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Why your body needs sleep and how to get more of it naturally

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“No day is so bad it can’t be fixed with a nap.” – Carrie Snow

“A well spent day brings happy sleep.” – Leonardo da Vinci

“Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” – Thomas Dekker

You may feel that each of the above quotes is an exaggeration when it comes to the power of sleep. But sleep can be really underestimated.  It is vital for our overall health and getting enough good quality sleep will make us more productive, happy and ready to tackle whatever our busy working day has in store for us. 

It’s impossible to deny that a good night’s sleep is a powerful thing. There is nothing that compares to waking up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated after a solid 8 hours of shut-eye.  Having two young children has definitely made me realise, even more, just how important sleep is.  Being woken in the night, even once, and having a slightly disturbed sleep can really affect my mood and productivity the next day.  Luckily as my children are now four and seven these occurrences are becoming rarer, but in some ways that makes me notice it even more when I do have a bad night’s sleep.

Not only does getting enough sleep put you in a better mood, but it can also do wonders for your health and work balance.  I am guilty of working late into the night as I have such a busy workload running my own businesses.  Working from home also means there’s no definite cut off from work.  I can stay up and finish those emails or type that article. 

However, unless the deadlines are super urgent it’s usually best for me to get a good night’s sleep instead and leave the work until the morning.  Working late constantly and getting less sleep only sets me up to be less efficient the next day as I’m overtired, find it hard to focus and have a low mood.  It’s good to be strict and set a bedtime routine that allows plenty of sleep and allows you to work much more productively the next day.

Failing to get enough sleep can be extremely detrimental to health, especially if you make a habit of it.  In this blog post you can learn all about the sleeping process, why sleep is important, and how to promote healthier sleeping habits.

Why is sleep important?

There are many factors in determining the health of an individual, and one of the main factors is sleep. No matter your age, sleep plays a vital role in overall well-being. Getting enough sleep is important not only for physical health but also for an individual’s mental state. Studies even show that getting a proper amount of sleep each night can greatly boost your quality of life.

Let’s talk more specifically about why sleep is important. For infants, children, and teenagers, sleep allows the body and brain to become fully developed. This is why babies sleep an average of 14 to 17 hours per day. That amount of time decreases as we get older, but teens should still be getting a solid 9 hours every night. For adults, sleep plays a different role.

Sleep allows the immune system to perform as it should

The adult body uses sleep as a maintenance tool. Enough sleep means that you’ll be able to maintain your mental capacity and brain health as well as physical well-being. Not enough, on the other hand, can have a negative effect on the immune system. This means that the immune system will not be able to keep up, and it ups the chances of sickness - both physically and mentally.

What happens to the body when you sleep?

You might assume that the body and brain shut down entirely when you sleep. Actually, just the opposite is true. Although a person is technically unconscious during sleep, the brain is more active than ever. Even the body is staying active by performing certain functions that are only possible while a human is resting.

Non-REM vs REM sleep cycle

During most of a sleep session, the human brain and body remain in a state called “non-REM”.  WebMD says that during the phases of the non-REM cycle, “your brain becomes less responsive to the outside world, and it gets harder to wake up. Your thoughts and most body functions slow down.” Scientists believe that it is during NREM sleep that short term memories are turned into long term memories and stored away.

It’s likely that you’re more familiar with the REM sleep cycle. REM, short for rapid eye movement, is when you’re most likely to be dreaming. During this phase, the eyes dart back and forth, mainly because the brain is extremely active. Not only do you dream during REM, but you also experience a rise in blood pressure, body temperature, and breathing rate.

Scientists believe that the REM cycle is essentially a time for the brain to “take out the trash” per se. The brain works in overdrive to clear out any information that isn’t needed. It’s also working because this is the time to repair. Sleep is essential for repairing cells, muscles, and organs.

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What happens when you don’t get enough sleep?

Many people don’t realise the harm that sleep deprivation can cause. But lack of sleep can actually be extremely detrimental to health. It’s no surprise that it can lead to a weakened immune system, but that is the least of your worries. Not only does the immune system suffer, but so does the rest of the body, including the heart.

The chance of developing heart disease or experiencing a stroke significantly increases with a regular lack of sleep. On top of that, the risk of multiple types of cancer increases without proper sleep. The risk of diabetes increases, mainly because sleep helps with maintaining a healthy weight. Without it, you can expect to pack on the pounds.

These are things that you can expect to happen down the road, but you’ll also experience negative impacts on your daily life right now when you fail to give your body and brain the sleep it needs. Without sleep, you’ll forget things quickly, you won’t be quick on your toes, and you might even experience a loss of sex drive.

Poor sleep can negatively impact your work. Not only will it affect your work attendance if a lack of sleep means your immune system is weakened and you regularly get ill, but you’ll also have poor concentration, fatigue, a lack of motivation and poor memory skills.  This means you’ll not be able to perform your best at work or when running your own business.  To be successful it’s vital that you get the right amount of sleep and that this sleep is good quality.

What natural products help you sleep better?

Many people suffering from insomnia or other sleep disorders immediately turn to prescription drugs like Xanax and Klonopin. Although these drugs are highly effective in knocking you out for the night, they come with the risk of harmful side effects. Do what you can to take more holistic measures to promote healthier sleeping habits and naturally improve your sleep quality rather than relying on chemicals.

First and foremost, make healthier changes to your lifestyle. This includes eating more whole foods and cutting back on processed ones. Try a new workout routine, give meditation a chance, and cut back on your screen time in the evenings.  If you’re not exercising already, then it’s time to start.  Exercising each day and raising your heart rate for at least 30 minutes will work wonders for improving your sleep quality.

If these things don’t help you to sleep soundly, there are a few holistic medical alternatives to try.  Here are some examples of the natural supplements available that could improve your sleep:

·         CBD oil

CBD oil is gaining a reputation for its sleep-inducing properties. This is mainly because CBD has the tendency to relieve pain and anxiety, which are two common causes for lack of sleep.  In short, CBD is a popular natural health remedy that can help relieve a number of health complaints.  CBD is short for cannabidiol with is just one of hundreds of cannabinoids that comes from the cannabis plant.  Unlike the cannabinoid THC, CBD does not have any psychoactive properties so it won’t make you high!

Another possibility for improving sleep is delta 8 which does contain THC.  The article says 'Delta-8 THC is a compound derived from cannabis plants, famous for a multitude of medicinal properties. From its ability to reduce pain, anxiety, and depression to improving sleep quality, Delta-8 THC is a reliable and effective treatment for many disorders.'  If CBD doesn't have the desired effect for you, then delta 8 might, just check it's legal in your country first.  It seems to be legal in some states in the US, not all of them, and it's not currently legal in the UK. 

·         Melatonin

Melatonin is another all-natural solution for sleep. This is actually a naturally-occurring compound found within the body, one that is more active during night time hours. Some people produce more melatonin than others, so if you are the latter, you might consider taking a melatonin supplement before bed.

·         Lavender

Lavender can work as an anxiety reliever and a sedative to promote restful sleep with its calming properties.  Use lavender essential oils in a bath before bed, add some essential oil drops to your pillow or use a lavender diffuser before bed.

·         Herbal teas

It’s well known that we shouldn’t drink caffeine late in the day as it can affect our sleep, but how many of us honestly follow this advice?  I have definitely noticed in recent years that consuming any caffeine beverages after 3pm will drastically reduce my chances of drifting off to sleep easily.  I’ll lay awake in bed for 1-2 hours longer than usual just because of a caffeine drink I had late in the afternoon.  It really can make a difference.  Instead, choose herbal teas in the afternoon if craving a warm drink and there are even several herbal teas designed for the evening that help you sleep.

Final word

Whatever you choose to do in order to get a good night’s sleep, just remember its importance. Never underestimate the powers of a good night’s sleep and do whatever you can to get at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night.