Singaporeans have been cited as being amongst the most sleep deprived globally. While the National Sleep Foundation recommends at least seven hours of sleep each night, YouGov’s latest survey reveals only one in four people in Singapore (27%) have an ideal sleep cycle (of 7 hours or more).
It is most common for Singaporeans to get six to seven hours of sleep a night (39%), followed by four to six hours (32%). Residents also generally sleep less than they would like – a substantial eight in ten (80%), wish they had seven or more hours of sleep on the daily, but only a quarter (27%) actually do.
Why this is happening If you guessed stress – spot on. Recent surveys have shown that stress is at an all-time high these days, especially since the pandemic began. But what really is the connection? Why does stress mess with sleep so much? More importantly, given that it’s impossible to be human and not get stressed, how do you keep it from sabotaging your sleep?
The Stress-Sleep Connection
At the base of it, it is natural to lose sleep when our mental landscape is cluttered or when there are many things pressing our mind. The brain would naturally find it impossible to take a break, which would make falling or staying asleep a challenge.
The issue, however, goes deeper than that, as there are actual physiological changes happening in your body that make sleep difficult when you’re stressed; and many of them boil down to a hormone called cortisol. When you’re stressed, your body naturally produces cortisol, the fight or flight hormone, and this causes a heightened alertness and mobilisation, hence the lack of sleep.
And this can worsen the longer stress lasts in the body. It morphs into what experts call chronic stress, the higher your cortisol levels rise, and your sleep suffers even more. The ability to sleep and relinquish to rest, after all, is dependent on your body’s ability to relax, and if you can’t achieve that, sleep will be next to impossible. Needless to add the negative repercussions of how poor sleep can affect your body.
How Infrared Saunas Can Help With Better Sleep
First and foremost, if you’ve spent time inside an infrared sauna, you’ll already be aware of just how relaxed you feel after your session. There’s something about the heat, sweat, the self-enforced quiet time that soothes our entire nervous system thus primes us for sleep. More importantly though, science has shown that higher levels of Melatonin and the Thermoregulation that happens post-sauna is what is a game-changer for our sleep cycles.
Higher Levels of Melatonin, Better Sleep
What researches have found is that Infrared Therapy helps with the release of Melatonin – often considered the sleep hormone, is an essential component to falling asleep and staying asleep. Melatonin is also associated with a natural circadian rhythm and becomes more plentiful as the sun goes down and the body begins to cool.
In the centre of the brain exists a small pinecone-shaped gland called the pineal gland. This is home to an exquisite hormone factory where serotonin is converted into melatonin. This means that serotonin is a precursor to melatonin and if serotonin levels are low, then melatonin levels will also be low.
Infrared sauna therapy influences the amount of melatonin released at nighttime not because it produces melatonin, but rather because the light rays of the infrared spectrum influence neurotransmitters to produce higher amounts of serotonin.
As you bathe yourself in the warm glow of the broad spectrum infrared sauna therapy, a series of incredible biochemical changes occur, including the release of dopamine, the conduit of serotonin. The brain reacts to the light of the infrared spectrum to augment both dopamine and serotonin. As serotonin uptake rises there is more available to convert into melatonin in the pineal gland.
Regular broad spectrum infrared sauna therapy is correlated to higher levels of melatonin. Where there is a healthy supply of melatonin, there will also be an effortless movement into stage one and two of sleep.
As melatonin is released the body receives the message that it is time to tuck away for the evening for a deep and restful night’s sleep!
Thermoregulation and Drowsiness
The cooling off of the body’s core temperature is a key component to the act of ‘falling’ asleep and maintaining states of sleep throughout the night. The body will reach its lowest temperature at around 4 AM during the deepest states of sleep.
An essential component in the process of falling asleep is the dropping down of the core temperature. Traditionally, a hot bath or shower at night will assist in the process of thermoregulation. Similarly, as an infrared sauna is enjoyed, the core temperature of the body will rise by a couple of degrees. After stepping out of the sauna the body’s temperature will begin to drop.
As the core temperature drops after an infrared sauna session, drowsiness will ensue. This process will aid in both falling asleep and also staying asleep throughout the night.