Sleep… What is it, and why do we need it so much?
WHAT is sleep?
To most of us, sleep is a mysterious notion. We go to sleep every day, and for most of us this isn’t really an option – when we feel tired we want to sleep. If this is so simple, then why is it so important that we receive enough sleep?
WHY is sleep so important?
A staggering one in three of us suffer from poor sleep.
A lack of sleep can lead to short-term experiences of fatigue, short temper and lack of focus. Life is hard enough when you’re trying to juggle a social life, school/work, and your own mental health, let’s not add sleep deprivation to the list!
Studies have shown that after several sleepless nights, the mental effects of sleep deprivation become even more serious. This can lead to a serious lack of concentration and falling asleep during the day, resulting in bad decisions and severe embarrassment!
What are the POSITIVE effects of sufficient sleep?
It has been proved that a prolonged lack of sleep can disrupt your immune system
Sleep has been shown to slim down the waist. Hey, there’s a reason they call it beauty sleep! Studies have shown that sleep-deprived people have reduced levels of leptin (the chemical that makes you feel full) and increased levels of Ghrelin (the hunger-stimulating hormone).
Sleep has also been shown to prevent diabetes. This is through the way that sleep changes the way that the body can process glucose (type 2 diabetes).
It has also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Long-standing sleep deprivation is shown to be associated with increased heart rate, an increase in blood pressure and higher levels of certain chemicals linked with inflammation, which can put extra strain on your heart.
HEALTHY Sleep tips
Here are some tips to ensure that you get a good night’s rest,
Keep a sleep schedule
😴 Try to stick to a sleep schedule 7 days in the week with the same bedtime and wake-up time.
😴 Spend the last hour before you sleep doing something relaxing such as reading or listening to music
😴 Light some scented candles which can help create a soothing atmosphere
😴 Run yourself a warm bath
😴 Write out a schedule or to-do list for the next day in order to organise your thoughts and take out any distractions.
Avoid cigarettes and heavy meals
😴 Try to resist that urge to sneak in another 3 course meal at 11pm just before you sleep. Heavy foods, fatty or fried meals, spicy dishes, citrus fruits, carbonated drinks can all trigger indigestion and heartburn for some people. If you are still hungry, maybe try a light snack 45 minutes before you go to bed.
😴 Alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine can also disrupt your sleeping patterns as your body begins to process the alcohol.
Is this too bright?
😴 Try to avoid bright lights in the evening. The screen light from your laptop or phone can actually activate your brain, preventing you from falling asleep.
😴 Try exposing yourself to sunlight in the morning as a wakeup call in order to keep your circadian rhythms regular.
😴 Power napping may help you when you’re trying to meet a deadline, however short naps throughout the day can actually disrupt you when you actually want to fall asleep.
Keep a sleep diary
😴 Sleep diaries can help you to look closely at the underlying conditions behind your inability to sleep.
So… How can I catch up on lost sleep?
Don’t expect to be able to catch up on weeks or months of sleep-deprivation straight away. Throw away your alarm clocks and try starting to add extra hours of sleep at the weekend, allowing your body to naturally wake you up.
You may still feel tired after one good night’s sleep. That’s normal! Your body is just trying to adjust, try not to rely on energy drinks and caffeine for a short-term pick-me-up.
You can find out more about how to get a good night’s sleep through the links below:
😴 NHS– Articles on how to achieve better sleep and the health benefits behind sleep
😴 Sleep Foundation– An American non-profit organisation aiming to promote education and public awareness about sleep and sleep disorders
😴 Sleep Council– An impartial organisation that looks to promote healthier sleeping patterns