Sleep!

The benefits of getting a proper nights sleep are endless. Most importantly you wake up feeling more refreshed and able to take on the day. The right amount of sleep helps our minds process everything that we have learnt during the day, our muscles and joints are repaired by the growth hormones that are released and the rest improves our reaction times, making sure we are firing on all cylinders the following day.

Good quality sleep reduces our stress and anxiety levels and reduces our blood pressure.  It also helps our body fight infections. Importantly the right amount of sleep ensures that we release the right amount of hormones, particularly those which control cravings and appetite. So a good nights sleep could stop you reaching for the high calorie snacks!

Devices and Sleep!

We probably know that we all stare at our phones for too long, and I know that I quite often find myself scrolling endlessly through social media sites, not actually reading what I am seeing. Its like a drug! In fact, some scientists have suggested that the light we get from our phones and devices actually causes our brain to react in a way that develops addictions. But this stimulation, particularly before bedtime, is not a good way to get our brains into the right state for sleep.

It’s recommended that we stop any screen time an hour before bed.   The benefits of stopping screen time an hour before bed, will help your brain relax and allow it to enter into the state it needs to have good quality, restorative sleep.  Our bodies produce melatonin, a hormone which controls our sleep cycle. Staring at a screen actually reduces the production of melatonin, making it harder to fall asleep and then stay asleep.

Scrolling Facebook or checking your emails before bed, means your mind stays ‘switched on’, making it harder to relax and slip into a deep restful sleep.

Banning Phones From The Bedroom

Even if you stop looking at your phone or devices an hour before bed, the fact that they are in the bedroom can still disturb your sleep. The continuous beeping, and vibrating as notifications come in at all times of the night can disturb you, waking you briefly and  leading to you having less rest than you should. So if you use a phone for your alarm, get back to the old school and get yourself a clock with an alarm function, and ban the phones from your bedroom.  Your bedroom should be a place of sanctuary, not an extension of the office or the place where you entertain all your mates!

How much sleep do we need?

Experts recommend that we need between 7 and 9 hours sleep a night, and its not just the number of hours that is important, it is the quality of our sleep and particularly that state of deep sleep and REM. To increase the amount of deep sleep that you get, you can avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine, and keep your bedroom dark and quiet, to avoid being woken throughout the night. To increase the amount of REM sleep experts recommend sleeping in for an extra 30 minutes in the morning, when REM sleep periods are longer. REM sleep is when we have the most vivid dreams, which some experts think is our mind processing our thoughts and feelings.

But I’m not sleep deprived, am I?

You might think that even though you are only getting 6 hours sleep a night, that you can cope with that, or you might be well aware that you are tired all the time!  Apparently, it is only 3% of the population that can actually get by on that little amount of sleep and 97% actually needs the standard 7-9 hours.

Signs of sleep deprivation aren’t just falling asleep at the wheel, or face planting your spaghetti bolognese, they can be much more subtle.

Are you experiencing any of the following:

  • You rely on an alarm to wake you every day, rather than waking naturally
  • You regularly use the snooze button
  • It’s a struggle to get out of bed in a morning
  • You often feel sluggish in the afternoon
  • You may be guilty of falling asleep in meetings, lectures, warm rooms, watching tv, or you get drowsy when driving
  • You feel the need to sleep in at weekends
  • You can fall asleep as soon as you get into bed

If you are then you may be sleep deprived.

The effects of sleep deprivation aren’t just the obvious fatigue and lethargy. Sleep deprivation can affect your mood, making you more irritable and increase your risk of depression. Sleep deprivation reduces your sex drive, which could lead to relationship problems.  You may also experience learning and concentration issues, and reduced creativity and problem solving, and feel unable to make decisions. It can also lead to more serious health problems, from weakened immune system making it easier to pick up bugs and illnesses, and even more serious an increased risk of stroke, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

Absolutely everyone can do this. It just takes some adjustments to your routine, for you to experience all the benefits of a good nights sleep.

Tips for a good nights sleep

  1. Try and avoid caffeine after 5pm, as the effects may well last well into the evening, making it harder for you to get to sleep and stay asleep.
  2. Avoid alcohol – alcohol affects the quality of our sleep too. We tend to fall asleep quickly after consuming alcohol, but then have a restless night, leaving us feeling tired the day after.
  3. Try to get out of the habit of daytime naps, and get lots of natural light during the day wherever possible, to keep your circadian rhythm the right way round.
  4. Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet to reduce the amount of disturbances you may experience in the night (although unfortunately we can’t do anything about the kids crawling into bed with you in the middle of the night!)
  5. Have a warm relaxing shower or bath before bed, every night. Keeping the same routine will give your brain cues that it is time to go to sleep.
  6. Ban phones and other devices from the bedroom.
  7. Pick a regular bedtime and stick to it and stop screen time an hour before your planned bed time.
  8. If you worry about things, keep a pad and pen by the bed, then any thoughts that pop in to your head, that you feel you need to remember, can be written down, so that they stop running round your head, preventing you getting to sleep.
  9.  Set a regular waking time, the more routine you have with your sleep, the better quality sleep you will experience.

Why not download our ‘Sleep Programme‘ if you are really struggling? It will help focus on what works and what doesn’t work for you to get a restful night’s sleep.

Comment below on how you sleep – how easy is it for you? Do any of these tips have an impact on your sleep quality? Are you finding that you are getting to sleep easier and staying asleep? Are you feeling the benefit in your general health and well-being? Also, share your tips for a good nights sleep with us all! You never know who you might be helping.

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