So why is sleep so important? It’s not all about resting, so much happens within our bodies as we sleep. As we sleep our bodies repair themselves. During sleep, our body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain our physical health. In children and teenagers, good quality sleep is vital as it helps support growth and development. As we sleep our brain gets a bit of a spring clean too, it forms new pathways to aid our learning and memory.
Did you know that lack of sleep can actually make us put weight on? Research shows that sleeping less than six hours triggers the area of our brain that increases our need for food while also lowering the hormone leptin, which tells our brain we are full and stimulating the hormone ghrelin which is responsible for increasing our appetite.
Research studies suggest a link between short sleep duration and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Even short term sleeplessness can have a detrimental affect on health, increasing our stress hormone cortisol, raising our blood pressure and increasing inflammation. No wonder we feel awful when we don’t sleep well!
So if you want to banish those sleep demons follow my handy tips for a better night sleep:
1.Steer clear of caffeinated drinks and foods in the afternoon
Caffeine is a stimulant so for many people it can play havoc with their sleep pattern, even if you are having your cuppa in the afternoon. If you are going to have a cup of coffee or tea have it in the morning. This also applies to fizzy caffeinated drinks. Replace your cup of tea before bed with herbal teas such as chamomile, valerian and lemon balm teas. These will help to aid relaxation and calm the nervous system. Don’t forget that chocolate also contains caffeine! Alcohol can also disrupt sleep as your body starts to process it during the second half of the night.
2. Make sure your bedroom is completely dark
When it’s dark our bodies know it’s time for bed. Darkness triggers melatonin, the all important sleep hormone. So turn off lights, make sure those blinds or curtains are shut tight and if you need to, use an eye mask.
3. Create a bed time routine and avoid electronic devices
This could include having an epsom salt bath which contains magnesium helping you to relax and unwind, reading a book or doing some meditation. Do not fall asleep watching TV. Try not to check your mobile phone or tablet at least 90mins before going to bed. Mobile phones and tablets emit ‘blue light’ which can keep us awake as our bodies think it’s daytime and signals to your brain to stop making melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy. If you really have to check your phone or tablet then you can get various apps and screens that can limit the ‘blue light’ emitted from these electrical devices. If you can try and get into the habit of leaving your mobile phone, tablet or computer out of the bedroom.
4. Keep a journal beside your bed and write down any worries or anxieties
Stress and worries can keep us from having a good night sleep. So before you go to sleep spend some time writing down anything that’s on your mind. Declutter your brain. If you have a busy schedule the next day, write a to do list so it’s down on paper rather than running around in your mind and keeping you awake at night. Sometimes having it written down rather than just thinking about it, makes it less stressful.
5. Don’t exercise too close to bedtime
Exercise stimulates the body to release the stress hormone cortisol, which makes us alert. This is fine, unless you’re trying to fall asleep. Try to finish exercising at least three hours before bed or work out earlier in the day.
Honest Guys – You Tube
Books on Sleep
The Sleep Revolution – Arianna Huffington
Why We Sleep – Matthew Walker
If you have issues with sleep and would like to discuss them further please contact me to arrange a consultation.