Why Sleep Is Essential For Your Health

Sleep is something that many of us are deprived of and when life gets busy sleep is the first thing to be sacrificed. Did you know that nearly 70% of UK adults don’t get the recommended 7+ hours of sleep a night?!

With World Sleep Day on it’s way this month, it is a good opportunity to highlight the importance of sleep along with some helpful tips to get your sleep routine back on track. Improving sleep is one of the most powerful behaviours we can do, especially with this year’s theme set by the World Sleep Society, it really is something we can all get behind.

Woman Sleeping with sleep mask

Why is sleep so important?

Sleep is an essential function that allows the mind and body to repair and recharge, so when we wake up in the morning, we feel re-energised ready for the day ahead. Getting enough quality sleep is just as important as eating a nutritious diet and moving our bodies. Some might think our brain and bodies shut down when we sleep but a lot of important functions are going on behind those closed eyes.

The benefits of quality sleep

  1. Increased energy levels – most of us know that if we don’t get enough sleep our energy levels suffer which makes us feel tired all day. This can lead to a lessened attention span, mistakes, and irritability. When we have good quality sleep, we wake up feeling ready to tackle the day, this can promote better motivation, productivity, and performance whether that is at work, with exercise, or at home.
  2. ⚖️ Helps to maintain a healthy weight – having a poor night’s sleep may cause cravings for sugar and high calorie foods the next day. This is because the hormone that regulates feelings of hunger rises when we’re sleep deprived and the hormone that regulates fullness drops – this gives us the feeling of constant hunger with little satisfaction after eating therefore a preference for foods high in fat and carbohydrates are consumed.
  3. 😷 Improves immunity – sleep generates power for the immune system. Quality sleep supports the proteins and cells of the immune system to help detect and destroy any foreign invaders the body may come into contact with. So when you’re not feeling well, it’s important to give your body the time it needs to rest and repair.
  4. 🧠 Improves brain performance – sleep and brain performance are closely connected. As we sleep, the brain begins to organise and process all the information that’s been taken throughout the day and converts important short-term memories into long-term memories. This helps us learn, solve problems, and memorise important things therefore increasing brain performance.
  5. 😊 Improved mood – sleep and mood are closely connected. After a sleepless night you might find yourself more irritable, short-tempered, and stressed than normal. If sleepless nights are frequent, low mood can be a regular side effect and sleeplessness is often a symptom of mood disorders such as depression and so getting into a healthy sleep routine with quality sleep is really important.
  6. ❤️ Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke – most people think that heart disease is linked with poor diet and limited exercise however lack of sleep can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke. During sleep the heart rate and blood pressure naturally drop to allow the heart time to rest and recover, if sleep is chronically limited or frequently interrupted it doesn’t give the heart enough time to recover which has been linked to numerous heart conditions.

Tips for Good Sleep Hygiene

Sleep Hygine Before Bed

Practicing a good sleep routine will help you get the most out of each sleep stage so that you wake up feeling well-rested and refreshed instead of feeling like you need an extra 4 hours to function. This is where sleep hygiene comes in and it doesn’t include washing your face and brushing your teeth (although they’re important too!), is it science-backed practices that can be implemented during the day and before bedtime that create the ideal conditions for a healthy sleep, it could mean the difference between a restful night and a restless one.

  1. Set a consistent sleep schedule – going to bed and waking up at the same time each day will help to regulate your body’s natural sleep rhythm (known as the circadian rhythm).
  2. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed – both substances can disrupt sleep, stopping caffeine at least 6 hours before bedtime is recommended. Alcoholic nightcaps like a glass of wine or whisky will disrupt the quality of sleep, even though it makes you feel drowsy initially it will alter the stages of sleep so you wake up feeling fatigued. Instead swap the alcohol for a camomile tea.
  3. 🏋🏾‍♂️ Exercise during the day – a regular exercise routine can contribute to improved sleep but be careful not to exercise right before bed as this may increase alertness.
  4. 🥶 Keep your bedroom cool and comfortable – the ideal room for sleeping is cool, quiet, and dark. Your mattress and pillows should feel comfy enough for you to allow the body to settle and relax.
  5. 📱 Minimise screen time an hour before bed – the bright light from television and phone screens can interfere with your body’s natural sleep signals and keeps the mind active – instead listen to a podcast, try journaling, or read a book to help wind down.
  6. 😴 Limit or avoid naps – an afternoon power nap can be really tempting but it won’t help when trying to fall asleep that evening as it removes your body’s sleep drive. Instead try going to bed earlier that night.
Sleep Mask

The Bottom Line

Sleep really is essential for health through with all the mentioned benefits above – and this is just the tip of a huge iceberg. I hope this blog will be a good tool to help you improve your sleep and health. Consistency is key when implementing these habits into your daily routine. It may take a few weeks before you get the most restful sleep, but a healthy sleep-wake cycle is an important part of maintaining overall health.

Sweet dreams!

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