Sleep plays a vital role in overall health. This article will discuss the importance of getting adequate rest and top ways to improve sleep quality naturally.
This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD
Importance of Sleep
Sleeping allows the body to rest and repair itself. Research on how sleep affects the body has discovered the following:
Sleep and Mortality Rates
Studies indicate that getting too little and too much sleep can be hazardous to a person’s health. Individuals who reported sleeping more than 8 hours per night or less than 7 hours per night show a “modestly increased risk” of all-cause mortality, developing systematic diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. 
Individuals who get adequate rest tend to lose more fat when compared to those who were sleep-deprived. Those who did not receive adequate amounts of sleep tend to lose more muscle mass instead.
Appetite and Sleep
A lack of sleep blunts the functions and levels of the hormone’s leptin and ghrelin. These hormones, located in the hypothalamus, regulate feelings of hunger and fullness. In a recent study on sleep deprivation, individuals had an 18% reduction of leptin (an appetite suppressant hormone) and a 28% increase in ghrelin (which promotes feelings of hunger). In addition, researchers observed cravings for sweets, salty foods, and other high carbohydrate foods. 
Heart disease, arthritis, premature aging, stroke, and diabetes are all connected to inflammation. Sleep disturbances and sleep loss were associated with higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory protein where its levels are increased at sites of infection or inflammation. 
Sleep can help memory retention. Memories go through the process of “consolidation,” where skills or memories are strengthened while sleeping. In addition, studies indicate a lack of sleep can impair memory consolidation and have a negative effect on both brain development and brain elasticity. 
Sleep and Stress
Stress has been known to disrupt sleep patterns, including both slow-wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM is the 4th stage of sleep where dreaming occurs. SWS is the physical restorative part of the sleep cycle where the body repairs itself and cells regenerate. Sleep disruptions during SWS could limit the amount of healing the body does while sleeping.
Tips on Getting Better Sleep Naturally
Getting adequate rest is essential to good health. Here are some of the top ways to improve sleep quality naturally.
Sunlight (Vitamin D)
Getting sunlight helps to stimulate the production of two hormones: serotonin and melatonin. Melatonin is believed to promote sleep by regulating the body’s biological clock and sleep-wake cycles. Serotonin helps improve focus, boost mood, and maintain a sense of calm. Melatonin is produced in the evening and helps promote sleep. Studies indicate when exposed to sunlight or artificial light in the morning, melatonin production occurs sooner, helping a person sleep more easily at night. 
Moderate exercise is defined as exercise that causes you to break out into a light sweat or are exercises that make it difficult to hold a long conversation. Long-term moderate exercise has been shown to provide significant improvements in sleep, quality of life, and mood in individuals with chronic insomnia. It was also shown to help relieve feelings of depression, tension, anxiety, and total mood disturbance. 
In addition to traditional exercises such as walking, cycling, and swimming, many daily activities are considered moderate exercise:
- Raking leaves
- Pushing stroller
- Washing/waxing car
- Washing windows
Lower Cortisol Levels
Cortisol is the body’s main stress hormone. Produced in the adrenal gland, it regulates the following functions in the body:
- Glucose metabolism
- Immune release
- Insulin release
- Inflammatory response
- Blood pressure regulation
Cortisol has a daily rhythm: it is highest in the morning when waking up and gradually declines throughout the day. Under normal conditions, cortisol levels are lowest at bedtime when melatonin and adenosine production is increased. This allows for a more restful sleep. High cortisol levels can cause fragmented sleep, which are sleep interruptions that can decrease the amount of deep, restorative sleep a person receives.
Top ways to regulate cortisol levels include the following:
- Moderate exercise
- Reducing stress (yoga, meditation, hobbies, etc.)
- Eating a balanced diet
Diet and Sleep
How we eat can also influence sleep quality. Studies indicate deficiencies in several nutrients could increase the risk of inadequate sleep. A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found adults with short sleep (less than 7 hours nightly) were deficient in calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D. Women, in particular, had nutrient deficiencies in calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, D, E, and K (above adequate intake). 
Eating a balanced diet is critical for sleep quality. The following are considered the top foods to eat and avoid for sleep quality before bedtime.
Best Foods to Eat Before Bedtime
Worst Foods to Eat Before Bedtime
Avoiding Blue Light
Blue light is the visible light ranging from 380 to 500 nm (nanometers). Sunlight is the primary source of blue light, but other forms of blue light include phone screens, computer screens, and fluorescent and LED lights.
Before artificial blue light, the sun was the primary light source. Bodies were in tune with the natural light cycles and allowed the circadian rhythm to function normally. The artificial blue light used today could interfere with the production of melatonin, which could disrupt sleep patterns.
Decreasing blue light exposure could be vital to avoiding sleep disruptions. Here are tips on protecting yourself from blue light at night:
- Increase exposure to sunlight and bright light during the day. (This could increase the ability to sleep at night).
- Reduce exposure to bright screens two to three hours before bedtime.
- Consider using dim red lights for night lights.
Nighttime Pre-Bedtime Sleep Tips
Having a nightly ritual can help improve sleep quality. Here are the top things to do an hour before bedtime:
- Take a warm bath
- Read a book
- Avoid caffeine and other foods (see list above)
- Relaxation exercises (meditate, deep breathing, etc.)
- Avoid physical (or psychologically) stressful activities
- Go to bed at the same time every night
Top Natural Supplements
In addition to the tips listed above, natural supplements are available from Revelation Health to help improve sleep quality.
SlumberBoost™ Chewables are lemon-flavored tablets designed to promote the calming of brain activity and support sleep quality. This product contains vitamin B6, inositol, L-theanine, melatonin, and -HTP. Each helps support the body’s natural ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
DREM - Sleep Aid is an all-natural product that helps promote relaxation and healthy sleep. It contains herbs, tryptophan, melatonin, and other natural products that help stimulate the body’s natural biological sleep processes.
Lack of quality sleep can have a direct impact on our health. Getting too much or not enough sleep can increase the risk for various health issues, including cardiovascular disease, inflammation, obesity, and diabetes. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try some of the following tips listed to improve your sleep quality.
Medical Disclaimer: This article is based upon the opinions of Revelation Health. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Revelation Health and associates. This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD for accuracy of the information provided, but Revelation Health encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.
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