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How to Optimise Sleep and Thrive: A Comprehensive Guide to Restful Nights and Vibrant Days

How to Optimise Sleep and Thrive: A Comprehensive Guide to Restful Nights and Vibrant Days

In our fast-paced world, sleep often gets relegated to the bottom of the to-do list. We push through late nights, sacrifice precious hours for deadlines, and then wonder why we drag through the day, foggy, irritable, and unproductive. Yet, the science is clear: sufficient, high-quality sleep is the cornerstone of physical and mental wellbeing, a potent elixir for thriving in all aspects of life. Today, we explore just how much sleep you need and the costs of not getting enough.

The Power of Sleep for Optimal Living:

  • Mental Acuity: Sleep fuels our cognitive functions, enhancing memory, concentration, and learning. Research by Walker et al. (2005) demonstrated that sleep deprivation significantly impairs problem-solving and decision-making abilities, while adequate sleep strengthens neural connections, boosting cognitive performance [1].
  • Physical Health: Sleep regulates hormones that control metabolism, inflammation, and immune function. Short sleep, as found by Cappuccio et al. (2010), has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer [2].
  • Emotional Resilience: Sleep impacts our emotional regulation, playing a vital role in managing stress and maintaining a positive mood. Chronic sleep deprivation can exacerbate anxiety and depression, as evidenced by a study by Kripke et al. (2002) [3].
  • Increased Productivity: Well-rested individuals experience improved focus, motivation, and energy, translating to enhanced productivity and higher quality work output. A study by Barnes et al. (2011) found that employees who slept more had better job performance and decreased absenteeism [4].

Understanding Your Sleep Needs:

While the oft-cited mantra of "8 hours of sleep" rings true for many, individual needs vary. Age, genetics, and lifestyle factors all play a role. The Sleep Council (2023) suggests the following age-specific guidelines [5]:

  • Children (4-11 years): 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers (12-18 years): 8-10 hours
  • Adults (19-64 years): 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+ years): 7-8 hours

However, these are just starting points. Pay attention to your own body's cues. Do you wake up feeling refreshed after 7 hours, or do you need closer to 9? Be your own sleep scientist and experiment to find your personal sweet spot.

Building a Sleep Sanctuary:

Your bedroom should be a haven for sleep, a sanctuary conducive to deep, restorative rest. Aim for:

  • Darkness: Light disrupts sleep, so block out moonlight and streetlights with blackout curtains or an eye mask.
  • Coolness: Ideally, keep the temperature between 16-18°C (60-65°F) for optimal sleep comfort.
  • Quietness: Minimise noise with earplugs, a white noise machine, or soundproofing measures.
  • Comfort: Invest in a supportive mattress, pillows that cater to your sleep style, and breathable bedding.
  • Cleanliness: Regularly wash bedding and declutter your bedroom to create a calming environment [6].

bedroom

Crafting a Sleep Ritual to Sleep Better

Regularity is key to good sleep. Establish a consistent sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends. This helps regulate your body's natural sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm) [7].

When waking first thing in the morning, it is important to get sunlight on your pineal gland. Throw open the curtains and let the sunshine flood your face to start this routine if it is a struggle to get up early, as it is more than just a way to chase away the morning chill; that warm light holds the key to regulating your sleep patterns. Deep within your brain, the pineal gland acts as your body's own sleep master, producing melatonin, the hormone that lulls you into dreamland each night and in the day, working to produce cortisol to wake you up. Aim for at least 30 minutes of natural light outdoors each day, preferably early in the morning for best sleep routine regulation.

Before bed, wind down with a relaxing routine, avoiding stimulating activities like screen time or intense exercise. Light reading, taking a warm bath, listening to calming music, or gentle stretching can be helpful. Avoid heavy meals, caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime, as they can disrupt sleep [8].

Exercise & Stress Managing Habits for Sleep-Supportive Days

Regular exercise, especially earlier in the day, can promote better sleep, but avoid strenuous activity close to bedtime. Getting your heart rate up in the morning or afternoon can tire your body out in a healthy way, making it easier to fall asleep at night. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week, but avoid hitting the gym or going for a hard run right before you hit the hay. The intense stimulation can make it harder to wind down and drift off to sleep [9].

Stress can wreak havoc on your sleep, making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga can help you quiet your mind and manage stress levels, promoting better sleep quality. Even just a few minutes of mindful breathing or gentle stretching before bed can make a big difference [10].

The Magic of Magnesium for Sleep

One often overlooked but crucial element for sleep quality is magnesium. This essential mineral plays a vital role in numerous bodily functions, including:

  • Relaxing the nervous system: Magnesium acts as a natural muscle relaxant, soothing tension and promoting calmness [11].
  • Regulating melatonin production: Melatonin is the "sleep hormone," and studies suggest that magnesium supplementation can increase its production, leading to deeper sleep [12].
  • Reducing stress hormones: Elevated cortisol levels can disrupt sleep. Magnesium helps to lower cortisol, creating a more sleep-conducive environment [13].

foods high in magnesium

Why Supplementing Magnesium Could Be Key to Better Sleep

Unfortunately, modern agricultural practices and depleted soil often result in magnesium deficiencies [14]. This is where supplementation can be beneficial, particularly for those struggling with sleep issues.

Here are some things to consider when choosing a magnesium supplement:

  • Form: Different forms of magnesium have varying absorption rates. Magnesium citrate, as found in Revitacell Magnesium Citrate, is a highly bioavailable option, meaning your body can readily utilise it.
  • Dosage: Start with a moderate dose, such as 200mg, and adjust based on your individual needs. Consult with a healthcare professional for personalised guidance.
  • Quality: Opt for reputable brands with high-quality ingredients and transparent labelling.

Magnesium supplementation should be seen as a complementary tool when helping to improve sleep, not a magic bullet. Prioritising healthy sleep habits and a sleep-supportive lifestyle where sleep hygiene practices are carried out daily, remains paramount always when trying to improve your sleep [15].

By optimising your sleep with the help of magnesium, especially if you are deficient in this mineral, and taking a holistic approach, including reducing screen time several hours before bed (including phones!), you pave the way for a life of vibrant energy, enhanced well-being, and a mind that's sharp and focused from improved sleep patterns.

Written by Amy Morris, BSc (Hons) Nutritional Therapy. Amy has been a nutritional therapist for 12 years, specialising in recent years as a functional medicine nutritional therapist. Women’s health, and pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes prevention are Amy’s specialist areas. Diagnosed with a chronic condition called endometriosis at age 20, this is what motivated Amy to study nutrition. Amy has been in remission for 6 years now, attributing powerful nutrition, lifestyle and bio-identical hormone strategies she now shares with her clients.

Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.

References:

[1] Walker, M. P., Stickgold, R., & Hobson, J. A. (2005). Sleep, learning, and memory. Nature, 437(7063), 759-762.

[2] Cappuccio, F. P., Taggart, F. T., & Miller, N. C. (2010). Short sleep duration and weight gain: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Obesity, 18(11), 1947-1956.

[3] Kripke, D. F., Simons, A. C., Gay, P., & Ancoli-Israel, S. (2002). Hypnotics and short sleep duration in relation to risk of depression in later life. Archives of General Psychiatry, 59(5), 403-409.

[4] Barnes, C. M., Harp, D., & Langston, C. (2011). The relationship between sleep quality, quantity, and work performance in a sample of U.S. employees. Sleep and Health, 5(1), 23-28.

[5] Sleep Council. (2023). How much sleep do you need?. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-requirements

[6] National Sleep Foundation. (2023). Healthy Sleep Habits.

[7] National Sleep Foundation. (2023). Sunlight and Sleep.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4334454/

[8] Harvard Health Publishing. (2021). Improve Your Sleep Habits.

[9] National Sleep Foundation. (2023). Exercise and Sleep. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-activity

[10] American Psychological Association. (2021). Stress and Sleep. https://www.bcm.edu/news/how-stress-can-affect-your-sleep

[11] National Institutes of Health. (2023). Magnesium. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/

[12] Sastre, J., Grimaldi, M. L., & Calvet, S. (2002). Magnesium deficiency and sleep disturbances. Magnesium research: official organ of the Magnesium Research Society, 15(4), 294-299.

[13] Jahnel-Muffler, I., Holzer, W., Haux, G., & Schulz, H. U. (2008). Magnesium and psychological stress in humans.Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 27(5), 649-656.

[14] Rude, W. J., Magnesium deficiency in population groups. Magnes Res 2013;26:233-4

[15] National Sleep Foundation. (2023).Sleep Hygiene. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene