We all know getting enough quality sleep is important. Sleep is a foundation for wellbeing – it's up there with diet and exercise. Healthy sleep has a flow on effect for all areas of our health – mental health, energy levels, stress resilience, ageing, and even weight management (to name a few).
Whether it’s getting to sleep or staying asleep - what works for you will depend on your unique sleep needs. Our naturopath Rebecca shares sleep hygiene tips and supplements to support every type of sleeper.
Because when you sleep well, you live well (yes, it’s cheesy but true).
How much sleep do we need?
It varies, but for adults a nightly 8 hours is a good target.
- Adults = 7-9 hours
- Teens = 8-10 hours
- School age kids = 9-11 hours
- Toddlers = 11-14 hours
- Newborns=14-17 hours (makes sense considering all the growing they’re doing)
Getting enough sleep has a huge impact on how well our bodies function during our waking hours.
Why sleep matters
Look at someone sleeping and it’s easy to think there's not much going on in there. But as we sleep, completely unaware, our body and brain undergo a full program of rebooting and reconditioning tasks. The more we can do to support our body with enough quality sleep the better it can perform these tasks.
5 benefits research links with healthy sleep
- Emotion regulation – being on an even keel and not overreacting is linked with having enough sleep
- Buoyant mood – sleep and mood go hand in hand, studies show a direct and two-way relationship here, they need each other
- Memory – we process new information during sleep - our brains need sleep reconditioning time for learning and knowledge retention
- Weight management – sufficient sleep helps regulate appetite and is linked to healthy body weight
- Immune health – while we sleep our immune system undergoes the re-booting process needed for balanced and effective immune function.
It’s not just sleep quantity. Quality counts too.
Achieving deep restorative sleep is a key part of healthy sleep. If you get your recommended amount but feel tired or unrefreshed upon waking, one possibility is that you're not reaching deep sleep phases. We go through phases of sleep, including deep sleep and REM (Rapid Eye Movement), our body performs different reboot tasks during each - for example scientists found being deprived of REM sleep affects learning and retention.
5 tips to streamline your sleep
1. Banish blue light
Try to avoid blue light in the two hours before sleep time. Screens emit blue light which can interfere with melatonin, the hormone we need to fall asleep. Some LED lights emit blue light too, so opt for warm white bulbs where possible, especially in the bedroom. Try a blue light filter setting on your device, or an app like Twilight.
2. Watch your caffeine Coffee and tea can leave us alert and vigilant when we need to feel sleepy. Choose your desired sleep time and count back six hours – that’s the ideal cut off time according to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. You could try a herbal tea instead.
3. Stress buffering
Stress has a massive impact on sleep. If you can manage stress then sleeping gets a whole lot easier, because our brain has two settings - stress mode, and sleep mode. It won't run on both settings at once. Fortunately, we can help our bodies switch to sleep mode. Try our next two tips to ease everyday stress. Adaptogen herbs can also support the body’s natural stress buffering process.
4. Exercise for better sleep
Exercise helps with stress buffering. 30 mins is all it takes; it increases sleep quality (deep sleep) and helps sleep onset (getting to sleep). How about a brisk walk, bike riding, dancing, yoga, or a gym class? Try getting a friend involved to help motivate and encourage each other.
5. Breathing exercises or meditation
This helps with stress buffering too. Start with ten breaths - slow in, slow out. It engages the vagal nerve, the one that switches us to sleep mode. At first it might seem weird but push through it, accept that your mind will have some resistance to switching off. It gets easier with practice too. You may like to consider using a recorded guided meditation or an app like HeadSpace or Calm.
What your sleep cycle could be telling you
There are three key areas of sleep, sleep onset (getting to sleep), sleep maintenance (staying asleep) and sleep quality (achieving restorative sleep). If sleep is an area you’d like to work on, having a strategy can help. Knowing which of the three areas you’d like to support with helps when building your sleep strategy. And you might not need a full overhaul - maybe just a few tweaks.
Support for every type of sleeper:
For the restless sleeper:
BioBalance Sleep Cycle Restore
If you wake during the night, you may need support for the body's natural process of staying asleep, scientists call it ‘sleep maintenance'. We need quality sleep where we reach deep sleep and REM, and exercise helps with this. Science shows that Magnesium, 5-HTP and Tart Cherry extract all support healthy sleep duration and sleep quality. BioBalance Sleep Cycle Restore, contains all three as well as Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) to support a calm mind, it can be taken before bedtime to support a good night's sleep and sleep maintenance.
For the tired riser:
Clinicians REM Sleep
Do you wake up feeling less energised than you’d like even when you’ve slept for 8+ hours? Does bouncing out of bed in the morning sound like a dream despite having no troubles falling asleep? A great place to start is deep breathing or meditation before bed. And you may like to consider supporting sleep quality with a supplement. Clinicians REM Sleep, is a sleep support supplement with 5-HTP and Magnesium, which have been shown to support healthy sleep quality and deep sleep. Skullcap ( Scutellaria lateriflora) and Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) are also included to work synergistically so you can wake feeling refreshed.
For the night owl:
Organic India Peaceful Sleep
If your mind’s a whirring hamster wheel at bedtime, or you find you don’t easily settle into sleep, creating an enjoyable wind-down ritual can help. Start settling down at least 30 mins before bedtime, get comfy, have a relaxing drink, avoid work or chores. Watching caffeine is a big one for night owls. Taking your sleep support supplements around 30 mins to one hour before sleep helps you get the best out of them and is a way to signal to ourselves that it’s settle down time. Organic India Peaceful Sleep is made from a blend of three key Ayurvedic herbs traditionally used to support sound sleep. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) supports the body’s natural stress response, Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) offers support for the nervous system and a sound sleep, and Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) supports our stress response to help calm the mind for a deep sleep. Take two capsules at wind down time.
For the shift worker:
Radiance Tart Cherry Sleep Plus
Changing the times that you usually sleep can unfortunately disrupt the natural sleep rhythm that your body runs on. Our circadian rhythm has cycles of hormones that tell us when to be awake and when to snooze. Cortisol is a morning wakeful hormone and melatonin is the sleepy hormone that helps us slumber. Radiance Tart Cherry Sleep Plus, has natural Tart Cherry extract which contains naturally high levels of phytonutrients shown to support healthy sleep cycles. Tart Cherry is particularly popular for people who do shift work. It also contains Ziziphus (Ziziphus jujube) which supports healthy restful sleep.
For the prostate waker:
Nature's Way Saw Palmetto
If you’re looking to support prostate health and getting up to go to the bathroom during the night disrupts your sleep, your best option could be a prostate support supplement rather than sleep support. It will be a more targeted approach. Nature's Way Saw Palmetto Standardised contains a high strength extract of Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) whichhas been scientifically researched to support prostate tissue health and healthy urine flow, consistency is key here, so aim to take 2 soft gels each day.
For the over-heater:
KiwiHerb Meno Balance
Are you experiencing menopause and temperature changes that lead to night time waking? Rather than looking at sleep support supplements, your best approach may be products that support healthy temperature and hormone balance. KiwiHerb Meno Balance features Sage (Salvia officinalis), which has been shown to support menopausal temperature fluctuations, this product is very popular with people going through ‘the change’.
For the stressed sleeper:
Artemis Deep Sleep
Do you typically sleep well but sometimes need sleep support with extra life pressures? Stress buffering techniques are especially suited for you. Trying a combination of adaptogen and sleep support herbs is a good approach. Artemis Deep Sleep liquid features Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) as an adaptogen which supports the body’s response to stress and has a flow on effect for healthy sleep support. This is blended with herbs that support healthy relaxation to fall asleep easily like Kava (Piper methysticum), Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) and Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora). Artemis offers excellent quality herbal formulas which make them an easy choice.
Always read the label and use as directed. Vitamins and minerals are supplementary to and not a replacement for a balanced diet. If symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional.
- BioBalance, Collingwood
- Clinicians (Douglas), Auckland
- Organic India (Good Health Foods), Auckland
- Radiance (Pharmacare), Auckland
- Artemis, Dunedin