People must have sleep, animals need to sleep. But what about plants – do plants need sleep?
While definitions of ‘sleep’ differ, plants, like humans and animals, also tune into a 24-hour circadian rhythm, which requires them to have light and also the absence of light, for optimal health.
The Portulaca Sun Jewels (Portulaca oleracea) below illustrate the point well. These photos were taken within the same 24 hours. The photo at the top was taken very early morning, and the plant appears to be ‘asleep’, but once the sun is out bursts into bloom.
What is happening when plants ‘sleep’?
Like humans, plants also have critical processes underway during the night, even though they may appear to have shut down.
When plants are ‘sleeping’ they produce the hormone auxin, which controls their growth and development. It is also when they metabolise the energy taken in through the day.
What happens when plants are exposed continuously to light and cannot benefit from ‘sleep’ time?
Although it is possible for plants to live with light present 24 hours per day, this is not recommended by many including Tammy Clayton of the Garden Culture Magazine, who advises poor flowering, then fruiting, and declining health comes as a result of insufficient absence of light.
There are mixed results according to different types of plants, however negative effects such as limited or reduced plant grown and productivity, and leaf damage and yellowing as a result of a lack of chlorophyll are reported, as per this study
published by Global Science Books.
In conclusion, plants, like humans, have a natural cycle where it appears not much is going on, but in fact critical processes are in motion. In order to thrive, like humans, the majority of plants require a ‘sleep’ time just like we do!
Insomnia can be defined an as inability to sleep or habitual sleeplessness. If this has been ongoing for at least 3 nights a week for a month or more, it is known as chronic insomnia. Lack of sleep is going to lead to the question ‘Why do I have insomnia?’ which will be explored in this article.
Difficulty sleeping can be the result of a wide range of reasons. Many of these can be effectively treated, if the reasons are correctly diagnosed.
In an earlier article we considered the basics including the sleeping environment, lifestyle habits and sleep preparation. In many cases’ there are simple adjustments that can be applied to help achieve a better night’s sleep.
In some circumstances, however, factors such as the presence of a sleeping disorder; stress, anxiety or depression; and/or other health conditions may be a significant reason for a lack of optimal sleep.
Sleep disorders – there are many of them!
According to Michael J Breus, PhD (The Sleep Doctor), there are at least 88 different types of sleep disorder.
Many people suffer with a sleep disorder that can adversely affect their health, but are either unaware they have the disorder, or have not sought treatment for a condition that can be substantially alleviated.
It is recommended you seek medical advice if your sleep problems become an ongoing pattern and/or if you find yourself not refreshed after a night’s sleep, and prone to excessive sleepiness during the day.
Some of the most common sleep disorders include:
Sleep apnoea: this is a condition where breathing repeatedly stops during sleep. As muscles relax the airways block or become significantly reduced, causing breathing to be interrupted. The sleeper is often unaware they have this condition but can be alerted to it by other family members advising symptoms such as snoring, restlessness, gasping, etc during the night.
According to the Sleep Health Foundation sleep apnoea leads to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, stroke and irregular heartbeat. They advise there is strong evidence linking sleep apnoea to premature death and increased risk of motor vehicle accidents.
For more detail about sleep apnoea, recommendations and options for treatment, refer to the Sleep Health Foundation and their fact sheets. Further details about some other sleep disorders may also be found there.
Insomnia: This can include symptoms such as finding it difficult to fall asleep; to sleep long enough, or continual waking throughout the night and then taking a long time to get back to sleep again.
Older people and women are more at risk, however insomnia can affect anyone and most people experience insomnia at some point in their lives.
Bruxism: This occurs when sleepers grind or gnash their teeth at night.
Bruxism may not be severe or require treatment, however in other circumstances it can lead to permanent teeth damage. The Mayo Clinic lists symptoms such as worn tooth enamel, chipped teeth, increased tooth sensitivity, damage on the inside of the cheek, an aching jaw and headaches.
Sleepers may have no awareness that they grind their teeth, but it can be a cause of sleep disruption.
REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep Behaviour Disorder: this disorder leads to people acting out their dreams.
When a person without this disorder enters the REM sleep phase, their brain activity resembles the waking state, but this is accompanied by rapid eye movements and virtual muscle paralysis. The muscle paralysis does not occur in someone with this disorder when they enter the REM stage. This means the sufferer is able to physically act out their dreams which can include behaviour such as kicking, yelling, punching, etc.
Nightmares and night terrors: These happen more commonly in children and can be upsetting for both the person and those witnessing the incidents. Nightmares are often recalled in the morning, whereas night terrors commonly are not.
Nightmares in particular can lead to anxiety for the child that affects their thoughts about bedtime. Parents can be shaken witnessing either nightmares or night terrors in their child. The Alaska Sleep Clinic has published a helpful article around managing incidents for children.
Restless Legs Syndrome: this is accompanied by a need to move the legs to relieve discomfort, and also affects sufferers during the day.
The Brain Foundation advises that one in twenty people will suffer from restless leg syndrome at some time. Definitive causes are not clear yet, but there appears to be a link to low iron levels and a number of chronic diseases such as kidney failure, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
Shift work sleep disorder: as the name suggests, this disorder is commonly suffered by shift workers as a result of their work schedules disrupting their natural circadian rhythms.
This can result in difficulty sleeping, and impacts alertness when the sufferer needs to be awake and/or is ‘on the job’. A similar problem is occurring for someone suffering jet lag, however this ordinarily resolves over a relatively short period.
The Cleveland Clinic advises that people suffering from this disorder are more prone to accidents and workplace errors, moodiness, poor coping skills and other health related problems. They may also have increased risk of drug and alcohol dependency.
Narcolepsy: this disorder is associated with excessive drowsiness and a lack of energy.
It occurs as a result of the part of the brain which controls falling asleep not functioning correctly, with multiple daytime naps lasting anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or more.
Stress, Anxiety and Depression can affect quality of sleep
Have you even gone to bed feel really exhausted, but finding it impossible to turn off your mind?
A stressed, anxious or depressed mind, worrying about matters (sometimes even mundane matters!), makes it really hard to sleep. It can then turn into worry about not being able to sleep which is a downward spiral!
Other health problems can contribute to sleeplessness
Sleeplessness may be a result of other health issues that the sufferer has.
This may include arthritis, asthma, cancer, heartburn or any condition causing pain that leads to an inability to sleep.
In some cases’ medication or other substances such as alcohol, may also be the culprit.
Until these other problems are resolved, it may be difficult to restore optimal sleep patterns.
If good sleep cannot be restored by implementing strategies such as those outlined in the previous article relating to your sleeping environment, lifestyle habits and preparation before sleep, you may be impacted by one or more conditions such as those outlined above.
Further investigation with a medical professional is recommended if you suspect untreated issues such as those considered above. Most can be effectively treated, and will make a big difference towards ensuring optimal ongoing health and well-being.
When it comes to sleep, it definitely makes sense to keep an eye on the basics to provide the best possible setup for your sweet dreams! Natural sleep aids, such as creating an optimal sleeping environment, fostering healthy lifestyle habits and preparing appropriately for sleep are a good place to start when considering changes to make to improve your sleep quality.
1. Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment
Make sure where you sleep is cool, dark and comfortable.
A hot and stuffy room will make it difficult to get to sleep. The body tends to fall asleep as it cools, so ensuring the room temperature is not too hot is important. The hum of the ceiling fan can be relaxing and assists some to fall asleep, while also having a cooling effect.
Black-out curtains can really help, especially for shift workers that need to work at night and sleep during the day. These curtains prevent any light filtering into the room when they have been closed. They create a peaceful environment and assist in setting the mood for sleep, even if it is the middle of the day.
Using an eye-mask is another suggestion for eliminating light if you are trying to sleep during the day, or there is distracting light in the bedroom that cannot be removed.
2. Mattress and Pillow Talk
What you choose to sleep on can make quite a difference to your comfort at sleeping time.
A key to selecting a good pillow depends upon your preferred sleeping position. Consumer Reports have produced a helpful article for identifying the pillow you are likely to find most comfortable. It is also important to consider the pillow content as well, especially if you are prone to hay fever.
Consumer Reports also test and review over 100 different mattresses and this is a good option for initial research prior to going in and testing your selections in person.
3. Keep a Regular Sleep and Wake Cycle
Although this is not always possible for shift workers, going to bed and rising each day at the same time is recommended.
Creating a consistent pattern – even on weekends – supports the body’s circadian rhythm. This helps you become more efficient in your sleep patterns, as your body responds to when it is to fall asleep and to wake up.
Your body loves routine and when you travel between time zones or do shift work, for example, the circadian rhythm can be disrupted. This can make you feel out of sorts and make it more difficult to sleep well for a period of time.
4. Get Your Daily Dose of Morning Sunlight
Dr Michael J Breus, The Sleep Doctor, recommends getting outside for some form of sunlight within 30 minutes of rising each day.
Not only does the bright light have an effect upon our bodies that help us sleep well in the evening, it also boosts our mood and alertness throughout the day.
An early morning walk for 15 minutes with the dog, for example, can provide some exercise as well as the added benefit of keeping the circadian rhythms functioning well.
Alternatively just sitting in the sunshine with a coffee, book, paper, for a short period of time will start your day on a very positive note.
5. Good Nutrition
Good nutrition will assist you in getting a great night’s sleep.
Suffering from acid reflux or indigestion following a high fat meal or indulging in food that does not agree with you is definitely not helpful!
Studies show that poor food choices – ie. Low fibre, high sugar, saturated fat – are linked to lower quality sleep.
6. Daily Exercise
Exercise is a great way to help improve the quality of our sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation claims that as little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise can dramatically improve sleep quality. This could be walking or cycling for example. Exercise provides benefits for calming an anxious mind and also for relaxing tense muscles.
Just be aware that exercise too close to bedtime may affect your ability to fall asleep – it may be best to exercise a few hours prior to this time.
7. Take a Hot Bath
As suggested above, the body tends to fall asleep as the body cools. Having a hot bath can facilitate this process.
It is more effective than a shower which is not able to heat the body in the same way. In addition a bath can be made even more relaxing by introducing relaxing bath oils and/or playing relaxing music.
Just make sure you don’t nod off in there!
8. Create a Quiet Time Before Bed
In the couple of hours before bedtime, introduce activities that will calm your mind and body before bed. This best prepares you for a good night’s sleep.
Activities such as reading a book or magazine, listening to relaxing music, meditating, journaling or drawing have the ability to quiet the mind and naturally lead you to a place conducive for sleeping.
9. Cut the Blue Light
It is not recommended that electronic devices such as IPADs, tablets, phones, etc be used within the hour or so prior to going to bed.
Darkness produces melatonin in our bodies. This is a chemical that puts us to sleep and exposure to light at night has the ability to suppress the release of melatonin. It is a reason many people have difficulty sleeping.
Harvard Health Publishing have posted an article Blue light has a dark side, which suggests that the blue light emitted from devices has the ability to not only throw out our circadian rhythms, thus upsetting our sleep quality, but that it may also contribute to obesity, heart disease, cancer and diabetes (note: these studies are still preliminary)..
10. Limit Caffeine Consumption
Whilst there are many benefits to drinking coffee, it is a stimulant that promotes alertness. As a result, for a good night’s sleep it is not recommended in the second half of the day. This allows adequate time for at least half of the effect of caffeine to be out of your system by the time you wish to go to sleep.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine advise caffeine can delay the timing of the body clock and also reduce the amount of deep sleep enjoyed. They also advise that the effects on older adults is longer, as it takes more time for their bodies to process caffeine.
Caffeine is present not only in coffee, but also in other products such as tea, chocolate, energy drinks and cola.
11. Alcohol Immediately Before Bed Affects Your Sleep Quality
While alcohol is considered a relaxant by many people, it is recommended that at least an hour pass for each drink prior to going to bed. The National Sleep Foundation advises that alcohol contributes to poor quality sleep by preventing the sleeper from falling into the really deep, restorative phases of sleep. Not only does it interrupt the circadian rhythm and block REM sleep (often considered the most restorative phase of sleep), it also aggravates breathing problems and causes the need for more bathroom trips during the night.
Take Care of the Basics!
In conclusion, there are many simple and natural ways in which healthy sleeping patterns can be developed. It is well worth putting thought into your sleeping environment and lifestyle – tweaking some of the elements above could make all the difference to your sleep quality.
It’s a mistake to believe that sleeping is not really all that important. We live increasingly busy lives, and it can be tempting to cut back our sleeping time to squeeze in ‘more’, but doing so could be counter-productive. By examining the effects of sleep deprivation, it becomes clear that sleeping well matters.
Like food and water, sleep is a basic need for all of us. Good sleeping habits enhance our lives and have considerable impact upon our general health and well-being.
In this article I will share my story and some of the recognised outcomes of sleep deprivation. Getting enough sleep is important not only for ourselves, but also impacts our family, co-workers and others.
Are you affected by lack of sleep?
Before being treated for a sleeping disorder, I was becoming increasingly frustrated by symptoms of anxiety and forgetfulness. A lot of the time I just felt exhausted. In the morning I more often than not got up feeling irritable, rather than refreshed or restored.
In addition, I didn’t understand why I felt this way. Having fun socialising, reading for pleasure or enjoying music, movies, etc fell by the wayside as
requiring too much effort. I seemed only able to muster enough energy to get through work.
On the odd occasion I did make it to the movies with friends, I inevitably fell asleep midway through. On one occasion I narrowly avoided catastrophe falling asleep at the wheel driving home one afternoon after visiting with my parents.
It is amazing what a difference improved sleeping patterns make, and I thank my husband for prodding me to get medical assistance with respect to my issues!
The outcome has been greatly increased energy reserves, with a big impact upon happiness levels. As a result of better sleep, I feel more confident navigating decisions and events that arise in life, and now have energy for things I previously felt too exhausted to consider.
That was my story, and it has had a profound effect on the value I place on a good night’s sleep!
Below are some of the recognised effects of sleep deprivation.
What is going on when we sleep?
Sleep is not simply a time where the body shuts down and there is nothing going on. There are complex processes taking place and it is suggested that a lot of the body’s restorative, repair, growth and memory consolidation occurs at this time. The body cycles four to six times through 5 distinct stages of sleep. Each cycle takes about 90 minutes and to awaken feeling refreshed it is important to get enough deep sleep within each cycle.
How much sleep do I need?
According to The Sleep Health Foundation, 2011, in Australia infants sleep on average 14-15 hours per day, and adults 7-9 hours per day. Individual needs can vary significantly, however, and the number of hours required will vary over our lifetime.
As discussed, not everyone requires the same amount of sleep.
Dr Michael Breus – The Sleep Doctor (search for him online) suggests experimenting over a week to identify exactly what you need. This then allows you to calculate your ideal bedtime to optimise the sleep you get. Most of us have a time when we need to rise, and it is simplest to work backwards from this. A suggested bedtime is 7.5 hours prior to your required wakeup point. If you wake up just before your alarm goes off, you have identified your ideal bedtime. If your alarm wakes you, try going to bed a bit earlier until you have found the ideal time. Your body loves routine, so try to provide this in your bed and wake-up time.
Our physical well-being is impacted by sleep….
Studies have shown that our immune systems work much better when we are well-rested.
In one experiment run through the University of Chicago, for example, a flu vaccine was provided to a well rested and a sleep-deprived group. The sleep deprived group contracted the flu at much higher rates than the group that was well-rested.
Sleep supports a healthy immune system, and lack of sleep will compromise this.
…and so is our emotional state!
We’ve almost all felt the impact of a terrible night’s sleep. It generally leaves us irritable, frustrated and moody – not in the best frame of mind for a day ahead.
Sleep has been shown to have a direct effect upon anxiety, and ongoing sleep deprivation is a contributing factor to depression. Clearly this is not good for either ourselves or anybody else we come in contact with!
What happens to our brain when we are sleep-deprived?
When we are not sufficiently rested, our brains do not function as well. We become more forgetful, and have greater difficulty making decisions. Our judgement is impaired, and the ability to concentrate is reduced.
Some studies have shown that there is a correlation between risk-taking behaviour and sleep – the more sleep deprived we are, the more prone we are to taking risks.
Like intoxication, sleep deprivation can lead to speech and motor function impairment.
Implications within the community
The Australian Transport Council reported in its National Road Safety Strategy2011-2020 that a driver awake for 21 hours will have a similar driving ability to that of a driver with a BAC of 0.15. According to the Council, sleepiness is as much a contributor to the road toll as drink driving and speeding.
This is supported by traffic studies from the NSW Centre for Road Safety which advise motorists travelling between 10pm and dawn are four times more likely to have a fatal crash, indicating strong linkage to fatigue as being the likely cause.
In the workplace, productivity drops when workers are not well rested and absenteeism increases. With lack of sleep, energy levels are depleted and this impacts motivation and enthusiasm.
It is also more likely for accidents and oversights to occur when workers are tired.
Although we may sometimes wish we had more hours in the day, to operate at our best it is not our sleep that should be compromised. Sleep rejuvenates us and provides us with physical, mental and emotional well-being.
It is in everyone’s best interests to support ourselves and our families in getting appropriate levels of rest and sleep.
Hi everyone and welcome to ‘My Refreshing Sleep’ website.
THE JOURNEY TOWARDS A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
Being unable to sleep well has had a profound effect upon my life.
Prior to parenthood, I usually slept very well. Unfortunately from that point onward, getting a good night’s sleep became more challenging.
Aside from depleted energy levels, insufficient sleep affects mood, leading to irritability and depression. It also results in short attention span, forgetfulness and reduced cognitive function. Something had to be done!
In my case I eventually resorted to surgery as a means to improve the quality of my sleep. This was fairly extreme, and is not necessary for most people – there are many other ways to achieve improved sleep patterns.
In saying this, I now truly appreciate the value of deep restorative sleep.
SUFFICIENT SLEEP IS ESSENTIAL FOR EVERYONE
There are a lot of misconceptions about sleep, and what we actually need.
Through this site, I will share ideas and solutions with sufferers of sleeplessness, insomnia, sleep apnoea and other sleep disorders, with a view to achieving improved sleep results.
THE GOAL OF THIS SITE
To provide a resource dedicated to sleep, highlighting its importance and providing ideas for capturing those (sometime elusive) zzzz’s.
If you ever need a hand or have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to help you out.