So many people I see in clinic struggle with the effects of poor sleep. I want to talk to you about why a good sleep is so important and how you can go about getting it!
A good night’s sleep is as important to health as eating the right things and exercise. Your physical and emotional wellbeing depend on getting enough. Yet we’re living in sleep-deprived times. Some people are even competitive about how little sleep they’re getting, like dragging yourself through the day on four hours’ rest is a badge of honour. Scientists even say we’re now getting an hour or two less sleep each night than we were 60 years ago. And the effect on our bodies is not good.
The amount of sleep each person needs varies. Waking up feeling refreshed in the morning is a good indicator and so is being able to wake without an alarm. If you need an alarm to wake up, you are not getting enough sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, you may not be able to concentrate properly, and become irritable or agitated. You may also have blurred vision, be clumsy, become disorientated or slow to respond, and have decreased motivation. And, on top of that, if you’re tired and cranky, you are significantly less likely to make the best food choices.
You might be surprised to learn that, in a computer simulated driving test, those who had had just a few hours sleep were more dangerous on the (virtual) road than the people who had had a few drinks! In fact, the majority of road accidents are caused by tiredness.
The purpose of sleep is to rest and recover – and to allow the body to repair itself. These maintenance and repair processes take 7 to 9 hours. Adults need between 7 and 9 hours per night – regardless of what you think you have trained yourself to get by with.
But just how do you get a good night’s sleep?
The most common cause of insomnia is a change in your daily routine. For example, travelling, change in work hours, disruption of other behaviours (eating, exercise, leisure, etc.), and relationship conflicts can all cause sleep problems. Establishing good sleep hygiene is the most important thing you can do to maintain good sleep. It might also be helpful to keep a sleep diary to help pinpoint any particular problems.
- Try to go to bed at the same time every day. Your body thrives on routine.
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom comfortable; not too hot, nor too cold.
- Use your bed only for sleep and sex. This may help you completely switch off.
- Keep the bedroom completely dark, so you’re not disturbed by light, which your brain detects even when your eyes are closed. Eye masks can be useful.
- Spend time outdoors to soak up the sun.
- Try to take some gentle exercise every There is evidence that regular exercise improves restful sleep. This includes stretching and aerobic exercise. A brisk walk ticks both boxes.
- Make an effort to relax for at least 5 minutes before going to bed – a warm bath, massage, meditation.
- Keep your feet and hands Wear warm socks and/or mittens or gloves to bed.
- Consider getting a traditional alarm clock so your smartphone can stay out of the bedroom (see below). Better still, work out how much sleep you need by going to bed 15 minutes earlier until you find that you wake up naturally before your alarm. That’s your personal sleep requirement.
- Engage in stimulating activities – like playing a competitive game, watching an edge-of-the seat film, or having an important conversation with a loved Even using smartphones and tablets can interfere with sleep, because they emit the same kind of light as the morning sun.
- Eat a heavy meal within four hours of going to bed.
- Drink caffeine after lunch – like coffee, ‘normal’ and green tea, and
- Use alcohol to help you Alcohol can make sleep more disturbed.
- Try to avoid daytime naps.
- Try not to get frustrated if you can’t sleep. Go to bed in a positive mood – “I will sleep tonight”.
Achieving long-term health and energy is a balancing act. Quite simply, what you put into your mind may have as much of an impact as the food and supplements you feed your body.
Many studies have been conducted on the mind-body connection. What we know for sure is that a positive attitude works – when we remember to nurture it.
Wholesome food, avoiding sugar and toxins are obvious tools for great health but how should you deal with the consequences of negative thinking and stress?
Experts rate exercise, sufficient sleep, controlling negative thoughts and building a strong social support as some of the best ways to decrease stress and boost immunity – so paying attention to your feelings and needs is as vital as drinking enough water and avoiding junk food.
Here Are 5 Winning Ways to Promote Good Mind-Body Health
The release of endorphins during exercise promotes a sense of wellbeing, which has the added benefit of boosting your immune system.
During exercise, the lymphatic system – a network of tissues and organs that helps your body to eliminate toxins and waste – is mobilised. Its main role is to transport lymph fluid, which contains infection-fighting white blood cells. Unlike the blood, which is transported by the heart, lymph fluid only moves if you do.
A recent study from a North Carolina university showed that people who exercised for five or more days weekly experienced 43% fewer days of upper respiratory infections.
Walking, running or any other muscle-moving activity also dramatically reduces stress by ‘working off steam’ when you are upset or angry. With the release of endorphins, your body receives a natural mood boost, resulting in reduced stress levels, which in turn puts less pressure on your immune system.
- GET ENOUGH SLEEP
According to an American Psychological Association study, stress is what keeps more than 40% of adults awake at night. To aim for the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night, avoid caffeine, digital screens and try to turn in at the same time each evening.
- FOCUS ON SELF-CARE
Make an effort to do something nice for yourself every day. Neglecting your own needs adds unnecessary stress to the system, resulting in increased vulnerability to illness.
Women, in particular, tend to put their own needs last, especially if they’re caring for children and/or elderly parents. If you battle with guilt when you take an hour off to read, go for a manicure or have a coffee with a friend, remind yourself that if your bucket is empty, you’ll have nothing left to give anyone else. Simple, but effective.
You cut in half the chances of catching a cold by meditating. A University of Wisconsin study showed that people who practised mindfulness – a type of meditation or mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment, while accepting feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations – noted 13 fewer illnesses and took 51 fewer sick days. Researchers concluded that this reduced the physical effects of stress, which is known to weaken the immune system.
- IT TAKES A VILLAGE…
Building strong social connections has proven psychological and physiological benefits. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, having a ‘support group’ – no matter how big or small – boosts immunity by creating ‘stress buffers’.
Being able to share stress or concerns with close family or friends provides an opportunity for outside support and advice, which alleviates a sense of being alone in your situation.
Ongoing stress is also a contributing factor to many chronic diseases, and is seriously not helpful if you are trying to lose weight.
“When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection with one another – and ourselves.” – Jack Kornfield, American author and Buddhist mindfulness pioneer.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It is important for you to master your thoughts. Your emotions does affect your health so be more mindful and aware of your thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
Do you find it difficult falling asleep? Do you sleep for less than 7 hours at night? Do you wake up more than twice during the night? Do you feel exhausted when you wake up in the morning? If you answered ‘Yes’ to any of the questions above then you may be sleep deprived.
Is getting a good night’s sleep a priority in your life? Are you always struggling to get a good night’s sleep? Did you know that there is a link between poor sleep and poor digestive health? (more…)