When it comes to living a more elevated life, we often overlook the importance of sleep. Sleep forms the foundation of our physical and mental well-being. If you have experienced restless nights, you know firsthand how they can impact your overall well-being. The quality of sleep influences the way our bodies recharge during the night. So what can we do to improve the quality of sleep?
First, it is important to understand what happens when we sleep. On a typical night, a person goes through 4 to 6 sleep cycles. This sleep cycle consists of four phases. The first phase (N1) is the onset of sleep. This is the phase where you drift off but are still easily awakened. Phase two is the light sleep phase (N2). The majority of the night is spent in this phase. Your body temperature drops, and your muscles start to relax.
Following this is the deep sleep phase (N3), which allows your body to grow and recover. During this phase, your heart rate and breathing slow down. You sleep deeply, and it's difficult to wake you up. The final phase is the REM sleep (N4). REM stands for rapid eye movement. Your eyes move rapidly, and during this phase, you experience the most vivid dreams. The duration of a sleep cycle varies per person but usually takes around 90 minutes to complete.
Improve your sleep cycle
When you spend most time in phase 1 or 2, there is not enough time to recharge. While you don't have full control over your sleep cycle, there are steps you can take to improve it. And this is where nutrition plays a part. For example, foods rich in tryptophan like oats, milk, and bananas promote sleep-related hormone production, helping you fall asleep faster or sleep more deeply.
A well-balanced diet also helps stabilise blood sugar levels throughout the day. This prevents fluctuations that can disrupt sleep, such as nighttime blood sugar crashes. It also supports the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine, both of which play a role in regulating sleep. For digestive comfort, it is wise to avoid heavy meals before bedtime. This allows your body to focus on sleep instead of digestion.
Sometimes, you may need a little extra support to enhance your sleep. Magnesium can be helpful. Magnesium attaches to the GABA receptors, just like heavy sleeping medication does. GABA receptors are neurotransmitters that reduce brain activity, allowing you to rest, fall and stay asleep. You can find magnesium in foods like nuts, cacao, and leafy green vegetables. If you need additional support winding down, supplements containing Valerian can be beneficial as Valerian is a natural relaxant with a calming effect.
By focusing on your nutrition and incorporating sleep-supportive foods and supplements, you can elevate the way you sleep and enjoy the benefits in all areas of your life.