Body + Soul, Courier Mail 14/12/14
You may eat an impeccable diet, put your gym membership to good use, and have a good balance between work, family and life, but nothing is as ruinous to good health as not getting enough sleep. A pattern of sleeping less than six hours per night affects the body in several ways, including an increase in the stress hormone cortisol. Additionally, high levels of cortisol impact the immune response, making you more susceptible to infections, cold sores and autoimmune disease. To make matters worse, not sleeping well may be the cause of weight gain as a good night’s sleep increases the release of leptin, a hormone that signals a sense of satiety and suppresses appetite. In contrast, insufficient sleep increases ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates hunger.
The term “sleep hygiene” has nothing to do with flossing and everything to do with adopting tried and true guidelines that are important for promoting a good night’s sleep. These include trying to get to bed well before midnight. Humans are creatures of habit, and the body responds to well to a regular timetable. If possible, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends. The body produces a spurt of growth hormone between the hours of 11pm- 1am, which helps to repair muscle tissue and increase bone density. In what is perhaps a throwback to our prehistoric ancestors, sleep is best had in cave-like conditions- cool (under 21ºC) and utter darkness.
Snoring and mouth breathing have a negative effect on sleep quality, while nose breathing at night helps you wake up feeling more refreshed. To encourage this, place a strip of 2.5cm wide surgical tape horizontally over closed lips. You’ll sleep like a baby. Don’t do taping if your nose is totally blocked, you feel nauseous or have had a few drinks.
Why Nose Breathing is Best
It’s preferable to breathe through your nose, since it was designed for this very purpose. Mouth breathing is linked to sleep apnoea, gum disease, crowded teeth, obesity, poor concentration, asthma and sinus issues, ADHD, anxiety and high blood pressure. Nose breathing is longer and slower, which helps to reduce the volume of the breath and create a slight in carbon dioxide. This has the dual benefit of increasing levels of oxygen to the brain and other tissues, and switching on the parasympathetic nervous system, which triggers the state of rest and relaxation.