Most of us know that getting a good night’s sleep is important, but too few of us actually make those eight or so hours recharging a priority and have forgotten what waking up truly rested feels like.
Going without adequate sleep carries with it both short and long-term consequences. In the short term, a lack of adequate sleep can affect judgment, mood, ability to learn and retain information, and may increase the risk of serious accidents and injury. In the long term, chronic sleep deprivation may lead to a host of health problems including obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Functions of sleep
Rest and recovery
Consolidation of learning, information process and memorisation
Remodelling of synaptic function
Cleaning of brain toxins
Strengthening of the immune function
How much sleep?
The amount of sleep we need varies throughout our lifespan and is greatly impacted by lifestyle and health status.
To determine how much sleep you need, it's important to assess not only how you feel, but also to consider what lifestyle factors are affecting the quality and quantity of your sleep, such as work schedules, stress and your sleeping environment.
It’s not always possible to tick off your recommended time between the sheets every night but you want to make sure your ‘sleep debt’ doesn't start to build up, to avoid exhaustion becoming a normal part of life.
Ten Ways to Improve Your Sleep
1. Turn your bedroom into a sleep Inducing environment
Create a calming space that encourages you to relax without distractions with gentle lighting or candle and save the bedroom for sleep and intimacy. Avoid where possible using your bedroom as a workspace.
2. Limit stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, tobacco and sugar before bed
Avoid caffeine after 3 pm and be aware of other evening habits that act as stimulants, affecting your chance of falling into a restful sleep.
3. Establish a calming ‘pre-sleep routine’
Start winding down and getting ready a few hours before you plan to go to bed, brew a cup of your favourite non-caffeinated tea, read a few chapters of a book or take 10 minutes to stretch out the day on your yoga mat.
4. Go to sleep when you are truly tired. Be aware of WOO (window of opportunity).
Don’t ignore the first signs of sleepiness, as soon as you feel your head start to drop and your eyes shut take yourself to bed.
5. Create screen time boundaries. Avoid use of iPad, phones and TV 1 hour before bed and don't look at as soon as you wake up.
Exposure to blue light from screens and devices suppresses the production of melatonin more than any other type of light. Decreased production of melatonin affects our ability to get to sleep, as it disturbs our bodies natural circadian rhythm.
6. Ensure adequate intake of protein, especially in evening meal.
We need protein for the synthesis of important neurotransmitters that play an important role in helping us to fall asleep.
7. Create a consistent sleep schedule (wake up at the same time every day)
Try to avoid waking up at different times every day decide on a set time to wake up each morning. Allow yourself to catch up on sleep at the weekends, but try where possible not to sleep to the point where your bedtime will be affected the following evening. And if possible disable the snooze button on your alarm!
8. Avoid excessive fluid intake before bed
Try to tail off your fluid intake towards the end of the day in order to avoid having to wake in the night to use the bathroom. If you find yourself waking up thirsty during the night, sleep with a glass of water next to your bed so you don’t have to get up.
9. Try to exercise earlier on in the day. If you exercise at night you will be throwing off your circadian rhythm and cortisol cycle.
Often referred to as the "body clock," the circadian rhythm is a cycle that tells our bodies when to sleep, rise, eat—regulating many physiological processes. We want to try and follow our bodies natural peak in cortisol (first thing in the morning) and then start to wind down in the afternoon.
10. Turn your alarm clock away from you and resist the temptation of checking it throughout the night.
Don’t be a nighttime clockwatcher! Getting stressed over the time and trying to work out how much sleep you will get if you were to fall asleep soon will make you far less likely to fall asleep. If you can’t get to sleep, try to repeat your pre-sleep routine, or listen to some soothing music for 10 minutes.
Extra sleep tricks you can try when you are struggling or feeling alert and restless before bed:
Epsom salt bath
Magnesium Supplement 30 minutes before bed
Lavender essential oils diffused in your bedroom or dabbed onto your temples
Evening stretch, yin yoga class or even lying in bed with your legs up on the wall
Herbal teas such as chamomile or passionflower before bed