WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY:
WHY SLEEP IS IMPORTANT
The best well-being efforts will provide little benefit without proper sleep.
This is the essential reset that is necessary to keep the body's processes working at optimal levels, helping repair, restore, recover and heal - preventing the body from breakdown.
Reconnecting to your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle delivers vital physical protection:
Boosts Immunity - helps decrease the chances of catching colds, flus and viruses.
Maintains emotional reserves - when these are low one gets easily frustrated and overwhelmed, is prone to anxiety and states of depression.
Supports cognitive health - good sleep maintains memory and focus abilities - when we are deprived of sleep this affects problems solving, the ability to reason, performance and even basic task completion around the home.
Appetite control - research shows that sleeping well decreases hunger, helps to keep appetite in check and can reduce the risk of obesity.
and conversely LACK of sleep can result in - reduced sperm count, heightened chance of serious conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers, greater incidence of stroke, accidents and death.
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WHAT MAKES 'GOOD SLEEP'
So with all that said how do you know you're having good sleep?
Sleeping through the night without interruption and waking up feeling refreshed, rested and full of energy is the obvious sign that we've had a good night's rest. Since there are a number of factors that influence what each individual needs for rested sleep acheiving this every night seems much harder in practice.
How long is a good sleep and what happens in it?
Sleeping well is a constituent of deep sleep in which the body heals and repairs, producing vital metabolism-regulating hormones and REM sleep - the lighter phase during which dreaming takes place, in which the brain activity recovers from the days exertion processing emotion, and long-term memory and cognitive function are strengthened.
These stages of sleep take place in sleep cycles and it is thought that 4- 5 of these cycles are required to have had 'a good sleep' and to wake up feeling refreshed and energised.
Since each sleep cycle lasts up to 2 hours most experts recommend 7 - 8 hours of sleep which would enable 4 sleep cycles each night but expert opinions vary with wider recommendations falling within a range of as little as 5 and as much as 9 hours or more.
So why do some of us get away with physically needing less time asleep while others need a full refresh with many more hours?
The answer lies in the way that we are affected by our hormones , genetics and lifestyle.
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GETTING TO SLEEP
Actually getting to sleep can be more of a challenge than it should.
In states or lifestyles of constant 'ups' acheiving natural 'relaxed' regular down time may need to be relearned.
We typically have set morning routines that enable us to mentally prepare for the day and signal to us that all is in order. Usually however, less so for our nighttime and rest.
A variety of simple techniques that enable a tapered winddown can be immensely effective in channelling the physical and physiological triggers to ease into sleep:
Journalling is a popular method that is a constructive way of processing the day's events and enabling the mind to settle. This tells the brain that all is in order enabling it to let itself retire from solution-finding and take things easy.
Gentle stretching to ease out tension, soothes the muscles and methodically slows heart rate. Slowing the heart rate down is one of the key states that pulls the body into that all important deep sleep.
Dimming lights signalling night time to the brain which impacts the brainwaves. Processed by the optic nerve this taps into the body's internal clock preparing the nocturnal patterns for rest.
A relaxing bath to calm aches or pains and ultimately lower body temperature to induce rest.
Removing all electronics and uv lights from the sleep area this includes mobiles and tablets too - not only does this clear the bedtime environment from disruptive signals to the neuropathways but it practically blocks any temptation to check that last quick email before hitting the pillow and potentially stirring up any stress.
if you normally rely on your phone's alarm invest in a good old fashioned alarm clock!
While incorporating new routines and sticking to them can take several months or years to adapt to, deeper understanding of any unique factors that could be affecting your sleep can enhance your bed time regime with effective support.
Read on for further insight from our experts.
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HORMONES & SLEEP
MPCH MAcS CertNatSci (open) Clinical Practitioner, Acupuncturist, Puriskin Brand Ambassador.
'Anti-aging is one of my specialisms in which I am routinely concerned with the hormonal changes that affect the body as we mature. These not only have tangible physical outcomes but play a powerful role in our quality of sleep.
In our wake state our bodies rely on cortisol otherwise known as the 'stress hormone' to keep us going, giving us the energy to rise to physical and mental challenges and accomplish our tasks.
For sleep, crucially our cortisol levels need to drop and our relaxation hormones melatonin, testosterone and progesterone need to kick in. When these hormones are in imbalance or decline we can have trouble sleeping.
With age our natural production of these hormones decreases, for women this affects melatonin in particular while both men and women are equally affected by lower levels of testosterone.
MELATONIN is secreted by the Pineal Gland and is the hormone that intitally helps us fall asleep.
PROGESTERONE is needed for good sleep quality- it supports relaxation, decreases stress, promotes a calm and balanced state and eases pain. Low levels of this hormone therefore have an impact on how well one sleeps and women are more likely to be affected by low progesterone which decreases as we go through perimenopause and menopause and largely contributes to why so many women have sleep issues during and post mid-life years.
Progesterone activates GABA which is an amino acid that triggers relaxation, pain relief, anxiety and stress reduction, lowering blood presssre and encourages sleep.
Low GABA levels can lead to anxiety, chronic stress, depression, memory and concentration problems, muscle pain, headache, insomnia and other issues which can affect sleep.
Studies suggest that GABA levels can be up to 30% lower in sufferers of insomnia than in nonsufferers. Supplementing with magnesium which is rich in GABA often makes a difference in such cases. This is why you will find magnesium as one of the natural powerful actives in our Aromatherapy Pillowmist.
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SLEEP & LIFESTYLE
MSc (Hons) MCSP HCPC AACP - Physiotherapist/ Facial Acupuncturist & Independent Prescriber.
'Any kind of physical or emotional trauma or stress can lead to disruptions in sleep. Often as a physiotherapist people might come to me for some sort of localised pain that is actually more to do with emotion than an actual blunt impact to the body which the body needs to process.
Creating a structured bed time routine and calming sleep environment creates the mental and physiological haven that supports truly restorative sleep through which the body can build defense and recuperate.'
Tension and inflammation are universal factors that play a role in pain and pain response. Easing tension and calming inflammation bring not just short term benefit but provide long-term sustained improvement to health when induced and managed correctly.
Since sleep is the master conduit balancing the myriad of internal systems that enable the body to effectively cope with stress and pain, when restful sleep is not regularly acheived the bodies self-defence mechanisms can be severely impaired.
This then not only prevents healing from any existing pain (again whether emotional or physical) but can actually lead to pain as the body has no opportunity to alleviate tension and power down stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin.
Natural techniques and botanical support that induces relaxation is often truly life-changing in such instances. My holistic approach to physiotherapy means that I normally look at what is happening in my clients environment and life to assess where pain might be coming from aside from any obvious event or accident.
Botanically supporting a state of relaxation can be extremely beneficial when the bodies resources are depleted. Taking a bath or shower with tension-releasing components active in essential oils such as Lavender and Jasmine has proven considerably effective for many of my clients. Try a few drops of the JA selfcare Aromatherapy Body Wash
inhaling this from your hands before lathering as you shower water this releases the active terpenes which research tells us only take two seconds to enter our olfactory system and be processed by the body.
You can further benefit from this after or instead of showering with a soothing layer of the JA Selfcare Aromatherapy Body Lotion
to your shower or rub your pulsepoints with the Aromatherapy Pulse roller
before you settle down to sleep.
Detoxifying the sleep environment and promoting a space for calm also provides a haven for deep restful repose which you can easily acheive with dispersing the effective Aromatherapy Diffuser Oil
to create a therapeutically nurturing atmosphere.
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GENETICS & SLEEP
BSc (Hons) Medical Genetics.
'How genetics governs sleep is truly fascinating.
Whereas its the same hormones that will affect everyone's sleep, our unique genetic makeup influences when, how well and how much we individually need to sleep.
Several sleep disorders have a genetic component such as grinding your teeth in your sleep, known as 'Bruxism', dropping off to sleep literally from one second to the next with Narcolepsy, Sleep Apnea in which milliseconds of arrested breathing could actually prove fatal or restless leg syndrome with stress-related involuntary muscle twitching. Sleep and sleep disorders are governed by a few things -
GENOTYPE - the copy of genes we get from each parent - but also our
PHENOTYPE - the genes in our body that actually express - and our
CHRONOTYPE - the way your body is programmed to sleep - such as your sleep onset (how long it takes for you to fall asleep) whether you are wired to go to bed and wake up early or you switch off and rise later, also the hours you need are naturally determined.
However adopting good habits and sticking to a structured sleep routine can help prevent negative components - to which you might be genetically prone - from expressing.
So while we may have a bad sleep phenotype we might be sleeping well because we have good sleep habits such as meditation or great sleep hygeine.
Conversely, taxing schedules and charged lifestyles can not only create the environment to trigger poor gene exression it may also simply have us completely out of sync with our natural chronotype.
You might be intrinsically wired to wake up later, perform best in the afternoon and settle to rest after midnight. But if your job demands you rise at 6am, start work at 8am and make important pitches before midday you are constantly going against your internal grain.
Where a career change may not be a viable option, a healthy sleep routine with essential physiological support with restorative and anti-inflammatory benefits of our active aromatherapeutic botanicals to help naturally rebalance can be vital to underscore every step of the winddown process and can have far reaching prositive impact to effecively maintain good quality levels of sleep.
This is where our effective JA Aromatherapy products really come into their own.'
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