Sleep is one of the hottest health and wellbeing topics right now and for good reason! Turns out that getting enough sleep could be as important for your wellbeing as healthy eating, exercise and avoiding what’s bad for you. Read on to discover all about the amazing phenomenon that is sleep and why prioritising sleep should be number one on the agenda for a happier and healthier you this year.
Don’t Sleep on It!
Sleep has gained something of a sedentary, lazy reputation in decades gone by. With influencers proclaiming proudly ‘I’ll sleep when I die’ and a night owl philosophy sweeping the younger population it has taken some adjustment for the mainstream to get behind sleep! What’s more, in a busy modern world where it seems there aren’t enough hours in the day, getting enough downtime and rest can seem unproductive and wasteful.
Sure, if you’re asleep you can’t hit a spin class, write a book or climb the career ladder – but the amazing benefits of getting decent shut-eye will vastly improve your physical and mental health to make any challenge you set yourself easier to achieve.
That’s why more and more of us are shunning a work-hard-play-hard attitude in favour of self-care, rest and rejuvenation. Sleep is Mother Nature’s antidote to fatigue and the most natural and effective way to feel energised, improve concentration and boost productivity. So, don’t sleep on it – the time to overhaul your nightly routine is NOW!
The Amazing Benefits of Sleep
Whether you’re a snorer, starfish or silent sleeper – whatever your sleeping style, getting enough quality sleep is your key to unlocking a whole spectrum of health benefits. In fact, sleep expert Matthew Walker argues the case for a direct causal link between sleep-deprivation and chronic conditions such as depression, Alzheimer’s Disease, heart disease and even cancer. That’s all to do with what happens in our bodies whilst our minds are on standby. Far from being lazy or wasteful, getting enough sleep should be a health priority. Here are just some of the amazing benefits of sleep:
- Reduces Stress – Deep sleep and dreaming helps your body to process the day’s stresses and neutralise stress hormones before they can cause any lasting damage
- Allows the Body to Repair – During sleep your body begins to repair muscle, organs and cells as well as build new proteins and cells which are essential to the immune system and overall health
- Improves Cognition – Getting a good night’s sleep helps to improve focus, boost concentration and improve memory – making learning and everyday tasks much easier
- Beauty Sleep Is A Thing! – When we are asleep our body has time to repair and replenish, which makes for stronger hair and nails, glowing skin and bright eyes that make us look as good as we feel – far from the bloodshot eyes and dark circles of sleep deprivation!
- Protects Your Mental Health – Sleeping well has been shown to help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, depression, low mood and psychiatric illnesses
Five Healthy Habits to Get More Sleep
- Avoid Stimulants
When you’re feeling tired and struggling to function it can be all too easy to grab a coffee for a quick caffeine fix! Trouble is the benefits won’t last long and you’ll soon find that you’re back to square one. That’s because caffeine only masks tiredness and so your body’s natural calling for more sleep will soon overshadow the temporary effect of a stimulant. What’s more, any caffeine you have after around 2pm has been shown to have a negative effect on sleep later in the evening – so be mindful to limit daytime brews too!
- Limit Screen Time
A digital detox is one of the best ways you can promote a better sleep. We all rely on our technology but staring at screens after a certain time can keep us awake through exposure to blue light which overstimulates the brain. Try leaving your phone in another room, having a daily cut-off time or switching out your phone, tablet or laptop for a screen-free alternative – we’re thinking a book, magazine or podcast.
- Ditch Sugar
Sugar is packed with empty calories that are extremely energy dense and play havoc with our wakefulness all day long. A sugar fix through the day will give you an energy spike followed by a slump that will cause further sugar cravings. Studies have shown that high sugar intake is associated with a less deep sleep and higher number of arousals (waking up), just another reason to give sugar the shoulder! For a healthy alternative that won’t effect your sleep try natural sugar replacements instead.
- Create A Sleep Sanctuary
Making your bedroom a sleep haven is as much about what you take out as what you put in! Start by removing things which are anti-sleep – chargers, phones, anything which makes a noise or emits a bright light. Then replace with sleep-friendly things such as good quality pillows, bedding and decent curtains or blinds to keep your room cool and dark. If you have some Christmas cash leftover why not treat yourself to a natural daylight alarm clock.
- Take A Bath
Take a long, hot bubble bath and have an early night? Sounds like a health craze I can get behind! The science behind bath-before-bed is based upon the fact that when we are preparing for sleep our body naturally drops a few degrees in temperature. So, when we get out of a bubble bath and begin to cool down this temperature drop is mimicked, helping to promote sleep.
Remember, if you’re transitioning from being a zombie night owl to power-sleeping guru then it will take some time to reset your body clock! It may start with some tossing, turning and readjusting but your efforts will be rewarded when you’ve nailed a restful routine that transforms your health and happiness! Pass me the pillow!
Author: Stephanie Masterman @NutriNoggin
- Short and sweet: Associations between self-reported sleep duration and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among adults in the United States
- Association Between Sleep Status and Mental Health Status
- Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams
- Effects of Caffeine on Sleep Quality and Daytime Functioning