Sleep Therapy: Your Secret Weapon Against Stress and Burnout

Written by: Kyle Riley, BSc (hons) Ex Sci, Therapy Co-Founder

In the busy of modern life, with new ‘biohacks’ popping up at every turn promising quick fix recovery boosts and stress-relievers, it’s easy to underestimate the crucial role of quality sleep in overall health. And as the therapeutic benefits of sleep become increasingly evident, it’s clear that sufficient rest isn’t just a luxury—it’s fundamental to our well-being.

Think about it: sleep impacts nearly every aspect of our of health, from cognitive function to immune resilience, cardiovascular and metabolic health. Studies consistently show that irregular sleep patterns or chronic sleep deprivation can significantly increase the risk of various health issues, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and mental health disorders. Plus, the quality of sleep directly affects our mood, cognitive abilities, physical vitality and mental resilience.

Luckily, there are strategies to enhance both the quality and quantity of our sleep. By cultivating healthy sleep habits and prioritising restorative rest, we can unlock the full potential of our body’s natural healing mechanisms.

And if you are interested in learning more about how to optimise sleep, including understanding your unique ‘chronotype’ (are you an early bird or night owl?) and sleep needs, why not join us at our upcoming 90 minute workshop at Therapy Fitness Mermaid Waters on the 27th April at 10am, free!

Book a free spot here (bookings open 12 days out).

Circadian Rhythms

At the heart of understanding sleep lies the concept of the circadian rhythm—the body’s internal clock that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. This rhythm, coordinated by the hypothalamus in response to light, releasing cortisol and promoting wakefulness. As night falls, the brain signals the production of melatonin, the hormone that induces drowsiness and initiates sleep. Keeping the body in alignment with this rhythm is an important aspect of sleep hygiene and overall health.

Improving Circadian Health

  • Sleep Consistency: Ensuring exposure to natural light in the morning and steering clear of screens and other sources of artificial light in the evening before bed can help sync your sleep cycles and strengthen your circadian rhythm. Consistent exposure to light and darkness at regular intervals plays a crucial role too. But above all, prioritising sleep consistency is key—aim to hit the hay and rise at roughly the same times each day.
  • Morning/Evening Light Exposure: Making sure you catch at least 20 minutes of natural sunlight within 30 minutes of waking up in the morning—yes, even on cloudy days—and observing the transition from day to night in the evening can reinforce your body’s natural circadian rhythm. This simple routine has been shown to support healthy cortisol levels and sleep patterns. Essentially, we want to embrace behaviours that sync with our body’s innate cycles. Extensive research highlights the crucial link between a well-aligned circadian clock and overall well-being, including immune health. By exposing yourself to morning light and observing the evening sky, you’re effectively triggering biological processes that regulate sleep-wake cycles, appetite, energy levels, hormone production, and body temperature.

Stages of Sleep

Once sleeping, we experience a process of cycles marked by distinct stages. The average healthy adult undergoes 3-5 sleep cycles per night, each comprising four key stages: Light Sleep, Deep/Slow Wave Sleep (SWS), Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep, and Wake.

Light sleep acts as a bridge to deeper stages, allowing the body to remain sensitive to external stimuli.

Deep or Slow Wave Sleep (SWS) emerges as a crucial period for muscle repair and growth, with the majority of daily growth hormones being produced during this phase—vital for recovery after exercise, for example.

REM sleep, renowned for its role in cognitive restoration, supports memory consolidation and skill retention. It’s during this phase that the brain solidifies newly acquired information and abilities, highlighting its importance for learning and development.

Simple tips to improve your sleep cycles

While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to optimising sleep stages, and when you should sleep may well be influenced by your unique ‘chronotype’, adopting healthy sleep habits can significantly improve sleep efficiency. 

Here are some tips:

  • Keep your room dark: Darkness encourages the production of melatonin, aiding in falling asleep faster and enjoying longer periods of rest.
  • Maintain a cool temperature: Setting the room temperature to around 18-20 degrees celcius can help facilitate faster sleep onset and deeper, more restorative sleep.
  • Bedroom for sleep: Associating your bed with sleep, rather than work, helps reinforce its role as a place of rest.
  • Limit screen time before bed: The blue light emitted by screens disrupts the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, making it harder to fall asleep. Avoid screens at least an hour before bedtime for better sleep quality, you can also try blue-light blocking glasses if you must expose yourself to blue-light in the night-time hours.
  • Reduce caffeine intake before bed: Caffeine can linger in the system for hours, disrupting sleep even if consumed earlier in the day. Avoid caffeine in the late afternoon and evening for better sleep.
  • Be mindful of alcohol consumption: While alcohol may initially induce sleepiness, it can disrupt sleep patterns later in the night (Daytime drinkers unite!) Plan alcohol consumption accordingly or try to avoid altogether at times where sleep is of importance.
  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule: Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day helps regulate the body’s internal clock, promoting better sleep quality and overall well-being, trying to play catch up on the weekend by dramatically altering your sleep timings can negatively impact your circadian rhythms.

How late can I consume caffeine? What about shift work? Does napping work? Am I an early bird or night owl?

Want to learn more?

Free Workshop: Optimising your Sleep

Saturday 27th April 

Join us at our upcoming sleep workshop in which we will deep dive into:

Chronobiology and Circadian Rhythms

Chronotypes: Are you an early bird or night owl?

Napping and sleep debt

Shiftworkers and sleep

Top tips to wake up feeling rested

Top sleep myths

Top sleep tips to boost health