Originally published on www.sarahgolstein.ca Just like diet and exercise, sleep plays a huge role in our health and it should never be overlooked. The health benefits of sleep are many; enhanced cognitive performance, improved energy, lower stress levels, rejuvenated skin, better immune functioning and balanced hormones. When the body is not getting enough rest, less melatonin is being produced. Melatonin is produced at night, and is a crucial hormone for our overall health. A decrease in melatonin leads to a spike in cortisol ( a stress hormone). We do not want our cortisol spiking at night, as this leads to a less restful sleep. Elevated cortisol overtime leads to an increase in blood sugar levels, which then demands more insulin, creating a vicious cycle often leading to carbohydrate and sugar cravings during the day. Elevated cortisol levels over time also means feeling more stressed, higher rate of inflammation in the body and can contribute to lower cognitive function and performance. Poor sleep also activates ghrelin production, a hormone that sends a signal to your brain that it is time to eat, and this naturally lowers the efficacy of leptin, the hormone that tells your brain you are full. As a result your hunger/fullness signals can be out of whack. Again, this can lead to sugar and carbohydrate cravings. Sugar cravings are not bad in and of themselves, however can lead to further blood sugar spikes, which can contribute to elevated cortisol. Sleep increases our white blood cell count ( fighter cells) and studies show that just one night of less than 5 hours of sleep decreases the amount of natural killer cells ( important immune cells) in the body by 70%. We also know that we need sleep for the natural rejuvenation of our cells to help with healing, and with skin regeneration. If you have a hard time falling asleep, there are a few simple things that you can do to relax your body and prepare for a more peaceful sleep: TOP 5 LIFESTYLE TIPS FOR BETTER SLEEP Essential Oils Essential oils are an easy, yet powerful way to get a restful sleep. As soon as the nose is triggered by a scent, it travels to many parts of the brain, which have the control over our emotions and memory. The limbic system and amygdala control the nervous system, which is where we can experience this calming effect from the essential oil. Lavender is a great oil to add to the collection, if you are looking for something to help relax you before bed. The scent is well known for its calming effects on the body. By adding just a drop or two to your pillow, you can find yourself slowly feeling more at peace before you fall asleep. We like Divide Essence, Saje, Vitruvi and Living Libations. Pyjamas You may have never thought about this affecting your sleep, but what you wear to bed can also have an impact on how well you rest. When choosing the right pair of pajamas, look for something that is going to be comfortable: loose, little detail, and a fabric that is right for you. Sleeping bare is also shown to increase restfulness, and it can actually provide health benefits. When the body gets overheated, it decreases the amount of melatonin produced, so sleeping bare, or in light clothing will help to increase melatonin production. Darkness There’s a reason why eye masks exist! Sleeping in a pitch-black room, using blackout curtains or sleeping with an eye mask shows great benefits to overall sleep quality. The darker the room, the more melatonin we can produce. Limiting Blue Light + Electronics The light that we are exposed to through electronics, also known as blue light, has been shown to cause a disruption to our circadian rhythm. Blue light lowers our natural production of melatonin and increases cortisol and ghrelin. These two hormones keep us awake and as we already learned, keep us hungry. In a light-free scenario, the opposite effect would happen. Putting your phone away at least one hour before bed, and making sure you are sleeping in the dark will help to improve your sleep. Routine + Sleep Schedule Along with going to sleep in a dark room, a bed-time routine also shows to have a greater impact on a deeper sleep. One-hour prior to sleep, turn off your electronics and put aside the work. Use this hour as a way to de-stress, and get ready for a good nights rest. Some ideas may be to drink a cup of tea, put essential oils on your bed, practice a breathing technique, or meditate. We are also big fans of apps like Headspace, Sleep Breath and The Five Minute Journal. A bedtime routine can be a struggle, and I know that this is something we both try to work on. Our hormones love routine, and establishing a consistent sleep schedule, that is going to bed and waking up at the same time, is beneficial for maximum melatonin production. We hope you enjoy our tips for a healthier sleep! Comment below your healthiest sleep habits, and ways that you relax before bed!