Sleep is an essential process for the body to heal and recover but we completely undervalue the importance of sleep. Our modern lives focus heavily on the act of ‘doing’ over the healing processes of ‘sleeping’. Sleep is definitely not a waste of time: Taking small measures to improve the quality of your sleep and your bedtime routine will help your mental and physical health.
Are you getting enough sleep?
We should get on average 7-9hrs of sleep per night, but quality is more important than quantity. Taking small measures to improve the quality of your sleep will help productivity and clarity at work and during the day. As well as improve your mental and physical health.
Reasons why you experience low-quality sleep may include:
- frequent waking
- breathing difficulties including sleep apnea
- an environment that is too hot, cold, or noisy
- an uncomfortable bed
- circadian rhythm disruptions which may be triggered by shift work, screen-use during the evening, caffeine and alcohol consumption
Signs of sleep deprivation:
- irritability and mood swings
- difficulty concentrating and remembering
- a reduced sex drive
- a headache upon waking
If you find yourself having sleepy lapses at the desk (micro sleep) or you uncontrollably fall asleep on the sofa, you are likely sleep deprived.
Sleep is important for our health
- 40% of us are not getting enough quality sleep, showing signs of sleep deprivation and yet are still attempting to function normally within our daily lives.
- Research suggests that those who experience just a week of moderate sleep deprivation (only 4-6hrs sleep/day) show a 15% decrease in immune health.
- Sleep abnormalities are often a precursor to mental health symptoms.
- Micro sleep is the brains way of supplementing sleep if it is not getting enough. 31% of drivers will fall asleep at the wheel at least once in their life. If you find yourself having sleepy lapses at the desk (micro sleep) or you uncontrollably fall asleep on the sofa, you are likely sleep deprived.
Be kind to your colleague/friend (or yourself) who you see trying to proudly wear the ‘getting through a day with zero hours sleep’ badge and encourage them to get an early night.
Simple steps to improve your sleep and bedtime routine.
- Form a solid bedtime routine and aim to be in bed by 22.00- we are creatures of habit and the body thrives on routine. Our hormones and circadian rhythm rely on routine for optimal efficiency.
- Put the laptops/work down by 21.00– This allows you to mentally wind down and the blue light from screens can interfere with our sleep quality. I guarantee you will be more productive in the morning with a full nights sleep
- Cut your caffeine intake in the late afternoon and evening.
- Spend 30mins before bedtime in dim light– this signals your brain that it needs to start preparing for sleep.
- Keep your bedroom at a cooler temperature if you can. We increase our core temps during the night so can quickly over heat if our bedrooms are too warm.
- Breathing slower helps to signal our internal process and hormones towards sleeping. Check out my blog post on how to ‘Breathe yourself better‘ for a simple breathing exercise.
- Heal optimally using your bodies best resource. When you are ill or injured; your work can wait, your health can not- sleep will get you feeling better quicker. And you won’t have to go over all the half-hearted, inefficient work you attempted to do while you were recovering.
- Children disturbing your sleep? Do try to sleep when they sleep! There is no weakness in taking an afternoon nap or an earlier bedtime.
Still struggling with your sleep? Talk to a health professional or visit your local sleep clinic. Cognitive behavioural therapy has been used successfully in treating sleep disorders
Additional online resources are also available from The Sleep Council