So why do we sleep? This is a question that has baffled scientists for centuries and the answer is no-one is really sure. Some believe that sleep gives the body a chance to recuperate from the day’s activities but in reality, the amount of energy saved by sleeping for even eight hours is miniscule (around 50kCal). There is no set amount of time that everyone needs to sleep, since it varies from person to person but is generally between 5 and 11 hours.
Sleep plays a significant role in brain development, being essential to maintaining normal levels of cognitive skills (speech, memory, innovative and flexible thinking). On the other hand, lack of sleep has a serious effect on our brain’s ability to function causing: grogginess, grumpiness, irritability, forgetfulness, short attention span and lack of concentration.
With continued lack of sufficient sleep, the part of the brain that controls language, memory, planning and sense of time is severely affected, practically shutting down. In fact, 17 hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.05% (two glasses of wine).
Sleep deprivation not only has a major impact on cognitive functioning but also on emotional and physical health. Disorders such as sleep apnoea which result in excessive daytime sleepiness have been linked to stress and high blood pressure. Research has also suggested that sleep loss may increase the risk of obesity because chemicals and hormones that play a key role in controlling appetite and weight gain are released during sleep.
So what can I do to ensure quality sleep?
During sleep your body releases certain compounds to help the daily recovery process. If you are looking to gain the optimal physiological effects from your sleep there are a number of different vitamins, minerals and amino acids which you can add into your daily nutritional regime.
Vitamin b6: This vitamin plays an essential role in helping the body to use amino acids. As a co-enzyme it helps specific chemicals in the body to break down and subsequently utilise protein. If you carry out a lot of exercise then this can mean that your vitamin B6 levels are likely to deplete more quickly (as vitamin B6 is also used for energy production) and therefore supplementation may be needed.
Zinc: Zinc is also needed for many functions in our body right down to the very core structure of our cells, their growth, division and proper functioning. Alongside helping to promote a healthy immune system, zinc also contributes to bone development, assisting enzymes with digestion, energy metabolism and the healing of wounds. As it is very difficult to absorb zinc through food a mineral supplement may be the best option for the majority of people.
Biotin: Biotin (which is also known as vitamin H) is also important for a productive night’s sleep. It helps to regulate and control energy production in your cells and is partially responsible for the bodily function that turns consumed food into energy. Deficiencies of vitamin H may result in insomnia symptoms, according to the University of Maryland Medical Centre, including difficulty falling asleep or constantly waking up in the middle of the night.
5-HTP: (5-Hydroxy L-Tryptophan) is a naturally occurring amino acid which is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Increased levels of serotonin have been shown to help improve sleep, not only reducing the amount of time it takes to fall asleep but also increasing REM, so you sleep deeper and wake up less during the night. Low levels of serotonin have been associated with a variety of ailments, including insomnia, depression, tension, migraines and overeating.
Research published in the Journal of Psychophysiology (1973) found that supplementation lead to a deeper (REM) sleep and also a decreased time to fall asleep in young adult males. There has been much evidence to support these findings over the last 40 years.
Formulas and blends
Taking minerals for different health benefits can be both expensive and confusing so there are also formulas available which have been scientifically formulated to work towards a specific goal. Complete sleep contains a proprietary blend of the key amino acids, vitamins and minerals which can not only help you to fall asleep more quickly, but also improve the quality of your sleep itself. Just consume 1 to 4 capsules around 30-40 minutes before sleep.
So if you are looking for a good night’s sleep with optimum physiological recovery, simply adding the aforementioned vitamins and minerals or blend to your daily nutritional diet can work wonders.
- Broussard, J. L.,Ehrmann, M. D., Van Cauter, E., Tasalo, M. D., Brady, M. J. (2012). Impaired Insulin Signaling in Human Adipocytes After Experimental Sleep Restriction: A Randomized, Crossover Study. Annals of Internal Medicine, 157(8) 549-557.
- Griffiths, W. J., Lester, B.K., Coulter, J. D., William, H. L. (1973). Tryptophan and Sleep in Young Adults. Psychophysiology, 9(3) 345-356.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin H