Rest is fundamental to deactivating stress hormones, especially cortisol. Synthetic corticoids are used in medicine for their eminently immunosuppressive effect. In the same way, the inactivation of melatonin leads to a permanent state of immunodeficiency.
There are numerous studies that support the reduction of risks and faster recovery from infections in people who sleep more and better. It has been shown that those who have low-quality sleep or do not sleep enough are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. Lack of sleep can also affect the speed of recovery from illness.
The Benefits of Sleep
A good night’s sleep leads to better concentration and productivity in the daily routine. Conversely, a lack of sleep adversely affects some brain functions. Rest also prevents or reduces the risk of heart disease. It has been sufficiently proven that people who sleep little and badly have a higher risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke than those who rest well for seven to eight hours every night.
At the same time, good rest influences the metabolism and lowers the risk of diabetes. Several studies warn that reducing sleep time affects blood sugar levels and reduces insulin sensitivity. Besides, poor sleep habits are associated with adverse effects on blood sugar levels, and those who sleep fewer than six hours a day are at higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
And as noted above, getting enough sleep reduces the risk of depression. Conversely, people with various sleep disorders have higher rates of depression than those without them.
Sleep Hygiene and Healthy Habits
In times of confinement, teleworking, and high-stress loads, the focus is to establish healthy routines to encourage good rest and generate good sleep hygiene habits.
Here are some practical tips to improve the quality of your sleep:
- Go to bed before midnight. It is essential to have a sleep ritual and make it a routine that is repeated every night. In this way, a kind of conditioning is created by which the brain learns when it should start the sleep cycle.
- At bedtime, do not use any distracting devices such as televisions, mobile phones, etc. They usually produce stimulation in the brain that significantly alters sleep cycles.
- Use blinds to block light pollution and earplugs or white noise to block sound pollution.
- Eat a light dinner early, ideally two hours before going to bed. If, in addition to having dinner too close to sleep, we then skip breakfast, we increase our risk of suffering cardiovascular incidents and suffer greater mortality, according to an article published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
- Keep the room temperature below 21 degrees celsius. Warm temperatures overactivate the metabolism. This, in turn, is the trigger of brain activation that prevents us from sleeping well, leading to an increase in sleep disorders and anxiety.
- Do not consume stimulants, such as drinks with caffeine, after 3pm. Caffeine has a stimulating effect that affects our internal biological clock, called the circadian rhythm, which regulates the sleep-wake phases and tells us when to sleep and when to wake up.
- Do breathing exercises and mental-muscular relaxation before going to sleep. Concentrating on your breathing can be very helpful, something that can be drawn from the ancient lessons of disciplines such as yoga and pranayama techniques.
- Do not take long naps. The maximum should be 15-20 minutes. With this time, we will not experience any feelings of slowness or sleepiness after waking up because we will not enter a deep sleep phase.
- Always use the same scent in the room and bedding. Lavender is the best because its properties favour a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure, which helps to reconcile sleep.
- Drink any combination of passionflower infusions or low doses of magnesium and/or melatonin, one hour before going to bed.
- Do not do intense exercise at the end of the day. The ideal is to do a constant and moderate physical activity during the morning. At this time, you can do at-home stretching, yoga, push-ups, dancing, etc.
- Get up early. Whenever possible, the ideal is to wake up naturally, with sunlight. Waking up with the sun is a biological habit in which we put our body in tune with nature. The body responds to darkness by producing melatonin, the sleep hormone. Daylight stops this process, making waking up much easier once the sun is up.
Dr. Vicente Mera is the Head of Internal and Anti-Aging Medicine at SHA Wellness Clinic.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of The Gaggler.