Spring Cleaning Pt. 4: Improve Your Sleep

Dr. Sumi Says: Most of us are familiar with what it’s like to have a rough night’s sleep. We may find ourselves out of sorts the next day, maybe feel more irritable or lacking in focus. But the quality of our sleep as well as the quantity of our sleep can also impact our body’s ability to detox and rejuvenate and if we don’t rectify this, can lead to long term health consequences. Our last featured article of our Spring Cleanse series looks at the importance of our sleep and what we can do to improve the quality.

By Dr. Sumithra Nadarajah, Functional Medicine/Holistic Healthcare Consultant

Are You Sleeping Enough? 

1 in 3 adults are not getting the recommended amount of sleep. Sleep is so pivotal to our overall health yet 30% of adults do not get the recommended amount of uninterrupted sleep they need to protect their health. (1)

In today’s Part 4 of our 4 part Detox Series, we highlight the importance of good quality and quantity of sleep for health and how we can improve our sleep hygiene. This important, long term cleanse will set us up not only for better health but also prevention of chronic diseases.

Why We Need to Sleep:

Even as early as 60 years ago, scientists believed that our brains used to shut off during sleep. The single most important discovery in sleep research was in the 50s when scientists noticed all the brain activity that was going on while a person was asleep by using the Electro Encephelogram (EEG) Device.

Without sleep we can’t form or maintain the pathways in our brain that let us learn and create new memories, and it’s harder to concentrate and respond quickly. Sleep is also important to a number of brain functions, including how nerve cells (neurons) communicate with each other. In fact, our brain and body stay remarkably active while we sleep. Recent findings suggest that sleep plays a housekeeping role that removes toxins in our brain that build up while we are awake.  (2) 

With the development of the light bulb, humans are getting light at times we would not necessarily expect to have light. As a result of this, humans can now sleep less. However, our physiology is not able to handle this reduction in sleep and so our performance and health over the next day (and in the long term )decreases.

Research shows that the physiological healing and cleansing that happens during sleep is definitive. It affects not only our major organs, but growth, immune system and hormones. 

couple sleeping peacefully in bed

Healing Benefits of Sleep Are Demonstrated In:

Heart and Cardiovascular System 

During sleep our blood pressure and heart rate fall so our heart does not work as hard as it does when we are awake.


Depending on how much and the quality of sleep we get the night before, our body makes different hormones at different times of the day. For example, a good night’s rest promotes healthy production of hormones that control appetite, including leptin and ghrelin. Leptin hinders feelings of hunger and regulates fat storage and Gherin acts as a counter to leptin by boosting appetite, growth and fat production. Sufficient, restful sleep  allows the body to regulate production of these two hormones, creating a balance of appetite and satiation. (3)  

Immune System

During sleep, our immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase during an infection. By getting enough sleep, our body is prepared with sufficient protective cytokines and infection-fighting-antibodies (4) .

Brain Health

One of the most interesting discoveries in the past decade is that the brain has a "waste management system." The waste management system (called the glymphatic system) is a series of tubes that carry fresh fluid into the brain, mix the fresh fluid with the waste-filled fluid that surrounds the brain cells, and then flush the mix out of the brain and into the blood. This occurs primarily during deep sleep. Having a good waste management system plays a major role in preventing Alzheimer's.  (5) 

abstract image of woman improving sleep for hormones immunity and brain health

Most of us are familiar with what it’s like to have a rough night’s sleep. Maybe our sleep was interrupted by a sick child or perhaps we were out late and got to bed late after a night of heavy meals and alcohol. 

We may find ourselves out of sorts the next day, maybe feel more irritable or lacking in focus. We may feel as if our feet were attached to bricks - heavy and sluggish. To recover, we may take a nap or get to bed earlier than our usual bedtime. 

Taking care to get the required amount of sleep after a short period of sleep deprivation will prevent us from short-term consequences of sleep deprivation such as pain, emotional distress, mood disorders and performance deficits. (6)

Many adults are walking around under-slept. According to Sleep Scientist Dr Matthew Walker, adults are falling short of the recommended 8 hours of sleep a night. Chronic sleep deprivation occurs when we either do not give ourselves sufficient sleep or we do not get good quality of sleep and we wake up feeling tired. In limited quantities, sleep deprivation does not cause any issues. 

However, research shows that chronic sleep deprivation can cause or contribute to a variety of health issues from hypertension, diabetes mellitus, weakened immune system, bodily pain, depression to playing a contributory role to Alzheimer’s development. (7) 

insomnia woman sleep deprived

Sleeping Well : Developing Good Sleep Hygiene Habits

Aim to get 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep consistently for best health benefits. Here are some ways to help establish healthy sleep patterns.

  1. Regularity and Routine
    1. Maintain the same bedtime and wake up time, even on weekends, even if you’ve had a bad day or night. Regularity is king. It will anchor that sleep and improve the quantity and quality of sleep.
  2. Wind down
    1. Falling and staying asleep at night is not usually as easy as flipping off a light switch. As Dr. Matthew Walker says, it is more like a landing plane in that we need to gradually land into sleep.
      1. Here are some strategies
        1. Have a warm shower or bath. As you step out of the shower, your body temperature drops and will signal sleep to ensue.
        2. Meditation : A proven way to help get better sleep
        3. Light stretches or movement
        4. Journal: Especially if you have a lot of worries, it has been shown that writing your worries down in a journal will help reduce stress and help you fall and stay asleep.

          Try to institute that same sleep routine time and time again. And gradually, it will give your body the chance to go through that physiological sort of power-down routine.

  3. Nap, but not after 3pm: Taking naps too late in the day will interfere with our ability to fall asleep at night.
  4. Keep the bedroom dark, cool and gadget free: We sleep better at night if the temperature in the room is kept on the cool side.Gadgets emit blue light which interfere with our sleep hormone melatonin.
  5. Get outside to move and get sunlight: Sun exposure during the day helps us to regulate sleeping patterns. Try to get at least 30 minutes a day, and while you’re outside, go for a walk or do some stretches.
  6. Don’t stay in bed if you really cannot sleep: If you are unable to fall (back) asleep, get out of bed and read by a dim light, or journal and write down your thoughts. Head back to bed once you start feeling sleepy.
  7. Work out, but not too late: Working out too close to bedtime can keep us awake and energized. Try to keep heavy workouts up to 3 hours before bedtime.
  8. Daytime check-ins: Set aside a few minutes during the day to intermittently check in with yourself. See how you’re doing and where you’re at with movement, stress, snacking. If you've been sitting down for long hours, get up and stretch, have a cup of herbal tea. If you find that you’re getting anxious and worried, write your thoughts down, do some breathing exercises or go for a short walk.By regularly checking in with yourself throughout the day, you’ll be able to make adjustments throughout the day to help prepare your body and settle your mind before bed.
Man and woman sleep routine


Sleep is a crucial part of health and wellbeing. It is important that we make time for good quality sleep. By integrating regularity and a good wind down routine, we set ourselves up for sleep that is restorative and rejuvenating.


Dr. Sumithra Nadarajah, a dedicated Functional Medicine/Holistic Healthcare Consultant, combines her medical expertise with a passion for holistic health practices. As a certified health coach, nutrition expert, and wellness advocate, Dr. Nadarajah is committed to helping individuals achieve their health goals through a balanced approach to nutrition, physical activity, and stress management. Her hobbies include playing the piano, meditation, exploring nature, and experimenting with healthy recipes, reflecting her belief in the importance of nurturing both the mind and body for a fulfilling life.


  1. NIH. What Are Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency
    1. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/sleep-deprivation
  2. Brain Basics : Understanding Sleep (NIH) https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/public-education/brain-basics/brain-basics-understanding-sleep#:~:text=Sleep%20is%20important%20to%20a,up%20while%20you%20are%20awake.
  3. Prinz P. (2004). Sleep, appetite, and obesity  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15599390/
  4. Medic G.,Willie M., & Hemels M. (2017). Short and Long Term Consequence of Sleep Disruption. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5449130/#:~:text=In%20healthy%20individuals%2C%20short%2Dterm,school%20performance%20and%20behavior%20problems
  5. Reddy O.C. & Van der Werf Y.D. (2020). The Sleeping Brain: Harnessing the Power of the Glymphatic System through Lifestyle Choices.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7698404/
  6. Cleveland Clinic (2022) Sleep Deprivation. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/23970-sleep-deprivation
  7. Olson EJ (2015) : Lack of Sleep,Can it make you sick? https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/lack-of-sleep/faq-20057757