Sleep can be a tricky topic with some people having no trouble at all and others never seeming to be able to fall—or stay—asleep.
A big piece of the picture comes down to two hormones key hormones—cortisol and melatonin—that work together to regulate our sleep-wake cycle.
Ultimately, if we want that blissful sleep, in the evenings we need to make an effort to reduce our dominant cortisol levels, and in doing so, allow our body to produce our sleepy time hormone, melatonin.
In this blog, we answer 7 common sleep questions to help set you up for the deep and restorative sleep we all need, every night.
1. Does eating before bed reduce the quality of your sleep?
True! It's best not to eat within 2-3 hours of sleeping. So if you go to sleep at 10PM, aim to wrap up dinner by 7PM. This optimises your sleep quality as your body is not focused on digestion, and maximises the metabolic benefits of a natural overnight fast.
Finding you get too hungry before bed? Our BePure Chamomile Sleep Gummies Recipe is a great option to keep the hunger at bay without giving your digestive system a workout before you go to sleep.
2. Can you catch up on sleep?
False—essentially, once sleep's gone, it's gone! We have one chance each day for the incredible cellular rejuvenation and cognitive processing that happens while we're asleep. That's not to say your body won't try to catch up on REM sleep and recuperate, but the benefits of deep sleep on your mind and body for that day, will be gone.
Sleep is also tightly connected to our mental health and wellbeing. If you frequently miss out on sleep and struggling to regulate your mood, check out our blog to learn more about this connection.
For parents of newborns this can be a particularly tricky time of life for solid chunks of quality sleep. Our bodies are very resilient and since the beginning of humanity we have gone through periods of less sleep and been fine. It's always great to have a community around you at important times like these.
3. Does alcohol help you sleep?
False! Alcohol does not help with 'sleep'. Alcohol is a sedative, meaning it knocks you out of consciousness, but it's not nourishing sleep that you're experiencing.
When we take a peep under the hood, alcohol actually changes the sleep architecture of our brainwaves and being unconscious looks very different from being in a state of deep sleep.
Drinking alcohol may help you fall out of wakefulness faster but in fact it actually disrupts the quality and quantity of the sleep you're getting. We fail to move into the deeper REM state of sleep where a lot of our most restorative sleep happens.
On top of this, drinking alcohol keeps our liver function higher while we sleep. This is why some people who are heavy drinkers, or have had a 'big night' often wake with a jolt in the night as their liver kicks into overdrive to remove the extra toxins from the body. Overall it's somewhat of a sleep disrupter rather than a helper.
4. Does sleep support body fat regulation and weight management?
True! Sleep does actually support the management and regulation of body fat.
Our circadian rhythm is the natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and it is very closely tied to the quality and length of our sleep.
Sleep sets our metabolic clock which influences how much energy we burn each day, as well as the function of our hormones ghrelin and leptin, the hormones that control our feelings of hunger and sense of satiety throughout the day.
You may have noticed that when you are lacking in sleep you feel more hungry and less satisfied than on days when you wake up feeling refreshed and energised.
Want to learn more? Check out The Big Role Sleep Plays In Our Health And Metabolism.
5. Does screen use before bed really affect sleep?
True! The blue light from screens stimulates certain neutrons in your eyes which tells your brain that it is daytime. This tells your body and hormone system to create cortisol and our daytime hormone and trumps melatonin, our sleepy time hormone.
You can see this hormone relationship in the graph below.
If you're struggling to fall asleep, try to stop looking at screens at least a couple of hours prior to bedtime. This will help your body in its natural wind-down process before bed and allow the production of your melatonin hormone to rise up for a long, deep and restful sleep.
6. Does exercise support better sleep?
True! Exercise can definitely help support sleep.
During our wakeful hours our body produces a sleep-promoting substance called adenosine. This builds up in our brain over the course of the day and the more we have, the more tired we feel. Exercise and movement has been shown to increase adenosine levels and drive that desire to sleep.
However, you want to make sure that you're not doing rigorous exercise too late in the day as this can then have a stimulatory effect.
7. Can herbs and nutrients actually support a better sleep?
True! Herbs and nutrients have been used for generations to support the soothing and slowing down of our nervous system, increase our sleep hormones and relax our body and muscles to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Herbs primarily work on our nervous system and hormones to calm the mind and nervous system, such as chamomile, Californian poppy, lavender and passionflower, while tart cherry supports the production of our sleep loving hormone, melatonin.
Key nutrients such as magnesium work to relax our muscles and is perfect for supporting those who have restless legs or a jittery body before sleep, while zinc has been found to support the reduction of anxiety that can interrupt a good night of sleep.
Still struggling to sleep? Find out more about what other herbs and nutrients can have a powerful effect on our evening wind-down process for a deep and restful sleep. Or try out our Rest & Restore Pack to for that extra help you need to wind down the body and mind for a deeper sleep every night.