We do it every day, it’s free and it doesn’t have negative side effects. It is so important for our metal and physical health, yet for many it is still not a priority.
Sleep as a pillar of health is so undervalued. Living the typical 21st century lifestyle, we often put sleep to the end of our to do list, the least of our priorities, and because of this so many of us are sleep deprived.
Associating sleep with laziness needs to be corrected, along with the opinion that it is something we can live healthily lacking. Our body needs rest and the good news is; poor sleep or lack of sleep could be controlled by making some small lifestyle changes.
Sleep has an image problem. Think about it, generally we are happy to share our contribution to other healthy activities with our friends or colleagues; telling them about the nutritious dinner we made the night before, or what time we got up for the gym that morning. But, how often do we share the details of our early night?
Getting out of the wrong side of the bed
Think about how you feel when you’ve had a bad night sleep.
Generally, we wake up feeling tired and stressed and because of this we are less patient with our partner, family members or work colleagues. Small stresses eg. traffic, become bigger stresses and we can often struggle to concentrate/make decisions at work. We are less likely to eat healthily and have little motivation to exercise. Often, we reach for caffeine as energy to get us through the day and then alcohol on an evening in order to wind down.
The impact of this has a negative effect on our sleep quality and so the cycle continues.
So, why is it important?
Quality sleep makes it more likely for us to make healthy diet and lifestyle choices. It gives our body the opportunity to rest and actively recover after a busy day and helps us to think more clearly the following day.
As well as the immediate benefits, maintaining healthy sleeping habits long term can work to support our physical health and immune function, as well as helping us to make new nerve cells, allowing us to store new memories and get rid of thoughts we don’t need. How clever!
Without it, our immunity defenses lower, making it more difficult for us to fight infection.
Lack of sleep also increases our stress hormone 'cortisol', contributing to feelings of nerves or anxiety and effecting how we react to normal day to day decisions.
Sleep and our weight
Consistent sleep loss creates an increased chance of weight gain, at times causing us to eat on average 200-300 more calories per day. In a sleep deprived state, our body produces more of our appetite hormone 'ghrelin', stimulating hunger and less of our feeing full hormone 'leptin', causing the potential to overeat.
And, when we do manage to continue healthy habits, 70% of weight loss which occurs whilst lacking sleep comes from lean muscle mass as our body doesn’t want to give up fat. Like they say, you snooze you lose!
How much do we need?
Do you wake up feeling refreshed? If not, you need more sleep.
When possible, working to get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night is important.
Remember – we don’t always fall asleep as soon as our head hits the pillow; give yourself a longer sleeping window to make up for lost time getting to sleep.
If you are struggling to get to sleep after approx. 30 minutes of being in bed, there could be something in your lifestyle that you need to address. eg. stress levels, caffeine, time of food/ exercise.
Listen to your body, understand its personal needs and learn what works for you.
Sleep Well Tips:
Wake up/go to bed at the same time every day
This will set your internal clock (circadian rhythms) which will synchronise your body with the time of day and help to promote sleep.
Get outside into natural light on a morning
Your body gets used to being active when it is light and begins to produce melatonin (sleep hormone) when it goes dark, in preparation for bed. When your body has no access to light it goes into a state of rest – great at bedtime but not throughout the day. This explains why in the winter months hibernation mode kicks in – when it gets dark earlier, we just want to rest!
Enjoy your caffeine in moderation and before noon
Excess caffeine has a negative impact on our sleep. A standard coffee in your local coffee shop is made with 2 shots. One shot of coffee stays in our system for around 6 - 7 hours, meaning a double shot would stay with us for approx 12 hours. That said; your afternoon flat white could still be working in your system at midnight and beyond, impacting sleep quality.
Alcohol disrupts sleep. You may think having a ‘night cap’ could help to send you off to sleep more quickly, however it reduces the quality of your REM sleep, making you wake through the night more regularly even if you don’t remember. A disrupted night sleep calls for more coffee the next day and so the cycle continues.
Block blue light and avoid light after dark
Screen time, whether it be scrolling social media or replying to emails, can trick our body and brain. We think the light exposure means it’s daytime therefore do not produce the appropriate amount of melatonin and then bed time tends to be pushed later.
Working to turn off screens at least 90 minutes before bed could be beneficial.
Develop a bedtime routine
Switch off electronic devices and create a routine that will help you to relax. This could involve meditation, stretching, reading or gratitude. You could get your partner or family involved too, that way the whole house knows it’s almost time for bed.
Create a peaceful sleeping environment
A dark room with a cool temperature (around 18c) is a great place to start. Try to manage mess so that you feel calm and relaxed. Be mindful of what you associate your bedroom with, if you often watch TV, reply to emails or use social media in your bedroom, this will become the norm. Make your bedroom a no phone zone.
Sleep is the pillar of health on which our other lifestyle factors sit. Without it, we are unable to function as the best version of ourselves.
As the seasons change and the dark nights creep in, there’s no time like the present to create a positive sleep routine and start a healthy journey prioritising sleep. Sweet dreams!
Holistic Health Coach - Anna Whyte
'The 'Wellness with Anna' philosophy focuses on taking a more balanced and holistic approach to health, providing clients with the tools they need to make sustainable changes and the motivation to start their new health journey.
We discuss how you can eat real, nourishing food, exercise mindfully and prioritise time to relax. What I provide isn't a diet; it's a holistic approach to a healthier life.'