Many of us know how important sleep is and at some point would have told a friend or family member that they need to rest up and sleep. But when it comes to ourselves we take it for granted way to often by depriving our bodies of it all too regularly.
Why sleep is important and what happens when you're deprived
Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.
Sleep has an important role in your physical health. Having regular good sleep helps with the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels as well keeping your immune system healthy. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and strokes. Sleep deficiency also increases the risk of obesity.
It helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don't get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This can be the reason why when you're feeling tired you start to feel hungry. Sleep also affects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood glucose (sugar) levels, causing higher levels which link into risks for diabetes.
How can I improve it?
Here's a list of habits that promote a good nights sleep. How many can you check off?
1) Avoid Caffeine after 1pm
- Caffeine can mess up your internal body clock if drinking all day. Caffeine can increase cortisol (stress hormone) in people who are anxious, reducing the ability to sleep later on
2) Eliminate light in the bedroom at night
- Light exposure is a key regulator of sleep. When the eyes are exposed to light, melatonin release is halted and body temperature stays elevated, inhibiting sleep
3) Use a blue light blocker on your phone
- Blue light from electronic devices can seriously hamper melatonin production. Luckily most new smart phones have this filter so when checking Facebook, Insta or Twitter in bed, switch this on
4) Pick a regular bedtime
- Studies show that people with trouble sleeping tend to improve when they go to bed between 9:30 and 11:00pm. Having a regular bedtime used both habit and takes advantage of your body clock (Natural Circadian Rhythm)
5) Eat quality carbs at dinner
- Higher carb foods are relaxing as they flower cortisol and increase serotonin (feel good neurotransmitter). This may have a calming effect and get you ready for a restful night.
6) Avoid late night eating
- Late night eating, especially junk food, impedes hormones that promote sleep. Have your last meal at least an hour before bed so it can give the body time to prepare to switch off.
7) Use cool temperatures to help you sleep
- Warm temperatures at night and cold temperatures in the day confuse the Circadian rhythm. Do the opposite to mimic the temperatures outside to help the inner body clock
8) Train hard, but preferably not at night
- Exercise can improve quality and quantity of sleep. Exercising is stimulating and often elevates cortisol. Most people find the best results when training between 3 and 6pm and normally report a good nights sleep.
9) Have regularly planned meals, prioritising protein
- Having these scheduled meals helps you avoid low blood sugar levels or elevation in cortisol. Plan meals around high quality proteins as recent studies have shown that people who eat more protein sleep better and wake up less frequently compare to a high carb diet.
10) Try relaxation techniques
- Deep breathing, meditation and other calming methods such as taking a bath have all been shown to improve sleep.
For any further advice, just get in touch by sending a message with any questions!