How to sleep your way to success
How many hours sleep do you get each night? Most people need around eight hours but a recent Sleep Council Survey found that the majority of UK adults get by on seven hours or less, with a third surviving on just five to six hours per night. The hidden cost to the UK of sleep deprivation is estimated to be around £40 billion annually as a result of lost productivity.
We spend a third of our lives asleep and yet a quarter of us say we regularly experience poor quality sleep. So let's take a look at why sleep is so important and the small lifestyle changes you can make to get more quality time between the sheets.
Why should you prioritise sleep?
Sleep underpins good physical, mental and emotional health. In short, if you sleep less you'll think, feel and perform worse.
Good sleep is great for weight control. Poor sleep makes us fat. Research shows we consume approx. 350 extra calories the day after a poor night’s sleep.
Stronger immune system
Sleep lowers the body's stress hormone levels which strengthens our immune system to help us fight off infection, protects against diabetes and promotes long-term health.
While we sleep our brains consolidate our memories, moving the important stuff from our short-term memory and store it where it can be retrieved at a moment's notice.
Better decision making
Our decision making is controlled by the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. Unfortunately the pre-frontal cortex is affected by sleep deprivation. So more sleep equals better choices.
Numerous research has shown that when we get more sleep we're more alert and less likely to make silly mistakes.
Research shows that we are more likely to gain insight, have 'Eureka moments' and be creative in generating solutions after a good night’s sleep.
We’re more likely to show empathy and consideration for others, and be more of a team player, when we’re well slept.
Tips and tricks to getting more sleep
So now we know why sleep is so important, here are some easy adjustments you can make to your daily routine to ensure you get out of bed with a spring in your step each morning.
Caffeine is a stimulant that can take five to six hours to clear from the bloodstream, so avoid caffeine such as coffee, tea and energy drinks after early to mid-afternoon.
As little as 20-30 minutes of exercise each day will improve sleep, but don't exercise two to three hours before bed or you may be too wired to sleep.
Although alcohol may help you fall asleep more quickly, it can affect the 'rest and relax' part of our nervous system which can lead to our 'stress switch' remaining "on", and in turn, disrupt our quality of sleep.
One of the cues for our bodies that it's sleepy time is a drop in body temperature so keep your room cooler than the rest of the house and avoid over-heating the bed with hot water bottles and electric blankets.
Make time to unwind
A busy brain isn't conducive to a good night's sleep. A predictable bedtime routine, such as a warm bath, milky drink and reading a book, will help your mind relax.
Keep a sleep diary
Set a sleep schedule based on your workday routine for a few weeks. Track your progress and note how you're feeling (e.g. sleepy in the afternoons) and adjust the schedule accordingly.
Set the scene
Dimming the lights an hour before sleep will release your body’s sleepy hormone, and gentle rhythmical sounds such as those on the Windy or Calm apps can help entice you to sleep.
Ditch the devices
A National Sleep Foundation poll in 2013 found that 89% of parents and 75% of children had at least one electronic device in their bedroom at night. Looking at a screen in bed won't help you unwind as the blue light devices emit stimulates your mind as much as going for an hour's run before bed. This leads to disrupted sleep patterns and shortened sleep.
And finally, just in case you need more reasons to get an early night, research suggests good sleep makes others perceive us as more attractive and one study showed that an extra hour’s sleep resulted in a 14% increase in sexual desire and better sex. So sleep tight!
After more Pure Wellbeing updates? Stay tuned for our January update where we’ll be looking at Hydration and uncover tips on how much water you should be drinking in a day and which foods can help you to stay hydrated.
Working in partnership with Dr. Sarah Hattam MB ChB, MRCGP, DF SRH and Concilio Health.