Why is sleep so important?

by Allanah Robinson Cook and Caitlin Hunter – Naturopaths

One night of poor sleep isn’t the end of the world. However, over time the accumulation of sleep
debt will impact quality of life and increase the risk of chronic pain and other serious conditions.
Sleep deprivation can impact your: appearance, immune system, heart health, digestive function,
hunger signals & weight, memory, reaction time, focus, productivity, creativity, physical performance, and mood.

How much sleep do you need?


Most healthy adults function best with 7-9 hours.

The stages of sleep


Stage 1 (N1)
• Normal length = 1-7 mins
• Light sleep as the body is relaxing & falling asleep.
• Easy to wake up during this stage

Stage 2 (N2)
• Normal length = 10-25 mins
• Drop in temperature, muscles relax, breathing & heart rate slow.
• Brain activity slows, but still short bursts of activity (resist you from being woken up)
• A normal sleeper spends about half of their sleep time here

Stage 3 (Deep Sleep)
• Normal length = 20-40 mins
• Critical to restorative sleep – supports recovery & growth, boosts immunity, and supports other vital bodily functions.
• Important for cognitive function/memory and creativity

Stage 4 (REM)
• Normal length = 10-60 mins (overall makes up about 25% of sleep on average)
• Brain activity increases (often the stage of vivid dreams)
• Essential for memory, learning, creativity
• Onset – around 90 mins after you fall asleep.
• Longer REM stages as sleep progresses (first half of sleep they can be a few mins vs in the second half of sleep they can last ~ 1 hour).

Sleep optimisation strategies


• Engage in regular exercise
• Avoid naps during the day
• Consume a satiating dinner 2-4 hours before bedtime (depending on meal)
• Avoid large meals, high sugar intake, and stimulants later in the day
• Dim the lights
• Switch of screens (at least 2 hours before bed)
• Have a hot shower or bath
• Create a peaceful and dark bedroom environment
• Create a relaxing bedtime ritual (breathing exercises, gentle movement, meditation etc.)
• Sip on a relaxing herbal infusion (lavender, chamomile, passionflower, lemon balm,
valerian etc.)
• Consider supplementation (Magnesium, glycine, theanine, apigenin, inositol, GABA,
ornithine, serine etc.)
• Listen to your body cues – go to sleep when your body is giving you signs of sleepiness
• Mouth taping (to ensure nose breathing during sleep)
• Stick to a consistent sleep-wake cycle

Speak to a healthcare practitioner if issues persist.

What do I do if I wake up during the night?


• Read something light
• Listen to a sleep meditation
• Practice breathing exercises
• Diffuse a calming essential oil (like lavender or chamomile)
• Sip a warm (non-caffeinated) drink
• Use a heat pack to soothe any aches/pains
• Write down any thoughts/worries keeping you awake
• Go to another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired again




• Insomnia Course: https://thiswayup.org.au/programs/insomnia-program/
• Yoga Nidra: