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A Good Sleep Hygiene is Crucial to a Good Night's Sleep

Sleep is a factor of a person’s lifestyle that is often overlooked. And yet, not having the correct sleep hygiene may very well be what is keeping you from achieving your goal of getting a good night’s rest.



It is a fact that people can survive 3 weeks without food but only a little over a week without sleep. Sleep, in contrast to diet, is rarely mentioned as a significant source of the many health issues people in the western world are experiencing in connection with their way of life.

Everything in life follows a rhythm. Day turns to night, summer turns to winter, and every biological system in the world follow this pattern. Humans have to follow this pattern as well; without sleep there would be no waking life. Sleep hygiene is crucial to all of our most vital functions as well as for the body to function optimally, especially for people who are trying to get fit, lose weight, recover from a disease or injury, etc.

Sleep hygiene is not just a matter of cleanliness - although having clean sheets on the bed and an otherwise organized and clean bedroom can certainly improve your quality of sleep, especially when you or your partner are troubled by excessive sweating while sleeping.

But mainly, sleep hygiene relates to all aspect of sleep and how “hygienic” they are, i.e. free of disturbances. Creating the right conditions for sleep while awake is important for both mental and physical health, but most people are not even aware of the many factors that contribute to bad sleep habits, especially since there is not much public advice available.

Even if feel like you get plenty of sleep, poor sleep habits may prevent you from sleeping soundly and getting to the deep stages of sleep. This is why many people often wake up feeling tired or lethargic, even after many hours of sleep.

Stress, a condition many people suffer from today, is a very important aspect of sleep hygiene. Sleep is essential for mental health, and mental health is essential for sleep. It's been proven that bruxism, also known as grinding your teeth while you're sleeping, is often cause by excessive stress before bedtime. It often occurs when the affected person is having night terrors.

sleep hygieneGoing to bed with stress, worries and other forms of sleep anxiety is terrible for your mental health and can not only cause you to snore, but it can also seriously disturb your sleep, making the stress much, much worse.

Considering your overall sleep patterns is the first step towards better sleep; is your cell phone or computer charging in your bedroom? Did you go straight from watching TV to bed, or did you give yourself time to “wind down”? Does your partner snore or do you have other disturbing noises around you? Did you eat a sugary snack just before bed? 

Even if you do not have trouble falling asleep, your sleeping environment, as well as your preparation for bed should be considered.

 

Physiologically, there are a lot of good reasons to get enough sleep; it will make you feel healthy, full of energy, and plays a big role in keeping you slim, and hygiene plays an important part in that process.

 

One often overlooked factor in good sleep hygiene is the digestive system, especially the intestines. In the intestines there is an abundance of life in the form of bacteria and other microscopic organisms. There are actually more bacteria in your gut than there are cells in your entire body. It is estimated that there are between 2 and 5 pounds of bacteria in the intestines, which corresponds to more than 100,000 billion cells. Although this may sound like a lot of bacteria, these actually serve your body. 

sleep hygieneOne of the bacteria's main functions is to help the body fight disease-causing bacteria (called pathogens) by stimulating our immune system. Also they produce a large amount of bacterial lactic acid that stimulates the muscles in the intestines and helps get rid of our stools. 

These types of bacteria are called probiotics. The bacteria in the intestines also produce vitamin K2 and Biotin. 

Vitamin K2 is essential for the body's ability to clot blood (so we do not bleed at the slightest cut) and the ability to store calcium in the bones. Biotin is important in relation to the body's ability to burn fat and carbohydrate. 

There are many different species of bacteria in the intestines, and the number of different species are in balance with each other. The balance between the numbers of different species of bacteria is essential in relation to a healthy and well-functioning bowel.

You may wonder how this can have anything to do with sleep, but it very much does.

Bacteria have one drawback: they multiply incredibly quickly, especially in our intestines, since there are excellent conditions: heat, water and food. Therefore, the body keeps the numbers down. This control is exercised by our immune systems.

In the daytime there is a natural increase of stress hormones in the blood so that we can be awake and active, however, these hormones reduce immune activity. This allows us to save energy, which the immune system takes a lot of, during out daytime activities. 

Thus bacteria have free rein to reproduce during the day, and the make sure to take advantage of this. When the amount of bacteria reaches critical levels, the immune system reacts. This reaction triggers a cascade of reactions in the body which ends with the production of the sleep hormone melatonin in the brain. 

So when you feel tired and sleepy, it is actually partly because your immune system has started. That's why you're so tired and need to sleep when you're sick; the immune system is working hard to fight bacteria.

When you sleep, the immune system is particularly active, in order to reduce the amount of bacteria that have multiplied during the day. It is therefore important to get enough sleep in order to bring the amount of bacteria to a natural level. If you do not get enough sleep you will quietly build an unnatural bacterial load in your gut. The balance between the different species in particular can be disrupted.

sleep hygieneLack of sleep and bad sleep habits can thus not only make you feel tired, irritated and generally unwell, it can also cause the following symptoms due to bacterial imbalance:

  • Diarrhea, as a result of too large population of bacteria, including pathogenic.
  • Constipation, due to an imbalance in the relationship between the probiotic bacteria and other bacteria, which results in a reduced production of lactic acid, and thus less bowel movements.
  • In the long term, autoimmune diseases due to a hyperactive immune system.

Useful Links:

When you are traveling, sleep hygiene is probably even more important. After all, we all sleep best in our own bed, so when you're in surroundings you're not used to, you have to work a little harder to ensure a good night's rest. Bridget's website Help Me to Sleep has some useful tips on how to sleep well while traveling.


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