Humans, like most mammals, sleep for approximately a third of their life. In other words an 82 year old will have slept on average for 27 years!! Given how much time we invest in sleep, it is surprising how little time is spent prioritising it.
The health impact of poor sleep is greater than most people realise. Poor sleep, both quality and quantity, can affect our health in a number of ways: our weight, our mood, our immune system, our gut health, our cardiovascular health, even our cancer risk.
It is recommended that we get seven to eight hours of sleep a night to maintain good general health, yet nearly a third of the UK population get less than six hours.
During sleep our body goes into ‘rest and repair mode’. It is when our mind and body heals, allowing normal service to be restored for the next day. It is when our cells rejuvenate or replace, it is when any inflammation has the opportunity to calm down. It is when hormones reset and rebalance and it is CRUCIAL to the maintenance of a healthy mind and body
If you’re not getting enough good quality sleep, here are six tips to help you take some simple steps, to get back on the right track ….
- Create a routine – It’s not just children that benefit from a bed-time routine. Aim for a similar bed time and wake up time every day – even at weekends. Sleeping in for more than an hour or two on consecutive days can reduce the quality of the next few nights’ sleep. If you need to catch up, you’re better off going to bed earlier, rather than sleeping in.
- Incorporate calming activities in the hour before bed will trigger the brain that you are moving towards sleep mode. Examples include a warm (not too hot) bath or shower, fragrant candles or sprays, read a book, drink non-caffeinated (eg camomile) tea, or warm milk.
- Reduce screen time (ie computers, tablets, smart phones, TV) an hour before bed. The blue light for our technology screens has been shown to stimulate the brain and delay the triggers for natural sleep.
- Avoid caffeine and other stimulants eg alcohol, after 4pm. Eating your evening meal or exercising late at night can also disrupt how quickly you drop off.
- Increase daytime exposure to sunlight and physical activity – Our brains release melatonin to trigger the sleep. Spending time in daylight and being physically active during the day increases our body’s ability to respond to melatonin effectively come night time.
- Having the right bedroom environment is really important too. Ensuring curtains keep out any light, having windows slightly open and, if need be, using an eye mask or earplugs so the room is kept dark, cool and quiet.
Remember don’t try and do everything at once. Good sleep patterns require new habits and habits need time to integrate and consolidate. Pick one that feels a good place to start and once it’s part of your normal routine, add in another one. There’s also no point in making the development of new habits stressful! When it comes to sleep, this sort of defeats the object, so developing a relaxed attitude to sleep will certainly help.
Sleep is our anchor for a healthy life – let’s give it the importance it deserves.
Written by Nicki & Peter Campbell
Holistic Health, Nutrition & Lifestyle Coaches
12th March 2019