We all know the importance of sleep – we’ve heard about the recommended 7-8 hours, the REM (rapid eye movement) sleep stage, and the need for comfort before bed. But what happens when we have trouble sleeping? Tossing and turning, the frustration of an active mind, and endless to-do lists can leave us desperate for rest.
In this week’s expert series, we dive into the importance of sleep, explore what happens to our bodies during slumber, and discuss common sleep problems. Plus, we share practical tips to improve your sleep routine, including the use of our aguulp sleep supplement.
What is the importance of sleep?
Sleep is a vital biological function and is essential to physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. It is a time when the body rebuilds and heals itself, where cellular damage is repaired and new cells are made. For children, quality sleep is necessary for growth and development. It also plays an important role in maintaining all aspects of brain function in both adults and children, such as the ability to think clearly, be vigilant and alert, and to sustain our ability to learn, store memories and maintain focus and concentration.
Lack of sleep can have a significant effect on wellbeing and overall health. Short term sleep problems have been linked to low mood, poor work performance, an inability to cope with stress, and even reduced immunity which can make us more susceptible to illness and delay recovery times.
Chronic (long-term) sleep problems are associated with an increased risk of developing health conditions and can contribute to the development of many chronic diseases and disorders such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, and depression. Furthermore, lack of sleep has been linked with weight gain and obesity.
It is estimated that up to 30% of all adults suffer with insomnia (inability to sleep) or some form of sleep disorder. This may include difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep and/or waking up too early. Studies suggest that women are more likely to be affected by sleep problems at some point in their lives, than men.
Why can’t I sleep?
Most of us will have the occasional night when we don’t sleep well which could come down to a wide variety of reasons. Some of the most common factors include:
Stress/anxiety/tension: During periods of stress, large amounts of stress hormones (namely cortisol) are produced. These can interfere with the production of both the sleep hormone melatonin and the normal circadian rhythm. It has also been shown that stress alters the composition of gut bacteria which in turn can affect our sleep cycle and, therefore, our quality of sleep.
Irregular sleeping hours: Working shifts can play havoc with natural sleep cycles and the circadian rhythm leading to a prolonged lack of sleep.
Excessive caffeine intake (especially close to bedtime): Blood sugar levels can result in trouble sleeping for a few reasons. The kidneys will overcompensate for high blood sugars by making the body urinate more often, which disrupts sleep. High blood sugar can also lead to headaches, fatigue and a continued thirst.
Fluctuating blood sugar levels: Blood sugar levels can result in trouble sleeping for a few reasons. The kidneys will overcompensate for high blood sugars by making the body urinate more often, which disrupts sleep. High blood sugar can also lead to headaches, fatigue and a continued thirst.
Hormone imbalances: Imbalanced hormones can lead to insulin resistance, oestrogen dominance, and reduced testosterone, adrenal and thyroid dysfunction. It can also reduce serotonin production. Menopausal women for example may have disturbed sleep due to hormone imbalances causing symptoms like night sweats and hot flushes, which can make it hard to get good quality sleep. There is also some evidence that hypothyroidism may affect slow wave sleep (which is particularly restorative). Research however is limited and more studies are needed to confirm this. Furthermore, research also suggests testosterone production is increased during sleep and low levels of testosterone are associated with reduced quality sleep.
Dysbiosis (imbalance of gut bacteria):
Research into the relationship between the gut microbiome and sleep has been growing over recent years, and it is now known that not only does our sleep affect our microbiome, but our microbiome also affects our sleep. Basically, the bacteria we have residing in our gut has an effect on how we sleep, and our circadian rhythm (sleep cycle) has an effect on our gut bacteria.
Beneficial bacteria are known to be involved in the production of neurotransmitters and hormones, such as serotonin and melatonin. These hormones help to regulate many functions in the body, including sleep, mood and appetite. Having an imbalance or the wrong types of microbes in the gut (known as dysbiosis) can interfere with serotonin production and result in low levels. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to many disorders, including mood disorders, ongoing sleep problems and obesity.
On the other hand, it has also been shown that sleep deprivation is associated with changes to the composition of the gut microbiome, and has been linked with metabolic conditions such as obesity and diabetes, and cognitive decline. Having the right types of gut bacteria and greater diversity of strains has been shown to be associated with better sleep patterns. Taking a gut health supplement can help achieve the right balance of gut bacteria.
Eating too close to bedtime: Our digestive system slows at night, so if we are eating later it is harder to digest food, potentially leading to a lack of sleep as the body’s digestive system is having to work hard when it should be winding down. In addition, certain foods may cause heartburn and/ or indigestion affecting ability to fall asleep.
Medication: Some medications, for example steroid medications, may cause sleep problems as they have a stimulant effect. For many medications, insomnia may be listed as a potential side effect.
Pain or discomfort: Being in pain or experiencing discomfort for any reason can make it harder to get a good quality sleep. Having a condition like IBD for example, can make it harder to fall asleep and result in regular trouble sleeping.
Being over stimulated: Blue light from devices like phones and tablets raises cortisol, keeping your mind active and suppressing the secretion of your sleep hormone, melatonin. Not only might you find it harder to drift off, but your quality sleep is likely to be less overall.
The importance of sleep on everyday life
Getting adequate amounts of sleep helps us to feel revitalised, refreshed and energised, ready to take on the challenges of the day. Lack of sleep or interrupted sleep can have a profound effect on our day to day lives and a significant impact on the following;
Energy levels: Getting adequate amounts of sleep helps us to feel revitalised, refreshed and energised, ready to take on the challenges of the day. Lack of sleep or interrupted sleep can have a profound effect on our day to day lives and a significant impact on the following;
Cognitive function: Sleep deprivation has been associated with cognitive decline and can cause short-term memory, slower reaction time, reduced alertness and vigilance. Furthermore, researchers have found a link between poor quality sleep and age-related cognitive decline and the role of the microbiome. Studies have shown that higher sleep quality is associated with better cognitive function and higher levels of beneficial gut microbes.
Emotional wellbeing: Disrupted sleep or lack of sleep can have a significant impact on our mood and the way we feel. It can cause irritability and reduce our ability to cope and deal with everyday tasks. If left unaddressed, lack of sleep can lead to stress, anxiety and depression which can have a profound impact on our quality of life, both on a daily basis and long term.
Work performance: Trouble sleeping may have an impact on work performance and has actually been associated with absenteeism, lost productivity and an increase in work-related accidents. Lack of sleep can affect our ability to think clearly (known as brain fog) and many other aspects of cognitive functions including attention, concentration and decision making.
Dietary and lifestyle choices: Sleep problems may lead us to make poor dietary and lifestyle choices and pick up bad habits. Since poor quality sleep can have a negative effect on blood sugar levels which can leave us feeling tired with no energy, the body will naturally crave foods that are high in sugar or carbohydrates for quick energy release. This leaves us reaching for stimulants such as caffeine to keep us going through the day, which then results in more trouble sleeping.
Sedentary lifestyle: If we are lacking energy and feeling tired due to lack of sleep, this will likely affect our desire or willingness to participate in, or adhere to, daily exercise regimes that we usually have in place. Lack of exercise can lead to a wide range of health problems and have a knock-on effect on weight maintenance and overall energy levels.
Alcohol dependency: Some people use alcohol as a relaxant to help them unwind. Whilst this can help in the short term as alcohol can help initiate sleep, it can cause poor quality sleep due to the negative effects of alcohol on blood sugar fluctuations that interrupt sleep.It can also result in a hangover the next day, creating more tiredness and lethargy, and be bad for overall gut health. Consuming alcohol regularly in order to help you sleep can become habitual and lead to alcohol dependence. Yoube left with a hangover
Impaired Immunity: The importance of sleep is particularly significant when it comes to immunity. Lack of sleep can cause immune system imbalances, leading to increased susceptibility to illness and infections. This is why it is more common for those who are frequently tired and ‘run down’ due to lack of sleep, to find that they are prone to frequent coughs and colds and other minor illnesses.
What is quality sleep?
The recommended amount of sleep varies according to age range. For adults the recommendation is between seven and nine hours every night. Babies, children and teens need significantly more sleep than adults to support their rapid mental and physical development and most people will need less sleep as they get older.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 2 out of every 10 people sleep less than 6 hours a night!
What to avoid for better sleep
We all know that feeling when you’re tossing and turning desperately trying to get to sleep. However, here is a list of some of the worst things you can do when you’re trying to wind down for sleep;
Use of digital device/s: Devices such as smartphones, laptops and computers emit blue light which is very stimulating to the brain, making it harder to wind down and get good quality sleep.
Caffeine: Drinks like tea, coffee and fizzy drinks containing caffeine will have a stimulating effect on the brain and the nervous system so are best limited or avoided completely if you’re currently having trouble sleeping.
Smoking: Nicotine is a stimulant to the central nervous system and since nicotine withdrawal occurs during the night it can make it harder to get to sleep and stay asleep.
Things you can do instead that help combat sleep problems are relaxing and calming activities, such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, taking a warm bath and/ or practising breathing exercises.
Tips for better sleep
There are many things that you can do in advance to help prepare you for a good night’s sleep. It is very important to try and establish a good sleep routine and implement good ‘sleep hygiene’ to prevent sleep problems and to support the body’s natural rhythms, going forward. Here we look at some of the things that may be helpful;
Relaxation close to bedtime: This is important because stress hormones produced by activity are allowed to decrease. At the same time, the body starts to ramp up the release of serotonin and other brain chemicals that initiate sleep. Reading a book, listening to soothing music or taking a warm bath are examples of ways to help you relax, resulting in better sleep. Gentle exercises such as meditation, Pilates or breathing exercises can also be helpful to induce restful and quality sleep.
Diet: A good diet can have a profound impact on sleep quality and quantity. Certain types of food are known to promote better sleep while others inhibit it.
- Foods rich in the amino acid tryptophan support the production of the mood boosting and sleep-inducing hormone serotonin. Good sources of tryptophan include; turkey, brown rice, oats, cottage cheese, mangoes and bananas. Tryptophan is even more effective when paired with healthy complex carbohydrates such as wholegrains.
- Fatty and spicy or rich foods are best avoided in the evening as they can be irritating to the digestive tract. They can also be difficult to digest and cause symptoms of indigestion and heartburn, which keeps you awake.
- Sugar, and foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, should be avoided if you want better sleep. They cause blood sugar fluctuations which are linked to lack of sleep.
Timing of meals is also very relevant. Large meals should be avoided close to bedtime, leaving at least 3 hours in between. As our digestive system slows at night it is harder to digest late meals. Even if we fall asleep we may wake and have poor quality sleep while our digestive system is at work.
Exercise: It’s wise to avoid intense physical exercise immediately after dinner or close to bedtime. This is because certain types of exercise can be over stimulating to the digestive system and the nervous system. Instead, opt for gentle relaxing exercises such as mediation or Pilates which help you unwind down and discover better sleep.
Cut down on caffeine: Tips for better sleep don’t come much more obvious than reducing caffeine in the hours leading up to bedtime. For some people it can take 12 hours to metabolise caffeine. This also includes any medication that contains caffeine e.g. headache tablets. If prescription medication contains caffeine, discuss with the G.P. before stopping any medication.
Avoid too many liquids in the evening: This can cause lack of sleep due to waking up to go to the loo in the middle of the night.
Cut down on alcohol: Alcohol impairs sleep in a number of ways. Firstly, it releases adrenaline, a stimulating hormone designed to prepare the body for fight or flight. Second, it impairs the transport of tryptophan into the brain – an important precursor of serotonin. Thirdly, it may adversely impact blood sugar balance. Give the booze a miss if you want better sleep.
Herbal Tea: Drinking peppermint or chamomile herbal teas in the hours leading up to bedtime can help promote healthy digestion and better sleep that’s much more restful and restorative.
Minerals: Calcium and magnesium are two very important minerals needed for nervous system function which, in turn, can be helpful for sleep. To increase intake of these minerals in your diet, increase foods rich in these nutrients. Nuts, seeds, wholegrains and dark green leafy vegetables can all help to promote sleep.
How can aguulp help with better sleep?
aguulp Sleep has been specifically formulated to help promote healthy sleep patterns and may be useful to those who are experiencing sleep problems. It does this with the inclusion of several beneficial ingredients:
- L-Tryptophan: aguulp sleep contains the amino acid L-tryptophan which acts as a precursor to serotonin. Serotonin is a brain chemical that is needed for the regulation of sleep and mood. This makes L-tryphothan a great ingredient in supplements for better sleep
- L-theanine: L-theanine is an amino acid that has been shown to help reduce sleep disorders and to aid relaxation and reduce anxiety by increasing alpha brain waves. It has also been shown to increase GABA levels, the calming brain neurotransmitter. A little-known amino acid, L-Theanine is found in large quantities in tea, particularly green tea. However, it is best taken in supplement form rather than in tea if you are using it to help stimulate better sleep, as tea contains caffeine. Taking aguulp sleep a couple of hours before bed, allows theanine to get to work, reducing mental and physical stress and helping to promote relaxation and harmony
- Chamomile: this product contains ingredients such as chamomile extract and lemon balm. Both of which are widely regarded for their relaxing properties and sleep-inducing effects
- Probiotics: The Symbiotic product is formulated to help rebalance and restore the microbiota. As we have learned in this article, probiotics play a beneficial role in improving our gut health and sleep. Studies have shown that both pre and probiotics have a positive impact on quality sleep and cognitive function because they are involved in the production of serotonin. Therefore, opting for a probiotic and prebiotic in combination could provide extra benefits that lead to better sleep and the kind of quality sleep we all deserve
aguulp sleep contains all of the great ingredients we talked about above to help you get a better sleep and wake up feel energised. It comes in a convenient single sachet and is best taken before you go to bed. It has a 98% absorption rate too so it gets all the good stuff into your bloodstream quickly and effectively for a sound night’s sleep. Try a one off purchase or opt for our subscribe and save offer.
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