It’s funny how often your Mum’s advice turns out to be right on the money. When sickness hit, we were administered a prescription of lots of water, vegetable soup if we were lucky, and then sleep. Lots of sleep. There was no Berocca, ‘immunity’ supplement or the notion of ‘battling’ through. There was simply rest, and trust that your body knew how to heal itself.
Sleep isn’t held in such high regard these days. Have you noticed that sleepiness is more and more seen as a need for fuel (more coffee! Red Bull! chocolate!), instead of a need for rest?
Studies show we’re getting less sleep than ever, with many adults getting less than 6-hours shut-eye per night. I recently met a self confessed ‘health junkie’ who was proud of the fact she functions on five hours of sleep per night in her ultra busy life. Has our newfound obsession with nutrition lead us away from one of the fundamental aspects of health – getting a good nights’ sleep?
The importance of sleep
Keen to get some expert advice, I chatted to my friend Kate, the Clinical Manager at the Peninsula Sleep Clinic who told me the optimum number of hours of sleep for adults is between 7 and 9 (I sit at a solid 8 – what about you?).
Sleep is CRITICAL to daily function and plays a role in everything from learning and memory, to maintaining a stable weight and healthy metabolism, to mood and our immune system function.
While short lived sleep deprivation is relatively normal, tiredness can lead to decreased mood, reduced cognitive function and brain fog, slower reaction times and has been linked with increased hunger and cravings for salty, fatty foods.
Getting 6 hours or less per night on a regular basis? You increase your risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and depression. Woah.
Sleep deprivation can be a vicious cycle; among other side effects poor sleep can make you hungry. So you may end up eating more than you normally would, leading to a further feeling of lethargy and low mood and as this cycle continues it is harder to stay motivated and keep up the exercise. According to Kate not getting enough sleep is a hard cycle to break, especially when we all have busy lives. Trying to fit everything in can often lead to scrimping on sleep, when that is exactly what you need to maintain a healthy life.
Tips on getting a good night’s sleep
Clean up your sleeping habits (and health!) by incorporating some of these into your daily routine.
1. Get up at the same time each day
Think that long Saturday sleep in is doing you good? Think again. The more you can help set your body clock on a regular routine, and the better and more adequate your sleep.
2. Keep your coffee hit before 2pm (or not at all)
If you can’t live without your daily brew, make sure it’s early in the day, ideally before 2pm. Left over adrenaline in the body can keep the body ‘buzzing’ at night. Still struggling? Go coffee free for a week and see how you feel.
3. Exercise every day, but keep it early
Like coffee, exercising late at night increases adrenalin and warms up the body – not ideal for sleep. However high intensity exercise early in the day can help you have a restful nights sleep – among a ton of other benefits!
4. Ditch the iThings
We’re all guilty of it, a late night check on the Facebook feed, scroll of Instagram. While it might feel relaxing, staring into a bright screen right before falling asleep excites the brain and makes it harder to initiate sleep, plus exposes you to mobile radiation. Turn your phone off while you sleep, or put it on flight mode if you still want to use your alarm.
5. Make a worry list
Lying in bed tossing and turning about what you have to do tomorrow is a major cause of insomnia. Before you go to bed write a list of the things you want to accomplish the next day. It’s a simple thing that can help you feel more prepared and calm as you try to fall asleep.
6. Wind down
Take time to chill out before climbing into bed. Read a book, potter around your room – or as my boyfriend calls it ‘fluffing around’. Give your body time to shift into sleep mode and avoid bright lights from you laptop or TV.