by georgia hartmann
Women’s Health Expert
Poor quality sleep is a key driver in the development of many illnesses─be it anxiety and depression, weight gain, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, hormonal imbalance, or infertility. And yet, many of us ignore the importance of sleep. Instead of prioritising sleep, we simply fit in whatever we can once all of the day’s tasks are complete. [1-6]
Though, how much sleep do you actually need to function optimally? According to the American National Sleep Foundation, adults aged 18 to 64 need 7 to 9 hours of good quality sleep each night to be able to perform at their best. 
Sleeping too little (less than 7 hours per night) or too much (more than 9 hours per night) can result in excess fatigue and daytime sleepiness, poor concentration, as well as increased risk of the above-mentioned illnesses. 
If you are searching for the ultimate guide to a better night’s sleep, look no further. Here are my top tips.
1. Go to bed at the same time each night and wake at the same time each morning
Ensure you are going to sleep and waking at the same time each day as this helps to regulate your body’s circadian rhythm and sleep pattern. Commit to this for 4 weeks (including weekends) and watch your body’s sleep-wake cycle transform─You will notice yourself naturally tire at the same time each evening, and wake without your alarm of a morning. 
2. Exercise daily, preferably before midday
Regular exercise helps to improve all aspects of sleep including how long it takes you to fall asleep, total duration, as well as the number of wakings during the night. Sticking to an exercise routine for at least 12 weeks has been shown to have the most profound impact on sleep quality. [10,11]
3. Avoid caffeine after 10 am
Caffeine has a varying half-life of up to 10 hours. This means that after a single cup of coffee, the amount of caffeine in your system after 10 hours would only have decreased by 50%. It then takes potentially another 10 hours for the remainder of caffeine to be completely eliminated. If you are having two, three, four, or more, cups of coffee per day, this is where sleep becomes impacted, as it directly affects parts of the brain function responsible for arousal and cognition. For this reason, it is important that you limit yourself to 1 cup of coffee per day, in the morning. 
4. Cut the alcohol
Although many people use alcohol as a sleep-aid, it actually disturbs the quality of sleep in the second half of the night. Specifically, alcohol acts on wake-promoting neurons in the brain that ultimately do not allow you to stay in deep sleep and leave you feeling fatigued the following morning. 
Also, research out of the University of Nottingham shows that alcohol consumption directly affects sleep quality by increasing the risk of obstructive sleep apnea (a condition whereby reduced muscle tone forces the upper airway to collapse). The study found that those who consume alcohol are 25% more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea. 
5. Ensure your bedroom is conducive to good quality sleep
Your bedroom is for sleeping (and love-making) only; not for working or watching TV. Exposure to artificial light before bed, whether that’s from your phone, laptop, TV, or room lights, decreases melatonin production. As melatonin is our sleep hormone, reduced levels will result in difficulty getting to and staying asleep.
6. Phone down by 8 pm
For the above reason, it is important that you put all your devices down by 8 pm. Instead, enter your ‘calm space’ by enjoying a cup of chamomile tea; having a bath; meditating or laying with your legs up the wall for 10 minutes; reading a book; whatever it is you enjoy that will help you wind down.
7. Seek additional nutritional and herbal support
If you have implemented all of the above and are still finding it difficult to get good quality sleep, seek the support of a naturopath who can provide you with personalised nutritional and herbal supplementation. These have an amazingly nourishing and restorative effect on the body, which ultimately supports good quality sleep. [16-18]
 Alvaro, P.K., et al. A Systematic Review Assessing Bidirectionality between Sleep Disturbances, Anxiety, and Depression. Sleep, 2013. 36(7). PMID: 23814343.
 Capers, P.L., et al. A Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials of the Impact of Sleep Duration on Adiposity and Components of Energy Balance. Obesity Reviews, 2015. 16(9). PMID: 26098388.
 Yin, J., et al. Relationship of Sleep Duration With All-Cause Mortality and Cardiovascular Events: A Systematic Review and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. Journal of the American Heart Association, 2017. 6(9). PMID: 28889101.
 Bubu, O.M., et al. Sleep, Cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sleep, 2017. 40(1). PMID: 28364458.
 Wang, I.D., et al. Non-Apnea Sleep Disorder Increases the Risk of Subsequent Female Infertility-A Nationwide Population-Based Cohort Study. Sleep, 2018. 41(1). PMID: 29136234.
 Palnitkar, G., et al. Linking sleep disturbance to idiopathic male infertility. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 2018. 42. PMID: 30377037.
 National Sleep Foundation. How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? 2020. Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org.
 Cappuccio, F.P., et al. Sleep Duration and All-Cause Mortality: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies. Sleep, 2010. 33(5). PMID: 20469800.
 Reddy, S., et al. Physiology: Circadian Rhythm. StatPearls, 2020. PMID: 30137792.
 Banno, M., et al. Exercise can improve sleep quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Peer-Reviewed & Open Access, 2018. PMID: 30018855.
 Rubio-Arias, J.A., et al. Effect of exercise on sleep quality and insomnia in middle-aged women: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Maturitas, 2017. PMID: 28539176.
 O’Callaghan, F., et al. Effects of caffeine on sleep quality and daytime functioning. Risk Management and Healthcare Policy, 2018. PMID: 30573997.
 Thakkar, M.M., et al. Alcohol disrupts sleep homeostasis. Alcohol, 2015. 49(4). PMID: 25499829.
 Simou, E., et al. Alcohol and the risk of sleep apnoea: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Medicine, 2018. PMID: 29458744.
 Gooley, J.J., et al. Exposure to Room Light before Bedtime Suppresses Melatonin Onset and Shortens Melatonin Duration in Humans. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2011. 96(3). PMID: 21193540.
 Maroo, N., et al. Efficacy and safety of a polyherbal sedative-hypnotic formulation NSF-3 in primary insomnia in comparison to zolpidem: a randomized controlled trial. Indian Journal of Pharmacology, 2013. 45(1). PMID: 23543804.
 Lakhan, S.E., et al. Nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders: A systematic review. Nutrition Journal, 2010. 9. PMID: 20929532.
 Cao, Y., et al. Magnesium Intake and Sleep Disorder Symptoms: Findings from the Jiangsu Nutrition Study of Chinese Adults at Five-Year Follow-Up. Nutrients, 2018. 10(10). PMID: 30248967.
women’s health expert
by georgia hartman
Women’s Health Expert