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Wellness
|19 Jun|8 mins

Why Sleep Is As Important As Diet and Exercise

All-nighters are a thing of the past, say experts.

Don’t let anyone tell you sleep is a luxury. According to experts, sub-par slumber is a liability that defies our baseline biological needs. Prof. Matthew Walker of The University of California, Berkeley, even goes so far as to say it's an epidemic.

In his famed Ted Talk, Walker cites sleeplessness as the modern culprit – a thief in the night – that impairs our immunity, zaps our memory, decreases our pain tolerance, and interferes with our DNA, mood, hormones, cardiovascular and gut health in the short term. And it doesn’t discriminate. A sustained lack of sleep is a risk factor for chronic conditions – heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. In case you were wondering, Walker enjoys a non-negotiable eight hours every night. Take it from him, all-nighters are a thing of the past.

Enter The Goodnight Co.: purveyors of not only quality sleep products, but Australia’s first sleep retreat. The mission is clear – to reclaim your Zzz’s of the deep, restorative kind from the night you arrive thereafter. Rewind five years ago and you’d find two sleep-deprived mums, Danielle Knight and Shea Morrison, on a quest for an elusive good night’s rest and destined to found The Goodnight Co. But the issue of sleep hygiene that their retreat addresses isn’t just important for new mums; it’s important for the young, the old, shift workers, CEOs, and everyone in between.

“Sleep is as important as diet and exercise,” says Shea. Plainly put, poor quality sleep means you’re less likely to exercise less (and less efficiently). Plus, you’ll eat more the next day due to an imbalance of satiety hormones. The bottom line? You can’t out-exercise, or out-diet crappy sleep habits. Our body starts to compensate, and not in a good way. As The Goodnight Co. founder distills: “the way you feel while you’re awake depends on what happened while you were asleep.” It’s cause and effect all over. 

The good news? It’s possible to optimise your night by optimising your day.

“The day you have has a huge impact on your sleep quality that same night. Stress and anxiety play a role in sleeplessness, especially since a continual state of alertness or the ‘fight or flight response’ delays the onset of sleep.” Mark these tips as high priority in your PM routine so you have the best shot for a deep slumber.

TURN OFF THE LIGHTS
“Switch off your screens one to two hours before bed,” Shea advises. That way, you’ll avoid added exposure to light which down-regulates our sleep hormone, melatonin. As Walker explains in his Ted Talk and book, ‘Why We Sleep’, we’re a darkness-deprived society. To prepare ourselves for quality shut-eye, get more light during the day (sunlight is best) and less light after sunset, he sagely instructs. The sun increases happy hormone, serotonin, which eventually converts to melatonin,” Shea adds. If you’re pressing snooze in the morning. Start here.

RHYTHM & ROUTINE
In line with Prof. Walker’s research, anchoring your sleep in the same bedtime, and rise time is vital to improve your sleep quantity and quality. A win, win. Ideally, you’d wake with the sun, feeling refreshed (not like you need two and a half coffees to get going). The Goodnight Co takes this idea further: 

“Your body and mind respond well to consistency. Repeating tasks in the same order every single night helps send signals to your body so you can start to associate them with winding down.” 

We’re talking an afternoon walk, followed by herbal tea and gratitude journaling to amplify your immunity, calm the nervous system, and lower stress respectively. 

“You could also diffuse a mix of lavender, cedarwood, and sweet orange essential oil or try a natural sleep aid like anacardium or zinc around bedtime,” she offers. Whatever you decide on, make it yours.

NIGHTCAP NO MORE
Ok, so we’re not over the moon about it, but it seems we need to do away with the bevvy within our PM routine. 

“Alcohol is a sleep aid we’ve abused as a short term fix… sedation isn’t sleep,” Walker explains. Those times we do indulge means forgoing our dream-inducing REMs (rapid eye movement sleep). In fact, it promotes a series of short awakenings we don’t even remember. This is why we feel less than spritely the next day after a few vinos. Nope – we can’t shortcut science! Track your REMs easily with a smart watch.

EAT, SLEEP, REPEAT
As for nutrition, “foods that are processed, sugary carb-laden undermine your rest,” Shea tells us. Your blood sugar, in particular, is altered by sugar which in turn makes you feel sleepy way before you should. Meals high in carbohydrates can also have a similar effect. 

“Swap them for sleep-promoting foods like leafy greens, nuts, seafood, and whole grains. And try not to eat heavy meals too close to bedtime so as not to interfere with the body’s ability to wind down.”

COOL IT
For most people, a bedroom temp around 18°C is part of the recipe to soundly sleep year-round, according to Walker. This is your permission to ditch your multiple PJ layers, even in winter.

So get sleepy. You owe it to yourself. 

Get Sleepy
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