24 Jun How to Get a Good Nights Sleep
We all know sleep is important. The concept of getting a good night’s sleep has been ingrained into me for as long as I remember and the purpose of that good night sleep as far as I could tell was simply to not be tired.
Whilst obviously still important, by sleeping not to be tired you’re underutilising one of the easiest tools (you barely have to concentrate!) in your arsenal to reach your optimal health.
Being proactive about your health is one of the core concepts we promote at N8 health and your night-time routine should be just as intrinsic as your daytime one to get you to where you want to be.
Why do we need a good nights sleep?
Stress and sleep have a two-way relationship. If your body doesn’t get enough sleep, it can react by producing an elevated level of stress hormones which are a natural result of today’s fast paced lifestyle. Conversely, when your body is experiencing chronic stress, it thinks it’s in a state of perpetual danger and shouldn’t therefore be drifting off into a deep and peaceful sleep. All of us at N8 Health extol the many benefits of reducing the stress on your body. A vital part of your destressing routine should be sleep. It may seem counterintuitive for me to tell you to sleep to reduce stress when it’s stress that’s leading to your reduced sleep, so we have put together some helpful sleeping tips that we’ll come to later.
Poor sleep increases pain:
When we are not well rested our bodies can become more sensitive to pain, reducing tolerance, and making pain feel worse. Like stress there is a reciprocal relationship between the two factors. There are many studies showing the benefits. In 2012, a group of sleepy volunteers participated in a study who got around two more hours of sleep a night showed improvement in tests measuring pain sensitivity of 25% after only four days. That’s comparable to taking a 60-mg dose of codeine twice daily. This likely holds for all types of pain including chronic lower back pain!
Sleep and productivity:
It seems quite obvious but there is now mounting evidence to back up the fact that a good night’s sleep seriously boosts one’s productivity. One study of over 4000 Americans showed a decrease in sleep equated to about a $2000 loss in productivity over the course of the year, another finding that productivity increases in all fields from academia to athletics. One of the biggest reasons that people don’t get enough sleep is because they feel they have too much to do or because they are stressed about what they need to do. So, we’re not getting enough work done because we’re sleep-deprived and we’re not sleeping because we’re not getting enough work done.
Sleep and the immune system:
Getting a good night’s sleep has long been the best medicine for when you’re feeling under the weather and supporting our immune function via lifestyle choices is something that we should do regularly not just at the moment. Numerous studies have reported the benefits of a good night’s sleep, and now researchers from Germany have found that sound sleep improves immune cells known as T cells. T cells are a type of immune cells that fight against pathogens including virus-infected cells such as flu. It also been found that individuals sleeping 6 hours or less a night were more than 4 times more likely to catch a cold compared to those who were logging 7+ hours of sleep. While stocking up on sleep can’t always prevent you from getting sick, it’s a great way to put your body in a better position to defend against what comes its way.
How do we get a good nights sleep?
At the moment our routines are far from normal. The concept of commuting has gone for most and exercise, hydration, and dietary habits may have changed.
I’ve handpicked a few changes we can easily make that are easy to start doing right now.
- Monitor your light exposure: the light that you look at has an effect on your body’s circadian rhythm, exposure to sunlight in the day helps regulate this, as does a lack of light before you sleep. Blue light, most commonly from our phone’s just before bed tricks your body into thinking it’s daytime so limit phone and screen use before bed.
- Be consistent: Your body’s circadian rhythm is on a set loop, aligning itself with sunrise and sunset. Irrespective of when you get to sleep, being disciplined about when you get in and out of bed will help to regulate your body secreting melatonin which is the key sleep hormone.
- Exercise: Those who exercise regularly sleep better at night and feel less sleepy during the day. Regular exercise also improves insomnia and sleep apnoea and increases the amount of time you spend in the deep, restorative stages of sleep. The more vigorously you exercise, the more powerful the sleep benefits. Even light exercise, such as walking for just 10 minutes a day improves sleep quality. It can take several months of regular activity before you experience the full sleep-promoting effects. So be patient and focus on building an exercise habit that sticks.
- Watch what you eat & drink: it’ll be no surprise that caffeine keeps you up, but it can also cause sleep problems for up to 10 hours after drinking it! The quality of your sleep can easily be affected by your food: refined sugar and carbs can trigger wakefulness preventing deep, restorative sleep & if you drink lots of water before bed you may be inclined to wake up half way through the night for the loo!
- Winding down & clearing your head: your residual daily stresses are what keep you up most of all. Clearing your head, switching off from the world and avoiding social media are all good night time habits that I would recommend. My half an hour of reading before bed is as intrinsic to my sleep as anything else, a good audiobook will also suffice.
Why not try this deep breathing exercise to help you sleep?
Breathing from your belly rather than your chest can activate the relaxation response and lower your heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels to help you drift off to sleep.
- Lay down in bed and close your eyes.
- Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
- Breathe in through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.
- Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move little.
- Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Count slowly as you exhale.
By William Luckwell, Chiropractor
Healthline. 2020. Sleep And Immune System. [online] Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-sleep-bolsters-your-immune-system> [Accessed 23 June 2020].
Dimitrov, S., Lange, T., Gouttefangeas, C., Jensen, A. T., Szczepanski, M., Lehnnolz, J., … & Besedovsky, L. (2019). Gαs-coupled receptor signaling and sleep regulate integrin activation of human antigen-specific T cells. Journal of Experimental Medicine, 216(3), 517-526.
Prather, A. A., Janicki-Deverts, D., Hall, M. H., & Cohen, S. (2015). Behaviorally assessed sleep and susceptibility to the common cold. Sleep, 38(9), 1353-1359.
Rosekind, M., Gregory, K., Mallis, M., Brandt, S., Seal, B. and Lerner, D., 2010. The Cost of Poor Sleep: Workplace Productivity Loss and Associated Costs. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 52(1), pp.91-98.
Sleep Foundation. 2020. Pain And Sleep – Sleep Foundation. [online] Available at: <https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/pain-and-sleep> [Accessed 20 June 2020].
WebMD. 2020. More Sleep May Help Some People Feel Less Pain. [online] Available at: <https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/news/20121130/more-sleep-less-pain#2> [Accessed 20 June 2020].