Not many people understand the vast importance of getting good quality sleep every night. Poor sleep quality can be the catalyst to a laundry list of health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, weight gain/loss, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and cognitive impairment. It is normal to have a restless night every now and then, but going several nights a week without getting quality sleep is a problem. This begins to take a toll on the body and will likely lead to health problems if not addressed.

What is “Quality Sleep?”

Quality sleep is best described by the sleep-wake cycle. There are several chemicals and hormones made naturally in the body that contribute to this cycle, also referred to as the circadian rhythm. These include cortisol, melatonin, and serotonin, and they each play a significant role in quality of sleep.

Sleep Hormones

On top of the kidneys are little pea-sized glands that secrete the stress-coping hormone, cortisol. Levels in the blood are naturally high first thing in the morning and then gradually get lower as the day goes on, dropping drastically around 11 p.m. Cortisol levels can fluctuate depending on the amount of stress a person is under and how well that person copes with it. It can also change drastically when the natural circadian rhythm is changed, such as in jet lag, sleeplessness, or work shift changes. Melatonin is the natural sleep hormone released by the brain to induce sleep. Serotonin is more versatile than just helping regulate mood. It also helps normalize sleeping patterns and assists with the digestive process.When any of these levels are either too low or too high, the brain and body are not able to wind down for sleep, and you may find yourself exhausted, but wide awake at the end of the night. Stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues can disrupt the secretion of these hormones, which should be kept in mind when looking for tips to get better quality sleep.

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