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Life, Love

Sleep Health

Lack of quality sleep increases the effects of aging...

Whereas, 1 night of quality sleep can improve your ability to learn new motor skills by up to 20%

Sleep plays a huge role in our overall health. There's lots of science out there that shows us this but the experts don't all agree on what this means.


Some say you need 8 hours of sleep. Others say it's more about the times you're asleep (eg; 10 pm - 6 am) and others say you can get away with as little as 4 hours of sleep a night as long as it's quality sleep.


Here's what I've learned about sleep as a Naturopath and insomniac.

I find that if I don't get enough sleep for more than three nights in a row I'm teary and hungry until I catch back up on my sleep. I have clients who are crabby and feel brain-dead when they don't get enough sleep. Whereas others run so hard on adrenalin that they don't even notice the effects of poor sleep (a dangerous place to be).

I think the most important thing to understand is, what good quality sleep is.

Most of the research agrees that you need a combination of deep sleep and REM sleep for your overall health. Most fitness trackers and smartwatches can track your sleep for you so you can check out your sleep quality by wearing your watch to bed for a few nights and assessing.

What you need is;

1 1/2 - 2 hours of REM sleep

Characterised by;

  • Relaxed muscles
  • Quick eye movement
  • Irregular breathing
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Increased brain activity


1 1/2 - 2 hours of deep sleep

Characterised by;

  • The brain switches into Delta waves and you are difficult to try and wake
  • Slow breathing
  • Slow heart rate
  • Your muscles are relaxed

Sleep in this phase is when your glymphatic system kicks in. Your glymphatic system is the cleansing system of the brain and nervous system. It removes waste from the cells of your brain by excreting waste and toxins in water, then replenishes the cells with new water.


It sounds like you only need 4 hours of sleep a night based on the above, but you can't magic yourself straight into these sleep phases. It takes time to get through the light and medium sleep phases first.

This is where I think most of the discrepancy lies.

Experts who claim you need 8 hours or more sleep are allowing you plenty of time to move through the phases of sleep.

Yogi's who claim you can get away with 3 - 4 hours of sleep a night are relying on meditation hacks to move into delta brain waves and gamma waves for physical and mental restoration.

And other health experts who suggest 6 1/2 hours is plenty, are relying on optimal health during waking moments to improve sleep quality.


I love the idea of needing less time in bed, imagine how much more you can enjoy life if you need less time sleeping.

Think of the hobbies you could master, time journalling, learning, or getting a headstart on your day. But here's the thing,


It seems to be a catch-22. Good quality sleep improves your health,

but to enjoy good quality sleep, you need to be healthy...

Research shows that healthy people only need 6 1/2 hours of sleep a night.

When you're not so healthy, you may feel like you need up to 9 hours a night.

If we chip away at sleep hygiene hacks and try to create a healthy lifestyle,

we can slowly create an environment for better sleep.

I think that's the best place to start.


Give some of these a go;

  • Blue light can impact sleep quality

As little as 5 minutes after dusk will have an impact and affect your metabolic system. Blue light in nature mostly occurs during the day so too much exposure to this at night confuses your circadian rhythm. Blue light is in LED lights and your devices. So try the following to reduce your blue light exposure;


    • Don't use LED lighting at night. Have dinner by candlelight or by dimmed light.
    • Brush your teeth in dimmed light
    • Avoid too much time on your devices or switch them into night mode. Night mode limits blue light exposure.
    • Red night lights are best, use red night lights where possible.


  • Wear an eye mask to sleep in

You want to avoid unnatural light as much as possible. Street lights can mess with your sleep cycle, even when it's only small amounts coming in around your curtains or blinds.

** A side note; a study in Japan showed that light filtering in from street lights around the edges of curtains had a 75% increase in depression rates. So this simple hack of wearing an eye mask to bed will also support your mental health.


  • Get 20 minutes of sun on your face in the morning

This helps your circadian rhythm know it's daytime and will kick-start your rhythm and increase your serotonin (take off sunglasses, glasses, or contact lenses).


  • The temperature of your bedroom is also important

You need a cool environment for the first half of the night. It's then ideal for the temperature to be comfortable and then a drop in temperature early morning. This mimics nature.

This is a harder one to regulate. I think the best way to achieve this is to sleep with windows open. That way nature is controlling the temperature of your room. You're not doing it artificially with AC or electric blankets.

Personally, I'll only go to bed with the AC on if it's over 25 degrees outside and have it on a timer to turn itself off at midnight. When I wake for the bathroom, I open all the doors and windows to let the breeze come in. Otherwise, I sleep with the fan on and windows open and regulate my body temp with sheets and blankets. Don't let yourself overheat. That's the key.


  • Avoid sugars and heavy meals close to bedtime

Here's why. All of your chemicals (hormones) work together. Serotonin turns into melatonin when the sun starts to go down and melatonin triggers your pancreas to relax and stop producing insulin. This means your blood sugar levels spike and then drop.

If you wake up with a busy mind or agitated body around 2 - 3 am, you may have had too much sugar the day before or eaten too late in the day for your body to process your foods before wind down time. Cortisol has been secreted to elevate blood sugar levels again and that makes it challenging to go back to sleep.


  • Caffeine is consumed between 11 am - 3 pm only

I notice, even as a green tea drinker, that if I have anything after 3 pm I won't be getting to sleep before midnight. If you like stronger forms of caffeine, you may even need to make this 1-2 pm. Some people claim caffeine doesn't impact them this way. But I assure you, even if you're used to caffeine, it will still impact your sleep quality.

Allowing your body to do its thing is incredibly important. Caffeine can affect your circadian rhythm significantly. I strongly encourage you to move your morning coffee to 11 am and try dandelion root coffee, decaf, herbal teas, or green tea (it has small amounts of caffeine) so your cortisol levels can naturally rise with the sun and increase your energy levels and alertness. Caffeine stunts this natural rhythm in your body and has a flow-on effect for the rest of the day.


  • Protect your nervous system and stress response

As mentioned above, all your chemicals work together. If your cortisol and adrenal (stress response) levels are too high, this impacts your insulin and your serotonin and melatonin levels.

If you don't have enough magnesium, your nervous system has a difficult time slowing down which can keep you awake with restless legs or anxious thoughts. Having a diet with plenty of magnesium-rich foods such as bananas, cacao, avocadoes, and greens is helpful, or you can supplement or have a magnesium salt bath before bed.

Nervines such as lavender, lemon balm, valerian, and Californian poppy come in tea form and can be helpful when consumed at night. Meditation, journalling, and breathwork can also help reduce how much of your day you take to bed with you at night.

Letting go is the best strategy for managing stress.


  • Avoid alcohol

Unfortunately, alcohol will impact your sleep quality. Even one glass has an impact. Try to avoid alcohol when you're aiming for a good night's sleep.


Wifi can interfere with your sleep too. Turning wifi off at night can help as well as positioning your mobile phone away from you.


I think the best approach to improving your sleep, is not worrying if it's 4, 6, or 8 hours that you're getting. Focus on how you feel when you wake up. Some nights you might need more than others. Keep focusing on your overall health. Try as many of the above suggestions as you can and if you still struggle to sleep, the best thing to do is not stress about it. That will keep your sleep even further out of reach.

Remind yourself that you're relaxing and focus on being as comfortable as you can and breathing deeply.


If you want any further support managing your sleep or overall health, book a time with me here.

Otherwise, I hope this has helped you understand your sleep health and simple ways to improve it's quality.



Biggest love

Melinda xo


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