed also has a major impact on the quality of your sleep. Since alcohol is a depressant, it may seem to help you fall asleep, but throughout the night, alcohol can interrupt your circadian rhythms, block REM and aggravate breathing problems.
2- Workouts near bedtime
Big cardio workouts late at night can make it difficult for you to fall asleep as intense exercise regimens stimulate your body, keeping it awake. You may feel tired from your workout, but internally you have been energized. If you want to do some exercise in the evening, choose something relaxing like yoga and avoid intense workouts in the 3 hours leading up to your bedtime.
3 - Check your lighting
If you’re exposed to too much light in the lead-up to your bedtime, your body won’t be ready to rest and restore. Your circadian rhythm and sleep cycles are naturally dictated by the light of the sun…when the sun rises, your body is designed to respond by waking and when the sun goes down, so too should you lay down and rest. Chemical processes are triggered in your body by the presence or lack of light in your environment to help you wake and sleep.
Studies have suggested that lavender can help you with the quality and quantity of your sleep. Targeted studies looking at sleep specifically also netted results confirmed lavender’s active properties for combating insomnia. Researchers at the University of Southampton in Britain tracked the sleep patterns of 10 adults. For a week, half of the participants slept in a room where lavender essential oil was diffused in the air throughout the night. The rest snoozed in a similar room where a placebo (sweet almond oil) was released. Then the groups switched rooms. At the end of the study, volunteers ranked the quality of their sleep with 20% stating it was better in a lavender-scented room.
Psychologists at Wesleyan University in Connecticut had 31 men and women sniff lavender essential oil one night – and then distilled water the next. Researchers monitored their sleep cycles with brain scans and found that lavender increased slow-wave sleep, instrumental for slowing heartbeat and relaxing muscles. Subjects slept more soundly on a lavender night. The group also reported feeling more energetic the next morning.
Lavender essential oil offers calming and soothing properties that can help reduce stress. It also serves as a great sleep aid for the whole family by helping you to fall asleep faster and enhance your quality of sleep during the night.
Other helpful herbs for sleep and stress include skullcap, passionflower, chamomile, valerian, catnip, and hops. Also, check out our March Sleep Box for our holistic and well rounded approach to combatting sleepless nights.