The business of sleep

The prevalence of insomnia had increased by 1.5% between 2002 and 2012, and this number is expected to grow another 3.4% between 2021 and 2027 per a global market report.

Stress and sleep

Owen Wiseman

01 November 2021

Who is being affected?

Would I surprise you to hear that everyone from children to the elderly are experience the impacts of insomnia or poor sleep? A team spearheaded by Canadian researchers from Memorial University in St. John's found the prevalence of insomnia had increased by 1.5% between 2002 and 2012. That represents tens of thousands more Canadians unable to fall or stay asleep, and this number is expected to grow another 3.4% between 2021 and 2027 per a global market report.

Does sleeplessness affect the economy?

A report from the RAND research group notes that Canadians lose 80,000 working days each year because of impacts on productivity. That is costing the economy an estimated $26.5 billion annually or 1.35% of the country's gross domestic product. Their report also notes, "Sleep loss and sleep-related disorders have been linked to a number of accidents and catastrophes including the Chernobyl nuclear explosion, the Three Mile Island nuclear incident, the Exxon Valdez spill and the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy."

What are some of the common causes of sleeplessness?

  • BMI: Those considered overweight or obese sleep 2.5 – 7 minutes less than those with a healthy BMI
  • Commuting: Those with a 30-to-60-minute drive to work sleep 9.2 minutes less than those with a zero-to-15-minute drive.
  • Gender: Men at birth sleep about 9 minutes less than women at birth
  • Less flexibility: Those with fewer choices in their day-to-day work sleep 2.3 minutes less per day
  • Sugary drinks: More than two beverages a day makes you sleep 3.4 minutes less

These are just some of the lifestyle, personal, and workplace factors that reduce the amount of sleep that you get. Imagine all of these compounded together and that could be hours of sleep missed every week.

Can you explain the circadian rhythm I keep reading about?

The body has light detectors in the eye that help it understand and interpret the passage of time. It is even tied to the regulation of organ systems through the carefully orchestrated release of hormones and neurotransmitters.

This internal clock creates a rhythm and humans require the pattern so melatonin, cortisol, leptin and a myriad of other chemicals get released at the proper time. It would be chaos if the body released melatonin mid-presentation, the hunger hormone ghrelin in the middle of the night or the stress hormone as you start to unwind during an evening meditation session.

What are the effects of sleep deprivation ?

Less than 6 hours of sleep are considered incredibly detrimental to your overall health, placing you at a 13% higher risk of dying than those getting between seven and nine hours. Now if that isn't bad enough, consider that less than seven hours a night can increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and alcohol abuse.

Across the nation, drowsiness is a factor in almost 21% of motor vehicle collisions according to the Canada Safety Council. That amounts to almost 400 deaths and 2,100 serious injuries due to fatigue alone. You may quickly understand why that full nights rest is important for not only your safety, but also the safety of those around you.

I feel tired, but I get into my head before bed. What can I do about that?

This isn't uncommon. Research has shown that self-defined poor sleepers were more likely than those who thought they were good sleepers to ruminate on tasks and situations before bed.

This is only one side effect of rumination as it can also prolong negative emotions and increase the risk of depression. Imagine a task or situation as a Rubik's cube where you may spend minutes turning and analyzing it from every angle before you make your next move. While it may help solve a problem in the long run, it requires a lot of thinking and an active mind means difficulty sleeping. Writing down your thoughts and tasks before bed can actually lead to you falling asleep quicker as shown in a 2018 study.

Are there options for symptomatic relief?

Valerian is one of the better-known sleep-aids in the world of herbal medicine with early research demonstrating that the herb was as effective as oxazepam, a common benzodiazepine prescribed for anxiety and insomnia. While effective on its own, more potent is a combination of valerian and hops (Humulus lupulus). To answer the question on your mind, yes - the same hops found in beer, but alcohol disturbs our sleep quality, so better to stick to something like the fast-acting Deep Sleep tincture for adults instead. There's no risk of dependency as dosed and you wake up feeling refreshed instead of drowsy. It's clinically proven to improve quality and duration of sleep, increasing REM and deep sleep phases by up to 25%.

What about diet and the effect on sleep?

Certain nutrients are required for the formation of melatonin and helping us wake and feel rested. Magnesium for example helps to reduce sensations of anxiety and improve sleep quality. You can find this important nutrient in nuts, spinach, black beans and soy.

Calcium plays an important role in regulating non-restorative sleep, while other nutrients like vitamin D are used to maintain sleep. If you find it difficult to meet your recommended nutrient intake, you might consider supplementing with a product like Bio-Strath. It's a whole-food supplement that contains the full spectrum of B vitamins, amino acids, and a broad range of nutrients and vitamins to support your overall health and a good night's sleep!

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