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The Importance of Sleep for Optimum Health

Along with breathing, eating and drinking, the importance of sleep is fundamental, we need good quality sleep to stay alive and healthy. Yet in busy modern lives people never seem to be getting enough. How much do we actually need?

Unfortunately there is no magic number dictating how much sleep we need a night. Different age groups require different amounts of sleep, and sleep needs are also very individual – some people might leap out of bed after seven hours, while others may clearly need a solid nine hours to feel at their best. Although research suggests that most people need between seven and eight hours of sleep a night.

Detrimental Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Depriving your body of sleep isn’t a good idea and the repercussions are severe. The record for the longest period without sleep is 18 days, 21 hours, 40 minutes during a rocking chair marathon, according to the National Sleep Research Project. Not surprisingly the record breaker then reported suffering from hallucinations, paranoia, blurred vision, slurred speech and memory and concentration lapses. Depriving your body of the sleep it needs affects everything from the strength of your memory and mood to cardiovascular health and weight gain.

Sleep is a Major Part of Life

Generally speaking if you have a busy few weeks at work or have a new baby and are unable to get enough sleep then that isn’t really going to cause any long term problems. Of course it’s advisable to give your body as much sleep as it requires, but often that is easier said than done!

The good news, though, in a controversial American study reviewed by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and written up in Sleep magazine, it’s not only possible to work or pay off an accumulated sleep debt, you may also be able to bank extra sleep before a period where there will be little sleep!

The key is to generally prioritise your life around getting enough sleep rather than trying to fit in everything imaginable and only sleep if you have “spare time” so to speak.

Sleep hygiene

Thirty per cent of adults have insomnia at some stage or another, that’s when they want to sleep but they aren’t able to drift off or they wake up too early. If you find you’re unable to sleep there are a few things you should look at addressing straight away.

According to Sleep Disorders Australia they include:

  • Go to bed at the same time every day (including the weekend)
  • Get up from bed at the same time every day (including the weekend)
  • Don’t engage in stimulating activities or exercise just before bed—for some people this includes watching television or reading that is too stimulating weekend)
  • Get daily exercise
  • Spend some daytime outdoors
  • Make the bedroom as restful as possible
  • If you don’t fall asleep within 30 minutes get up and do something boring

What You Put in Your Body Can Delay Sleep

Avoid drinking caffeinated drinks (including, tea, coffee, cola and other energy drinks). Also make sure you don’t eat a big meal just before going to bed. If you need a late snack try a piece of fruit and handful of nuts and seeds or a piece of celery with a tablespoon of organic nut butter half an hour before bedtime. A snack that combines protein and carbohydrates is the best sleep inducing combination of foods.

Magnesium also can help settle the brain slow down at night. One of the most absorbable forms of magnesium is magnesium chelate powder – which can be purchased from our . Good natural sources of magnesium include green leafy vegetables, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds and almonds.

Alongside experimenting with the ideas discussed here, you will gain immense value from booking a consultation with one of our expert naturopaths who can custom tailor a treatment specifically for you to ensure you not only get a better night’s sleep but also wake up and bounce out of bed feeling totally refreshed.

Read more of our Natural Fertility articles and grab our free resources.


National Sleep Research Project www.abc.net.au/science/sleep/about.htm

Rupp, T 2009, ‘Banking sleep: realization of benefits during subsequent sleep restriction and recovery’, Sleep, vol. 32, p. 311-321.

Sleep Disorders Australia www.sleepoz.org.au


About Gabriela Rosa MScM, ND

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