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The Circadian Rhythm & Sleep Hygiene

How well do you sleep at night?

The answer to this question is often the best insight into an individual's overall health and wellbeing. If you experience poor sleep you’re not alone with nearly 50% of Australian adults experiencing two or more sleep-related problems e.g. difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep and daytime drowsiness (2016 Sleep Health Survey of Australian Adults).

Sleep is so important and is a key foundation of health, with the quality of sleep and rest being just as important as quantity. Sleep is a time when the body can go into ‘rest and digest’ mode and rejuvenate/re-energise from the inside out. We all know how frustrating it is to experience poor sleep and if you struggle with ongoing sleep disturbances/deprivation larger issues from poor brain fog and a weakened immune system to chronic disease can arise.

Modern life, stress, worry and busyness often set us up for poor sleep hygiene practices - sleep hygiene refers to the impact of diet and lifestyle in sleep. Late nights engaging in a Netflix series, social events, commitments at work and meeting deadlines can often lead to sacrificing some precious hours of sleep and in the long term, and this, paired with a poor diet can contribute to poor health and disease.

Sleep Disruption - The Circadian Rhythm

Our sleep is regulated by the body’s circadian rhythm, which with natural light and dark regulate our daily sleep/wake cycles. In the body, this is controlled by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) which is located in the hypothalamus in the brain. The SCN controls the release of melatonin - the hormone responsible for signalling to the body that it’s time to sleep.

Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in the brain in response to darkness and helps with the timing of your circadian rhythm and with sleep. Melatonin is suppressed in response to light and cortisol (the body’s stress hormone) is released in response to light. Engaging in habits before the lead up to bed e.g. exposure to artificial and blue light from technology devices, can reduce melatonin secretion and can interfere with poor quality sleep and delayed sleep onset.

A pattern of sleeping minimal hours each night can overtime affect the body in many ways. The activation of the HPA Axis (the body’s central stress response system) and the autonomic nervous system (regulating the body’s functions e.g. heart rate) increases the body’s stress hormone cortisol. The increased levels of cortisol can impact serotonin and melatonin production - the hormones affecting mood, happiness and sleep.

A chronic, long term activation of the HPA Axis can disrupt the brain’s GABA (a naturally occurring amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter in your brain) balance. This contributes to poor sleep quality and quantity and over time can have a major impact on an individual’s health.

Sleep Hygiene

There are many things you can do to support consistent quality sleep and the best place to start is by changing your habits. Poor habits throughout the day and in the lead up to bedtime (aka sleep hygiene) is one of the major contributors to a poor sleep yet one of the easiest ways to support quality z’s. Proper sleep hygiene helps to ensure we get the most out of sleep so we can function optimally.

To be able to sleep, the nervous system needs to calm down and this can often be hard in today’s world. Here are some strategies to practice good sleep hygiene and quality sleep.

  • Establish a regular bedtime and consistent bedtime routine

  • Aim to go to sleep/wake up at the same time every day

  • Expose yourself to light upon waking

  • Avoid drinking caffeine after 2 pm - swap to herbal teas

  • Avoid screens in the lead up to bed - if urgent switch to night mode and promote relaxation

  • Create a healthy sleep environment - dark, quiet and comfortable

  • Quiet your mind - journal, meditation, deep breathing

  • Avoid alcohol and stimulants

  • Eat an early and light dinner

  • Avoid anxiety-driven activities before bed - watching the news or checking emails

  • Go to sleep when you notice the signs at night

  • Exercise daily

The Holistic Approach to Sleep

Whilst you implement your new healthy habits around your sleep routine, a holistic health practitioner can help support your body with nutrients and herbal remedies to nourish your body and achieve the rest you need. This may be done with a thorough investigation, case taking and pathology to assess any underlying drivers contributing to poor quality and quantity sleep. From here an individualised treatment plan will be created including dietary and lifestyle considerations. For advice on sleep health and further sleep support speak with a practitioner here at Infinite Health Studio.

At the Infinite Health Studio, our experienced team of practitioners use a holistic approach paired with evidence-based medicine to help support you on your health journey.

Book your FREE scoping sessionhere​ ​today or phone the clinic on 0474 744 445


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