Sleep is medicine, for both our body and mind. But when life gets busy, our sleep is often the first thing to be sacrificed– and we always end up paying the price for it. Poor sleep can negatively impact almost every aspect of your health including cognition, hormones, aging, sex drive, energy levels, and so much more.
Sleep is so important to our health, yet 70 million Americans don’t sleep well at night, and the demand for sleeping medications is higher than its ever been. The sleep industry generates $70 billion per year from drugs like Ambien, Valium, and even melatonin. But whether they actually help is a different question.
What happens when you sleep
Do you ever wake up feeling groggy and disoriented, struggling to make it out of bed? You may be experiencing sleep inertia– a state in which you’ve abruptly awoken mid-sleep-cycle, and part of your brain is actually still asleep. The effects usually just last for up to an hour, or until your first coffee kicks in.
When you sleep, your body goes through multiple sleep cycles, each lasting between 90-120 minutes. A single sleep cycle consists of four sleep stages:
Your body transitions into a light sleep. Your muscles relax, and your heart rate, brain waves, and breathing slow down. This stage lasts for just a few minutes.
Your breathing, heart rate, and body temperature continue to go down. This stage is the longest of your sleep cycle, and you’ll spend most of the night in Stage 2 Sleep.
You enter into a deep sleep, and your body works on repairing cells, tissues, and muscles.This is the beauty sleep stage! In Stage 3 Sleep, your body replenishes its energy stores, leaving you feeling awake and refreshed the next day.
About 90 minutes into the sleep cycle, you enter REM (rapid-eye-movement) sleep. In this stage, your brain waves, heart rate, breathing, and eye movements increase, and you start to dream, which is key for learning and memory formation.
Why sleep is so important
Sleep helps your body repair and regrow cells that have been damaged by oxidative stress and injury. It’s also when your skin produces collagen, making the skin firm and preventing sagging. Studies found that not getting enough sleep (5 hours or less) can cause twice as many fine lines and wrinkles in the skin!
When you don’t get enough sleep, you tend to feel more foggy, unfocused, and forgetful– which really isn’t your fault. During sleep, the brain’s glymphatic system clears out toxic byproducts from your brain which accumulate throughout the day. By removing all this toxic waste, your brain can function more clearly and quickly when you wake up.
Research has found that sleep helps process new information into your long-term memory and clear out any unimportant information. Sleep also supports your brain’s learning, creativity, and problem-solving skills, and getting enough sleep has a huge impact on your focus and concentration the next day.
You might feel more emotional and more easily stressed when sleep-deprived, and there's a real reason for it. Research has found that brain activity lights up in areas that regulate emotions during sleep, which may be why not getting enough sleep takes such a toll on your emotional stability.
For example, the amygdala is the part of your brain that regulates a fear and anxiety response. Every time it detects something that could be a threat, your body is flooded with stress hormones. When your brain is sleep-deprived, the amygdala becomes oversensitive and overwhelms the body with stress signals.
When you get sick, everybody will tell you to drink lots of water and get enough rest. Even though most people might not know the why behind that advice, they’re definitely right. When you sleep, your body produces antibodies and immune cells to fight germs and diseases. In times when you’re sick, your body may need more sleep than usual to keep you healthy.
Sleep has a pretty big influence on your weight and eating habits. It regulates the hormones ghrelin, which makes you feel hungry, and leptin, which makes you feel full after eating.
When you’re getting sufficient sleep, your body can conserve a lot of energy and doesn’t need as much food, so it releases the satiety hormone leptin. When you aren't getting enough sleep, your body tries to gain more energy from food and releases ghrelin, the hunger hormone. Although you might not actually need the extra energy, you’ll feel hungry and be more likely to overeat when sleep-deprived. Your body is always trying to find a balance, and weight is no exception. It just needs enough sleep to do so.
What causes poor sleep
It’s clear that sleep is really important to your health, and not getting enough sleep has countless consequences. But then why do so many people struggle to sleep at night?
Lifestyle is the biggest factor that can get in the way of a good night’s rest. You might be dealing with a lot of stress in life, drinking too much coffee, not sticking to a sleep schedule, or just not prioritizing sleep as much as you should.
Another big contributor to poor sleep is the long term use of sleeping pills. You may not think it, but most sleeping medications do a lot more harm than good. Sleeping pills generally all work the same way: they reduce neuron activity in the brain through neurotransmitters. This helps you become unconscious, but sedation isn’t the same as sleep.
These sleep medications block REM sleep, where your brain processes new information and events. A lack of REM sleep can make it harder for you to regulate stress and emotionally distressing events, and it can negatively affect your ability to learn and memorize new things. Sleeping pills also restrict deeper brain waves, making you feel groggy and forgetful the next day.
Let’s also not forget the health risks of sleeping pills. Some of the side effects include dizziness, daytime drowsiness, impairment, poor attention or memory, coordination problems, stomach pain, and weakness, just to name a few.
Keep in mind that as you get older, the drugs stay in your system for longer and have a greater chance of causing health problems. Prolonged drowsiness, confusion, and memory problems are common side effects in older adults, which is why it’s recommended not to use sleeping pills if you’re over the age of 65.
How you can get better sleep naturally
Even though it can be a struggle, your body does want you to get good sleep. But sometimes, it can’t keep up with the stress of modern life. By sticking to a consistent sleep routine, you can help your body recenter itself so you can get better sleep.
A nighttime ritual is a great way to optimize your circadian rhythm to your lifestyle. When you stick to a consistent sleep schedule, your body’s internal clock can help you fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the whole night.
Here are some tips on getting better sleep at night:
- _ Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
- _ Look at sunlight when you first wake up to reset your internal clock.
- _ Take regular exercise breaks throughout the day.
- _ Keep your bedroom cool (under 70 degrees), dark, and quiet.
- _ Avoid blue light (from phones, laptop screens, TV) in the late evenings.
_ Use natural sleep aids like Juna’s Nightcap to help your body unwind before bed.
Best Natural Sleep Aid
Juna’s Nightcap is a natural sleep aid rich in natural compounds that promote deep and restorative sleep. Made with CBD, CBN, and full-spectrum hemp extract, our Nightcap helps your body and mind relax. Unlike sedative sleeping pills, which add dangerous chemicals into your body, Juna’s Nightcap is made from all-natural ingredients that simply give your body what it needs to balance itself out.
Our Nightcap contains Chamomile and Passionflower, known for their soothing and tranquil properties and scientifically proven to increase Stage 3 Deep Sleep. This is where your body restores itself and flushes out any toxins accumulated in the day. As you get older, the time spent in Stage 3 Deep Sleep decreases, making it harder to feel fully recovered and refreshed the next day.
Terpenes can also act as a natural sleep aid, which is why we use myrcene, eucalyptol, and a-pinene in our Nightcap. These terpenes are found in deep forests, and their therapeutic properties are why fresh air and the scent of nature are so soothing to us.
We recommend combining natural sleep aids, like Juna’s Nightcap, with a relaxing nightly routine to promote better sleep. Everyone’s body is different, and it really just comes to creating your perfect nighttime ritual to get the deep and restorative sleep that your body needs.