The Importance Of Sleep, By Sarah Dally

Let’s take a moment to think back to when we woke up this morning. Did you wake-up feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to jump out of bed to start your day? Or did you find yourself pressing the snooze button on your alarm, feeling tired, lethargic and grumpy, vying for your mug, loaded with caffeine to wake you up?

If you woke-up feeling refreshed and well-rested, amazing work, you gave your body the perfect gift- a beautiful night’s sleep! If however, you woke up feeling tired and grumpy, chances are, you may need to take a look at how you can change your routine to ensure your body gets the best night’s sleep possible.

Getting a good night’s sleep may not be at the top of your priorities, nonetheless, we can all benefit from improving our quality of sleep. Sleep is an essential part of our lives and is often underrated in importance. We spend around a third of our lives sleeping. It is as important to our bodies as eating, drinking and breathing, and its vital to maintain good mental and physical health.

We live in a constant rush, our schedules overflowing with various tasks and responsibilities. Sleep often becomes the first thing we sacrifice to maximise our efficiency and productivity. But are you actually aware of what ‘quality sleep’ is? Do you know how long we should sleep for? How can you make sure you actually get enough rest and practise good sleep hygiene?

 Although the exact science behind why we need sleep is still under investigation, research has pinned that the benefits of sleep are abundant, the consequences of not enough however, can be catastrophic!

Our sleep and health are very much related; poor sleep can increase your risk of poor health, and poor health can make it harder to sleep. As you pass through the various stages of sleep, your body cognitively and physically restores itself. Sleep allows our body and brain to regenerate, our heart, blood vessels and tissues to repair. Sleep reduces our blood pressure and lowers our risk of diabetes by affecting how our body reacts to insulin, (the hormone that controls our blood sugar levels). The amount and quality of sleep we get also effects our mood, energy and concentration levels, our relationships and our ability to stay awake and function during the day. If you still don’t feel convinced, good sleep can also help you maintain an appropriate, healthy body weight. Have you noticed that when you are sleepy, you are also more prone to reaching for comfort foods instead of healthy, nutritious foods?

Having an understanding on the importance of sleep for our physical and personal health and wellness is one thing, however knowing how to incorporate this into our everyday lives is another! There are some simple steps YOU can take, to give your body the rest it deserves. 

Develop a routine:

  • We are creatures of habit, consequently, having a bedtime routine programs our brains to recognise sleep time, so each night your body knows when to start getting ready to switch off. A bedtime routine could simply include having a warm bath or shower, reading a book, meditation and then switching the lights of each night. This also includes sleeping and waking at a similar time each day (yes, even weekends!) Listen to your body and work out what’s best for you. Consistency is key!
  • Exercise regularly, but not before bed:
    • As little as 10 minutes a day of exercises such as walking or cycling, can dramatically improve the quality and duration of your night’s sleep, as long as it is done at the right time! Working out vigorously too close to bedtime, may over-stimulate the body, making it harder to fall asleep- always give your body a chance to wind down before trying to fall asleep.
  • Keep it temperate, not tropical:
    • Create yourself a room that’s ideal for sleeping. Often this means cool, dark and quiet. A cooler temperature room is more conducive to sleeping than a tropical one, as cooler air boosts the production of melatonin- a powerful sleep hormone! The most ideal bedroom temperature is between 16 and 20 degrees.
  • Turn of all electronics:
    • Light tells your brain that it’s daytime. Even a small amount of ambient light from your electronics can disrupt the production of hormones that make you feel sleepy. Instead of playing on your phone or laptop, perhaps try reading a book or practising meditation. Another great tip is to treat yourself to a pair of blue-light blocking glasses! Not only do they protect your eyes, but they also reduce headaches and help you to fall asleep easier!
  • Get up and try again:
    • If you haven’t been able to sleep after being in bed for around 20 minutes or more, get up and do something calming or boring! Do this until you feel sleepy, then return to bed and try again. Make sure you aren’t exposing yourself to bright light! Boring, repetitive activities assist us in switching off. It is also important you go to bed when you actually FEEL sleepy. Spending too much time awake, in bed, builds frustration which wakes us up even more!
  • Use your bed for sleeping only:
    • Your bed should be associated with sleeping only. Not working, eating or watching TV. This is so that your brain becomes accustomed to associate your bed with sleeping only! Our brains are able to make mental connections between objects, concepts, and events that stem from specific experiences. When you use your bed for other activities, your brain isn’t able to recognise when you are actually ready for sleep and will often wake-up more when you try and sleep in a place you also work and watch TV in.
  • Get the correct amount of sleep:
    • Too much sleep is just as consequential as too little! For an adult, the correct amount of sleep is between 7 and 9 hours four your body and mind to be in optimal shape. This also involves daytime naps. A midday nap has shown to increase overall productivity however, anything more than 20 minutes will disturb your sleeping cycle at night-time.

Remember, don’t over-think things! The key is to work out what’s best to suit you and your body- everyone will find something different that works for them. Think of sleep like your phone charger. If you don’t plug your phone in and allow it to recharge, it will break down soon enough!

Eat well, hydrate well and sleep well.  These, really are, the 3 pillars of beautiful health ad vitality.

 


Categories: Uncategorized