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Restful sleep, the essential key to a healthy and balanced life

Jul 31, 2023

Sleep, much more than a simple state of rest, turns out to be a complex process fundamental to the proper functioning of the body. But then, why is sleep so important? Are there natural methods to preserve the quality of sleep?

The principle of sleep

Sleep is one of the essential pillars of health and well-being. It plays an essential role in the physical and mental regeneration of the body . The principle of sleep is simple: it is a state of rest during which the body regenerates and prepares for the next day. It also has many virtues.

The first phase of sleep corresponds to falling asleep. Two biological processes then come into play:

- Homeostatic processes , which are responsible for the accumulation of the need for sleep throughout the day.

- The circadian system , meanwhile, is unique to each person. It regulates the internal biological clock.

Overall, sleep is made up of cycles of 60 to 120 minutes. During a night's sleep, there are generally 3 to 6 cycles. Each cycle is characterized by alternating between slow-wave sleep and REM sleep . Slow-wave sleep is itself divided into different phases, including light sleep and deep sleep. As for REM sleep, it is associated with dreams and intense brain activity.

What factors can influence the quality of sleep?

Sleep is a fragile and complex process, involving various factors. Some of them promote and induce sleep, while others disturb it. Among the main negative elements, we note:

- The environment . Darkness, silence and an appropriate temperature provide an environment conducive to falling asleep. Unfortunately, and all the more so in the city centre, outdoor lighting and noise pollution are omnipresent.

- Stress and emotions . Anxiety, strong emotions, fears... Are all elements that can lead to difficulty falling asleep and nocturnal awakenings. This is why relaxation and stress management techniques are widely recommended for better sleep.

- Physical activities and exposure to light . These are two factors impacting the regulation of the biological clock. This is why it is recommended to practice regular physical activity and daily exposure to daylight.

- Time spent in front of screens . In the digital age, children and adults overinvest the duration of use of screens: tablets, smartphones, computers... However, this craze involves a major risk: the reduction of sleep time.

- Work . Indeed, certain modes of exercise contribute to altering the quality and/or quantity of sleep. This is particularly the case with night work. It is estimated that night workers sleep about an hour less than day workers. At the same time, and mainly in rural areas, a long journey time between home and work contributes to reducing sleep time.

Woman with a pillow on her head and sheep around her

The consequences of lack of sleep

Lack of sleep can have adverse health consequences. And although problematic, sleep disturbances are a problem of considerable magnitude. Indeed, in 2017, INSERM estimated that chronic insomnia affected 16% of the population.

The short term consequences

Lack of sleep can have a direct impact on various aspects of daily life. On the cognitive level, it can lead to concentration disorders, a decline in memory as well as a drop in cognitive performance . Alertness may also be impaired. By inducing drowsiness, lack of sleep increases the risk of road accidents.

On a psychological level, short-term lack of sleep can also affect mood by causing significant irritability as well as a lesser ability to manage stress.

Longer term

The consequences of lack of sleep in the long term can be more concerning for physical and mental health. One of these consequences is weight gain . Indeed, research has shown that lack of sleep disrupts hormonal regulation related to appetite, thus promoting overconsumption of food and weight gain.

It has also been established that poor quality or insufficient sleep increases the risk of presenting mood disorders such as depression.

Finally, prolonged periods of insufficient sleep are also associated with risks of cognitive decline. These can take the form of memory problems, learning difficulties, or even a decrease in intellectual abilities.

Fortunately, there are natural solutions to improve the quality of sleep.

Natural solutions to improve sleep

Plants and natural remedies favorable to sleep

Faced with sleep disorders such as insomnia, there are beneficial natural solutions to promote restful sleep. An interesting method that can sometimes avoid having to resort to substantial drug treatments such as sleeping pills. Several herbal categories exist.

First of all, these virtuous plants can be used in the form of an infusion . An easy and comforting way to use.

There are also herbal food supplements to promote sleep. Some are, for example, made with lemon balm , ashwagandha , hawthorn , etc.

Other forms of use such as the roll-on are also emerging. A practical and transportable format that is nonetheless beneficial for sleep.

The importance of healthy living

Lifestyle also plays an essential role in the quality of sleep. Food, for example, is an important factor. It is recommended to avoid heavy and high fat meals before bedtime. Indeed, these can disrupt digestion and thus make it more difficult to fall asleep. On the contrary, it is preferable to opt for a balanced diet, while avoiding excessive consumption of caffeine and alcohol in the evening.

Establishing a regular sleep routine is not insignificant. Going to bed and getting up at similar times every day, even on weekends, helps regulate the body clock and improve sleep timing. Along these lines, creating a soothing pre-sleep ritual like reading a book can be a good way to signal to the body that bedtime is approaching.

References :

French public health. (March 12, 2019). Damien Léger , Sleep and Vigilance Center, Paris, France. Jean-Baptiste Richard , Public Health France, Saint-Maurice, France. Sophie Vaux & Romain Guignard , Public Health France, Saint-Maurice, France. Sleep time in France. http://beh.santepubliquefrance.fr/beh/2019/8-9/index.html

Inserm. (August 7, 2017). Sleep, shedding light on our nocturnal activity. https://www.inserm.fr/dossier/sommeil/

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