The Importance of Sleep for Our Health
The number of hours that you sleep do not really matter as they vary from person to person. What matters is the quality of sleep. Good (or sufficient) sleep is what you get if you fall asleep quickly when you are ready, wake up when you want to, feeling renewed and recharged and ready for the day. You also remain bright, alert and happy until your next sleep time. Anyway, why is sleep important?
Good Sleep Regulates Our Hormones
Sleep is the time when a lot of our hormones that control body processes (such as energy balance, response to stress, metabolism, reproduction, and development) are replenished by the body. (Hormone Health Network). When we get sufficient sleep, we have sufficient time to replace our hormones. As a result, we can have plenty of energy, optimal health, good appetite, immunity, and coping abilities.
Good Sleep Boosts the Immune System
Generally, you must have noticed that when you sleep well most of the time, you can easily resist most of the infections going around. That is a sure sign that the immune system is functioning properly.
Good Sleep is Good for Emotional Health
It is important to get good sleep because it helps with emotions and mood regulation. When the body and mind are rested, toxins have been eliminated and the hormones are in balance because of good sleep, you will feel good all day. That means you can perform your duties well and you get along with others well and that spells happiness.
Good Sleep is Good for Youthful Looks
There is a good reason why it is called “beauty sleep.” When you sleep, your body has a chance to repair itself using the nutrients that you ate during the day. The body also excretes all waste materials through the bowels, the bladder, the lungs and the skin. The result is improved health. Another benefit is that sleep relaxes the body and the mind, temporarily getting rid of stress and lowering the production of cortisol. You wake up feeling fresh in the morning ready to start the day again. By lowering stress each day through sleep, you reduce the harmful effects of stress and you retain youthful looks in the long term.
Good Sleep Improves Concentration and Productivity
Sleep refreshes and relaxes the mind which is important for concentration, productivity and performance. This prevents accidents and injury in people who have to drive long distances or operate machinery. It also enhances productivity.
Indeed, sleep is very important for physical, emotional and mental health. Everyone must make sure they get sufficient sleep every day or at least catch up during the weekend for the body to recover.
The Effects of Insomnia
If you lie in bed awake, counting sheep and tossing and turning, and then fall asleep many hours later, only to be woken up a few hours later by the ringing of the alarm, and you do not want to get up because you are still tired, you can say you have had poor sleep. Although short term insomnia is stressful and unpleasant, it is not necessarily harmful because we have developed resilience thanks to looking after babies. However, chronic insomnia causes a lot of problems. Just by not sleeping well, people wake up feeling stiff the following day as they fail to relax the body at night. That makes life tough the following day.
Insomnia causes or increases stress levels. It is difficult to relax the mind when you fail to sleep. The mind basically goes into overdrive, churning out thoughts throughout the night, increasing stress levels and the production of stress hormones.
When you fail to sleep, you disturb the endocrine system and you cannot replenish the hormones that you need for normal function of the body. This alone can lead to hormone imbalance and illness if it continues for a long time. In the short term, it is easy to have a bad mood. If you have ever said of someone, “I guess he got up on the wrong side of the bed,” then you know the effects that lack of sleep may have on the mood. The hormone imbalance can also cause depression and you may feel like you have no control and that alone can lead to even more stress. Low motivation and poor memory are the other mental/emotional problems that you might have.
In the short term you will naturally suffer from daytime sleepiness when you haven’t slept well. This is accompanied by decreased concentration particularly when you are in monotonous situations and that makes driving or operating machinery very dangerous. In the long term you will feel tired all the time.
During the hours of sleep the body has a chance to excrete toxins from all the organs and systems. But, when you fail to sleep well, the body cannot effectively excrete toxins from the cells, so you tend to retain a lot of harmful stuff in the body, leading to illness.
Your skin and your body can age faster when you have chronic insomnia. A new study that was organized by Esté Lauder found that lack of sleep can lead to early aging of the skin. One reason is stress. When you go to sleep, your stress levels go down and cortisol levels also subside, allowing your skin to regenerate itself. Another reason is that when you fail to sleep, your cortisol levels remain high or increase and it interferes with the way the body heals and regenerates. In fact, high levels of cortisol contribute to collagen breakdown, leading to premature aging. The third reason is that when you do not sleep well, the body does not make as much human growth hormone as it should and it cannot produce new, fresh cells to fix the previous day’s damage. Again, that leads to premature aging. This implies that in order to prevent premature aging, resolve your insomnia fast.
Insomnia impairs your immunity and you can easily catch infections. Scientists have confirmed this link between insomnia and low immunity. (Savard & others, 2003).
What are the causes of insomnia?
It is obvious that sleep is a critical component of health and we endanger our lives and the lives of others and reduce our health levels when we fail to sleep well. Sleep is so natural, that normally it happens on its own in the evening after a long day’s work. Isn’t it amazing that it can be such a difficult state to achieve sometimes? Let us look at the common causes of insomnia as these point to the solutions.
Stress is the major cause of insomnia. When a person is concerned about health, family, loss of a loved one, divorce, finances, work or school, the mind gets very busy at night, trying to look for solutions.
Your work or travel schedule can disrupt the circadian rhythm that guides the sleep-wake cycle, body temperature and metabolism. This can lead to insomnia. Therefore, when a work project requires you to work late shifts or early shifts and to frequently change shifts, this can mess up your circadian rhythm and make it difficult to sleep. The same happens when you travel across many time zones.
Poor sleep habits also affect sleep leading to insomnia. For some people this is linked to an irregular bedtime schedule due to clubbing or watching late night television programs or working. For others this can be caused by engaging in stimulating activities, such as exercising or playing video games, too close to bedtime.
An uncomfortable sleeping environment can also cause insomnia. This is common when there is noise in the neighborhood or when the bed is uncomfortable.
Eating too much late in the evening also leads to insomnia. Too much food in the stomach can lead to physical discomfort when a person lies down. For some, lying down too soon after eating can lead to heartburn which is painful and disrupts sleep.
Some medical conditions such as chronic pain, cancer, heart disease, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, and overactive thyroid also disrupt sleep. Then there are sleep-related disorders such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome which keep disrupting sleep or prevent sleep completely. Then there are also mental health disorders such as certain anxiety disorders or depression which may disrupt sleep.
Some medications that are meant to treat medical conditions may cause insomnia. For example, certain antidepressants and certain pain killers and cold medications contain caffeine and that prevents sleep.
Stimulants such as caffeine in coffee and tea, nicotine in cigarettes and alcohol may cause insomnia if they are consumed late afternoon or evening. Alcohol may actually help a person to fall asleep but it prevents deeper levels of sleep and causes frequent awakening during the night.
How CBD Cannabidiol Can Improve Your Sleep
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of over one hundred cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. Unlike THC, its psychoactive close cousin, CBD will not cause a high. This has made it very popular for many medical applications. CBD can be used in many different ways including oral consumption, inhalation, topical application and sublingual absorption. Once it enters the body it interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a network of receptors located throughout the body. These receptors are so far known to interact only with cannabinoids, hence the name. It is this special relationship between CBD and ECS that makes it effective for the relief of a long list of health conditions, including insomnia.
CBD is known to alleviate insomnia, not by causing drowsiness, but by combating insomnia at the source. At the center of the insomnia epidemic is stress. Stress levels are at an all-time high due to fast increasing medical conditions, overworking, pressure to perform at work, technology, environmental pollution, and financial problems. We are not talking about periodic stress which can cause mood swings and minor headaches for a few days. We are talking about prolonged stress that also causes high blood pressure, depression, anxiety and other health problems.
By its nature, stress is a person’s response to a stimulus, meaning that one person can take a certain situation lightly while another person will react to the same situation as if it is threatening. It is the latter person who becomes stressed and may lose sleep over the problem. People try medication, partying, drinking or a combination of the above, in order to get temporary relief but these solutions never remove the stress.
It looks like CBD is the potential answer to this insomnia epidemic since it deals with the source of the problem, which is stress. Here is how it works. The majority of the receptors in the endocannabinoid system are concentrated in the brain and the central nervous system. CBD interacts with these receptors, improving cognitive functions and enabling the brain to respond to stressful situations more effectively. By increasing the brain’s ability to respond to stressful situations, CBD helps to alleviate current stress levels and prevents future stress. (Hill & others, 2010).
Never lose sleep again because of small things. Take CBD in any form that you find comfortable. It will modify your stress response, and relax you and you will get some sleep. CBD has potential to eventually reduce insomnia from epidemic levels to a minor problem. If you know someone whose life can be improved by taking CBD, please go ahead and share this article with them. You will be helping that person and a long list of others who will learn about the benefits of CBD.
General Tips to Improve Your Sleep
If you want to lose weight or to improve your emotional, physical and mental health, make sure that you get a good night’s sleep every day. Here are some tips to improve your sleep.
1. Increase Your Exposure to Bright Light During the Day
Your circadian rhythm awakens you when it is daytime and makes you feel sleepy when it is dark. You can keep your circadian rhythm healthy, increase daytime energy and improve nighttime sleep quality and duration by making sure you are exposed to natural sunlight or bright light during the day. In one study involving people suffering from insomnia, exposure to daytime bright light improved quality and quantity of sleepy by 83%. (Campbell SS, Dawson D and Anderson MW, 1993). If you live in the cold regions where there are long hours of darkness in winter, invest in a bright artificial light device or bulbs.
2. Do not consume Caffeine Late in the Day
Caffeine is a stimulant that keeps you awake, which is why people take a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. However, when you consume it late in the day, it stimulates your nervous system and may stop your body from naturally relaxing at night. It takes 6-8 hours to get out of your system (Fredholm, 1999) which means that you must avoid taking it late in the afternoon so that it does not interfere with your sleep. One study found that consuming caffeine up to six hours before bed greatly worsened sleep quality (Drake & others, 2013).
3. Maintain Regular Sleep and Wake Up Times
If you struggle to fall asleep, get into the habit of going to bed and waking up at the same time daily. After several weeks, you will fall asleep easily when it is time for bed and wake up naturally when it is time to get up. This consistency will help with long-term sleep quality. (Van Dongen & Dinges, 2003). This is because the body’s circadian rhythm functions on a set loop that is aligned to sunrise and sunset.
4. Avoid or Reduce Long Daytime Naps
Once in a while we all need a nap during the day. However, this can confuse your internal clock and you may struggle to fall asleep at night. (Groeger & others, 2011). The effects of naps vary from person to person. Therefore, if you already take daytime naps and still sleep at night, there is no need to worry. But, if you do not have a habit of taking daytime naps, you might want to avoid naps altogether.
5. Avoid Alcohol at Night
Drinking alcohol at night can affect your sleep and hormones in a negative way. For example, it causes, or increases the symptoms of, snoring, sleep apnea and disrupted sleep patterns. (Issa & Sullivan, 1982). Alcohol changes melatonin production at night, and this hormone plays a key role in the circadian rhythm. (Ekman & others, 1993). It also decreases the production of the human growth hormone which plays a major role in the circadian rhythm. (Ekman, Vakkuri & others, 1996).
6. Optimize Your Bedroom Environment
Your bedroom environment (external noise, outside lights, furniture arrangements) makes a huge difference to your sleep quality. (Libert & others, 1991). Get a comfortable bed, mattress and pillow. Minimize external noise if you can. Avoid noise and light from electronic devices, and use heavy curtains that keep out light. Choose furnishings whose colors make you feel relaxed, and keep the bedroom clean. Maintain a comfortable temperature in the bedroom as too much heat and low temperatures make it hard to sleep. Around 70°F (21°C) seems to be comfortable for many people but this differs from person to person.
7. Do Not Eat Too Late in the Evening
Eating late at night may lead to discomfort when you lie down, which may be worsened by heartburn. In addition to that physical problem, eating late at night affects release of the human growth hormone (HGH) and melatonin and that affects the quality of sleep. Eating high GI carbohydrates late at night affects sleep for some people. (Jalilolqhadr & others, 2011).
8. Relax and Clear Your Mind in the Evening
Find a way to relax before bedtime, e.g. have a relaxing massage, take a relaxing bath, listen to relaxing music, read a book, do a deep breathing exercise or perform some visualization. Try different things to see what works best for you.
9. Exercise Regularly but Not Before Bedtime
Exercise is one of the best ways to improve your sleep as it enhances all aspects of sleep. It has even been used to reduce symptoms of insomnia. (Reid & others, 2010). It was even found to be more beneficial than most drugs. (Passos & others, 2010). However, while exercise is key to a good night’s sleep, doing it late in the day or in the evening can make you feel too energetic to sleep. This is due to the release of epinephrine an adrenaline during exercise.
10. Do Not Drink Too Much Before Going to Bed
While hydration is important for health, it is not wise to have high intake of fluids late in the evening. Rather have most of your fluids during day time then stop drinking about 1 hour before bed time. At bedtime use the bathroom. This way you make sure that you do not wake up too often during the night to urinate.
11. Rule Out a Sleeping Disorder
If you try all the above tips and find that you still cannot sleep, then consult your doctor. You may have a sleeping disorder that is causing your insomnia. Your problem could be sleep apnea (inconsistent and interrupted breathing), sleep movement disorders, or circadian rhythm sleep/wake disorders.