By Alex Tyson from iHealth Saunas
Ask just about anyone what you need to do to stay healthy and they'll tell you 'exercise, eat well, don't drink too much alcohol'. It is rare that people suggest to 'make sure you get 8 hours sleep every night'.
Yet if you talk to any sleep scientist, they will tell you sleep is an overarching health factor that impacts all remaining aspects of our health. When you consider the impacts of sleep deprivation, even on a small level, it becomes clear that getting a good sleep is essential to living a healthy life.
Did you know?
- When we don't experience deep sleep (one of the three main categories of sleep) our brain cannot remove beta-amyloid plaque from the brain. A build-up of beta amyloid plaque is now directly associated with Alzheimer’s patients and explains the link between sleeping pills and forms of dementia. Sleeping pills don't allow the brain to go into deep sleep.
- Anything less than 7 hours sleep is considered sleep deprivation. Three days of continued sleep deprivation has been shown to increase our hunger hormone Grehlin and decrease our satiety hormone Leptin. In other words, when we are sleep deprived, we tend to over eat.
- A recent study published in Diabetes Care and conducted by the University of Chicago, found that not sleeping well can increase your risk of developing diabetes, particularly in people who work long hours.
Tim Ferris says if you win the morning, you win the day. But getting a bad sleep makes winning the morning a lot harder. So perhaps to win the morning we need to win our sleep...
To help you enjoy better sleep, below are 5 health products (or tools as I like to call them) that can have a positive impact on the quality of your sleep.
- iHealth Infrared Sauna
Okay, full disclosure, I run an infrared sauna business called iHealth Saunas. But to be honest, it was only recently, after we started asking our clients how their iHealth Sauna was helping them, that we became aware of how incredible infrared sauna was at helping people experience a deeper sleep.
An infrared sauna works by heating the body directly using 700 - 1000nm wavelength of light, penetrating 4 - 5 cm into the skin. This creates a cardiovascular workout on the body, activating the heat response of the body and creating a deep, detoxing sweat.
A few (well actually heaps, but you don't have all day to read this blog) things happen when you're in an infrared sauna:
- You reduce the toxic load on the body as you sweat (you will sweat a lot)
- You increase oxygen flow via an increase in blood circulation
- You activate heat shock proteins which kill off old cells in the body
- The infrared heat soothes the central nervous system
Overall, the body is working naturally to cool itself. It is the soothing heats effect on the nervous system along with a cardiovascular workout which leaves one feeling, calmed, relaxed, clear and with that feeling of 'ahhhhhh :)'
Rob Forte -Australia's most renowned crossfit athlete- says after using infrared sauna, he experiences an extra hour of deep sleep. So get saunering.
At iHealth Saunas we don't just stop at sauna, but we work with our clients to incorporate other health modalities into the sauna session to increase the impact your sauna session can have on sleep. Things like teas and colours.
Enjoying a sleep blended tea after your sauna session helps you ease into sleep more easily and quickly. Turning off all the lights in the sauna except for the red colour light in the colour therapy system in the roof helps balance the circadian rhythms in the body, signalling that it is the end of the day, and time to relax. Red colour light tells the brain that soon, it will be time to release the sleep hormone Melatonin.
It is the release of melatonin that staring at a computer screen can delay, which is why Baxter Blue glasses are such a great tool to use when using a computer before bed, so as not to disrupt our natural circadian rhythm.
- Baxter Blue Glasses
Science now shows us that using an LED backed device for 1 hour, delays the release of melatonin in the brain by 3 hours. So, if you're using your phone between 9pm and 10pm, your brain won't start preparing itself of sleep properly until 1am. This explains that 'wired' feeling we get when we try and sleep right after being on our phone or computer.
The blue blocking property of a pair of Baxter’s is powerful in reducing our exposure to the blue light of 400 - 440nm which otherwise delays melatonin release.
If using your phone or a computer before sleeping is a part of your life and you respect the importance of sleep, Baxter’s are a must. Even if I am on a PC during the day, I wear my Baxters. They help reduce the tiredness one normally experiences after using a PC all day too, which is so refreshing.
Also - although I haven't conducted a study- I reckon people think you're smarter when you wear them too ;)
- Sleep tracking watches
Although this doesn't help you with the quality of your sleep directly, sleep tracking devices or watches give us the information on where our sleep could be improved. Knowledge is power and knowing what aspects of your sleep need working on is really the first step in improving your sleep. On average we actually wake up 20 - 30 times per night, ranging from 1 - 3 minutes in duration. This fact alone means that if we go to bed at 11pm and wake and 6:30am, we aren't actually getting 7.5 hours of sleep at all. A sleep tracker will help you get clear on how much time you actually spend asleep, in REM sleep, Deep sleep and light sleep.
Once I started tracking my sleep, I learned that I wasn't getting enough deep sleep, and so begun my quest to find out ways in which I could improve the amount of deep sleep each night.
Side note: things that helped increase the length of my deep sleep were: having a period of 10 - 15 minutes where I was at max heart rate each day, using infrared sauna, reducing the light in my room, reducing the noise in my room.
When finding a sleep tracker, the more information the device can track, the better. Just putting your phone under your pillow and tracking your movement won't really shed much insight into your sleep. Tracking items such as body temperature, breathing rate, heart rate well as your movement will give you more accurate sleep data. I use the Fitbit ionic as it does all the above and isn't something I need to fit to my entire bed such as the Nokia steel (which is also supposed to be quite good). I like to minimise the number of electronic items in my sleep space as possible.
- Essential oils to create a sleep space
Essential oils are in vogue now and for good reason. Essential oils have been used for centuries as a powerful form of natural healing and support. Some essential oils which are good for sleep include:
- Valerian (good for sleep disturbances)
- Roman Chamomile
Placing 1 - 2 drops on your pillow creates a beautiful sleep space for you to drift off to sleep in. Creating an environment that is focussed on sleep is critical for sleeping well. Minimising bright lights before bed, minimising noise, wearing your Baxter’s in the lead up to sleep, displaying calming artworks or tapestries around your bed, using a salt lamp instead of lights etc. All these things add up to creating a nice space for sleep and using essential oil as part of this mix ads to the mix with scent.
Scent also interacts with our brains in different ways to visual or auditory cues. Scents can tap straight into our memory and sticking with certain scents for certain environments train our brain to activate specific neural pathways depending on the scent. For example, using lavender essential oil as part of your sleep space will help teach the brain that lavender is for sleep, and over time will make it easier to engage sleep.
- Organic Herbal Tea
Like essential oil, herbal tea has been used for thousands of years as a powerful tonic to aid in healing and support the body. Certain teas have certain properties, and teas such as chamomile, valerian, lemon balm and passionflower help in falling asleep and staying asleep. Incorporating a tea as part of your evening time-for-bed routine is a great natural option to help with your sleep. Adding some organic raw honey to the tea will sweeten the taste and also balance your blood sugar throughout the night which can reduce the likely hood waking up in the middle of the night.
All the above products will help in your search for the perfect beauty sleep. If sleep is something that troubles you, I would suggest trying as many of them at once. Have a sauna during the day, enjoy some tea 30 minutes before bed, wear your Baxters if you're on the pc and use some essential oil on your pillow before bed.
When we work with clients who are challenged with poor sleep, using each of the above health products in conjunction with each other give the body the best chance at sleeping better.
Sleeping can be treated as exercise.: You don't get better at exercising if you don't put in effort. And setting up a space for sleeping and putting some emphasis on the last hour or two of your day to optimise sleep is essential in finding better sleep.
And with that, I say good night :)