We all know that sleep is an important part of our livelihood but do we really understand what sleep is and why it is so critical for our health and wellbeing?
So what is sleep?
We all sleep, but do we really know what it is? Sleep can be split into two different types. We have non repetitive eye movement sleep (non REM) and reptitive eye movement sleep (REM). Throughout the night you go through a sleep journey, dipping in and out of non REM and REM sleep (both of which are important for our mental and physical health).
Non REM sleep helps our bodies to recharge, to repair and helps to boost our immune system. REM sleep is essential for brain function and helps process information and emotions (this is where we tend to have our most vivid dreams)!
Why is sleep so important?
1. Sleep can help us to regulate our mood.
We all know that if we get a bad night’s sleep, the next day we are irritable, grumpy and low on energy. I know I am!!
2. It helps us make better decisions.
Sleep helps us make smarter decisions in all aspects of our life, especially when it comes to our food choices. When we are sleep deprived, the levels of our hunger hormones (called leptin and ghrelin) that regulate our appetite can shift. We are more likely to be drawn to energy dense foods when we’re tired and our brains are less effective at registering when we are full and satisfied by our meals.
3. It keeps our bodies healthy.
Sleep is essential for repair and growth and helps regulate our vital systems, which reduces the chances of developing conditions such as diabetes, obesity and cardiac and respiritory issues.
“The best bridge between dispair and hope is a good night of sleep –
E Joseph Cossman”
What can we do to help improve our sleep?
1. Get into a routine.
Keep your body clock happy. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and set the same alarm every morning. We as humans thrive off routine and so does our sleep.
Try to create a bedtime routine so your brain and body recognises when it’s time to wind down. Change into your pjs, dim the lights, read a book, listen to a podcost, whatever helps you relax.
2. Keep it cool.
Your core temperature needs to reduce for you to get a good night’s sleep. Try to stay cool and maintain a cooler temperature in your bedroom. You could open the window to get a blast of fresh air for ventilation too.
3. Darkness is needed.
In order to prompt melatonin production (the hormones that plays a role in the sleep/ wake cycle), your body needs to be in a dark environment, so get those blinds/ curtains shut and turn the lights off.
4. Get up if you can’t sleep.
If you don’t fall asleep within 25-40 minutes, don’t wait it out. Get up and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy and then try again. You don’t want to associate your bed with not being able to sleep.
5. Reduce caffeine and alcohol.
Caffeine is a stimulant so try and reduce your intake as early on in the day as possible. I make sure to drink my last coffee of the day by midday as it can take up to approximately 10 hours for caffeine to clear your bloodstream. Alcohol is a sedative but doesn’t help with good quality sleep, so try to limit how much you drink too.
We know that getting more sleep is often easier said than done. If you’re struggling just try to make one small change every week. Even if you get a few more minutes rest, it’ll make all the difference. Just think going to bed at the right time is not a sacrifice of today but an investment in tomorrow.
For more information regarding the benefits of sleep I would definitely look at Matthew Walkers book “Why we sleep”, he also has a series of podcasts available (each about 10 mins long so nice and concise).