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Sleep - Why a Good Night Sleep is So Important

Sleep Disorders | July 22, 2018 | Author: Naturopath


Sleep - Why a Good Night Sleep is So Important

Our bodies are naturally programmed to sleep each night. As the sun goes down our body starts to release a hormone called melatonin which makes us feel sleepy. In some people this process can be disturbed resulting in poor sleep patterns and insomnia. Sleep is vital for just about everything—especially for energy levels, concentration, immunity and weight maintenance. Learn what you can do to sleep like a baby every night.

What is sleep?

When you drift off to sleep, your eyes are closed, muscles are relaxed but your brain is still quite active. Sleep is a normal active state in which there’s an altered state of consciousness in which the mind and body are less responsive. This inhibits the action of voluntary muscles, sensory reactions and interactions with our surroundings.

Stages of sleep

There are five stages of sleep which are characterised by differentiations of the brain and body.

Non-REM Sleep

Stage 1 —the lightest stage. Brain activity is slightly slower than awake, muscle tone is present in skeletal muscles and breathing is regular.

Stage 2—slightly deeper than stage 1, the sleeper is less likely to be woken during stage 2 sleep.

Stage 3 and 4—these stages are progressively deeper stages of sleep. They are also called ‘Slow Wave Sleep’, or delta sleep and a person in these stages are often difficult to awaken.

As humans get older they spend less time in slow wave deep sleep and more time in Stage 2 sleep.

REM Sleep

Stage 5—this is the stage of sleep associated with dreaming, rapid eye movement, bodily movement and faster pulse and breathing. This kind of sleep occurs at intervals during the night.

The benefits of sleep

It is believed that sleep is a restorative process—designed to repair and regenerate. Sleep has such profound impacts on our health and to put it simply sleep is needed so that our body and mind can work correctly. If we have none or too little sleep this is what can happen…

Brain health

If you are sleep deprived this can affect your work capacity, concentration and turn you into a grouch. But in all seriousness, not enough sleep over the long term can lead to anxiety, depression, relationship problems and makes you 2.6 times more likely to commit suicide. People who don’t sleep enough are also more likely than others to have road accidents, and there are problems with productivity and safety in the workplace.

Heart health

Getting less than 6 hours of sleep each night increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes. The university of Warwick did a study and they found that getting less than 6 hours of sleep on a continuous basis makes you 48% more likely to die of heart disease and 15% more likely in developing a stroke.


If you sleep the recommended 7-9 hours each night you are more likely to live longer. If you sleep too little or too much you are 12.5% more likely to die over a 25-year period.

Immune system

If you are sleep deprived your immune system is more likely to be compromised resulting in more colds, flus and infections.


The benefits of sleepExperimental sleep restriction studies have been shown to cause physiological and behavioural changes which result in a positive energy balance and ultimately weight gain.

If you are sleep deprived, this increases your risk of type 2 diabetes because there is a reduction in insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.

It also leads to an increase in food intake, unhealthy food cravings and a decrease in physical activity.

Common causes of sleep deprivation

Common reasons that can lead to lack of sleep include:

  • sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnoea, restless legs syndrome, and others
  • Inadequate sleep hygiene
  • Sleep disorders that interfere with the brain’s ability to stay awake, including narcolepsy and primary hypersomnia
  • Insufficient total sleep time—going to bed late and waking up early

Sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene is defined as behaviours that one can do to help promote good sleep each night. They include:

  • Maintain a regular sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day
  • Make sure your bed and bedroom are dark and comfortable
  • Develop a bedtime ritual i.e. warm bath, reading and relaxation techniques
  • Avoid naps if possible
  • Don’t watch TV or read in bed
  • Avoid substances that interfere with sleep i.e. certain medications, alcohol and caffeine
  • Exercise regularly, just avoid high intensity exercise before bed

Still need help?

Sleep hygieneIf you are still having issues falling asleep and staying asleep you could try some of the following supplements which have proven efficacy in sleep disorders.

Zizyphus—also known as jujube, zizyphus is an herb with relaxant, sedative and hypnotic actions.

Valerian—a mild relaxant for the muscles and the mind, valerian is traditionally used in instances of insomnia, anxiety and restlessness.

Sour cherry—a natural source of melatonin, sour cherry may improve sleep duration, efficiency and quality.

Kava—traditionally used as an herbal remedy to relieve stress, anxiety, depression and sleep disorders.

Magnesium—this essential mineral is beneficial during times of stress to relax the mind and body.

The bottom line

Along with a healthy diet and exercise, sleep is one of the pillars of health. Incorporating good sleep hygiene and taking a supplement can help you to achieve the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night required for optimal health.  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Nedeltcheva AVScheer FA. Metabolic effects of sleep disruption, links to obesity and diabetes. Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2014 Aug;21(4):293-8

Shergis JL, et al. Ziziphus spinosa seeds for insomnia: A review of chemistry and psychopharmacology. Phytomedicine. 2017 Oct 15;34:38-43

Yurcheshen M, et al. Updates on Nutraceutical Sleep Therapeutics and Investigational Research. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015; 2015: 105256

Abbasi B, et al. The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Res Med Sci. 2012 Dec;17(12):1161-9

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