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Have a Lie Down for Better Sleep Month

When you think of May, what comes to mind? It could be Mother's Day or graduation ceremonies. It could even be tasty al fresco dinners under a star-studded, lamplit twilight. However, for the Better Sleep Council, May is Better Sleep Month.

Better Sleep Month aims to raise awareness about the benefits of sleep and how poor-quality sleep disrupts our lives. A good sleep feels refreshing. We feel better and function better. However, there's so much more to this bedtime story. Sleep plays an essential role in our health and well-being. Like diet and exercise, sleep is vital to our emotional, physical, and mental health. 

A survey conducted by the Better Sleep Council found that nearly two out of three respondents reported impaired sleep due to stress

One-third experience poor sleep at least one night per week, and 16% were diagnosed with stress-induced insomnia. Consequences ranged from reduced concentration to mood swings, irritability, stress, and a weakened immune system. Productivity was reduced at work and home. In fact, it's estimated that almost $150 billion is lost in productivity and absenteeism because of poor sleep!

For some of us, poor sleep can lend itself to a vicious cycle as the release of stress hormones makes it even harder to achieve the rest we so desperately need. There's plenty of evidence linking sleep deficit to conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, decreased pain tolerance, and sleep disorders, such as apnea, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, etc.). Recently, sleep deficiency has even been linked to weight gain.

New evidence suggests the makeup of your gut biome is linked to sleep.

One study suggests increased microbiome diversity correlated with longer sleep times and better sleep efficiency—how much we spend asleep in our beds. More recent research has also examined the relationship between gut bacteria, sleep, and levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is key to regulating the sleep cycle, and our gut microbiome plays a part in this.

In one study, mice had severely reduced gut bacteria; researchers observed lower serotonin levels and disrupted sleep cycles. Conversely, lack of sleep has also been found to impact digestive health by increasing the risk of obesity, diabetes, and gastrointestinal diseases and influencing the foods we choose to eat. Longer sleep is linked to better blood sugar control and regulation. Dips lead to the so-called snack attack, where many of us reach for processed foods. It's still early research, but certainly something worth considering for those trying to stay as fit and healthy as possible.

So, how can we improve overall sleep quality and quantity? As sleep becomes increasingly focal to health and wellness, more research in this field is emerging. Here are some tips that we've found to be incredibly beneficial:

  • Keep a sleep schedule: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Consistency reinforces the body's sleep-wake cycle and promotes healthier sleep.
  • Create a bedtime ritual that works for you: Repetition can help tell your body when to wind down. Enjoy relaxing activities—bathing, stretching, and meditating with dimmed lights! Research suggests that projected light interferes with sleep.
  • Be mindful of your food and drink choices: Avoid substances like nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol, as they can disrupt your sleep. Instead, incorporate foods that support healthy gut bacteria, such as prebiotic foods, berries, cruciferous vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. Opt for unprocessed or minimally processed foods whenever possible.
  • Engage in daily exercise: Regular physical activity promotes improved sleep quality, helping you fall asleep faster and experience deeper, more restful sleep. However, avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime, as it may interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
  • Manage stress: Take regular breaks, prioritize tasks, and delegate when possible. Excessive stress can disrupt hormone levels and, in turn, affect your sleep quality. To ease your mind before bed, list tasks for the next day and then set them aside.
  • Get an atmosphere of comfort:  Use a HEPA air purifier, especially during this pollination season. Have multiple sets of bedding so you can rotate, style, and dress your bed with different appeals, creating a variety of vibes that make you feel happy or relaxed.
  • Keep good sleep hygiene: Wash your sheets every week or two to keep them fresh and create a more inviting bedtime environment. Make your bed every day. Maintain a clean, dust-free bedroom. 
  • Other suggestions: Invest in high-quality sheets and a summer-weight duvet to stay cool and comfortable at night. You might even consider talking to a naturopath about supplements to help you fall asleep naturally.

If nothing works—if sleep problems persist for more than three months and you struggle to stay awake during activities like work or driving, then it's time to check in with a doctor. 

At Sömn, we believe simple, good-quality sleep acts as a solid foundation for a healthy life. From concentration and mood to health and weight, our body and brain need sleep. This May, we encourage you to get out into the fresh air and consider what you can do to improve sleep quality and quantity. Your body will thank you.

Click here for more sleep resources.

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