We spend about a third of our lives asleep. Sleep is essential - it is as important to our bodies as a balanced diet and is vital for maintaining good health.
Having healthy rest habits can dramatically improve sleep quality. In time for World Sleep Day, 18 March, (which falls within Sleep Awareness Week) we are looking into the benefits of sleep, and what we can all do to improve our sleep quality.
Why is sleep important?
Between the ages of 18 and 64, adults should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep every night. If you’re older than 65, you may need a little less: seven to eight hours is recommended. Here are some reasons why…
Better productivity, concentration, and emotional intelligence
Research has linked getting enough sleep to better concentration, productivity, and cognition. Plus, sleep has links to people’s emotional and social intelligence.
Overall, our brains just work better when we’ve had enough shut-eye!
Better calorie regulation and healthier meal choices
There is evidence to suggest that getting a good night’s sleep can help a person consume fewer calories during the day. Studies have shown that sleep patterns affect the hormones responsible for appetite. This can affect everything from weight management to energy levels.
Better heart health and lower risk of heart disease
One risk factor for heart disease is high blood pressure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, getting adequate rest each night allows the body’s blood pressure to regulate itself.
Doing so can reduce the chances of sleep-related conditions such as apnea and promote better overall heart health.
Preventing depression and boosting immunity
When you're well-rested, you'll not only have more energy, but you may also have a more upbeat view on life.
That's because sleep is about a whole lot more than just rest. In the deepest stage, it recharges the system that fights germs and keeps your body healthy. The ‘dream’ stage boosts your ability to learn and remember things, and it plays a big role in your emotional wellbeing. [WebMD.com]
A study in the World Journal of GastroenterologyTrusted Source suggests a link between sleep deprivation and inflammatory bowel diseases that affect people’s gastrointestinal tract.
How can I improve my sleep?
We can all benefit from improving the quality of our sleep. For many of us, it may simply be a case of making small lifestyle or attitude adjustments to help us sleep better.
Reduce your ‘blue light’ intake
Screens on our devices such as mobile phones, computers and televisions can emit blue light that interferes with our natural sleep cycles. Decreasing exposure to light in the evening is an important way to help your body naturally prepare for sleep.
Sleep Foundation explains more about how blue light affects our circadian rhythms.
Winding down is a critical stage in preparing for bed. Things you could try are:
- A sleep app like Headspace to relax your mind and body.
- A warm bath.
- Relaxation exercises like gentle yoga or meditation.
- Relaxation CDs or reading a book.
Create a calming bedroom environment
Your bedroom should be a relaxing environment. Ensure your bedroom is cool (between 18c and 24c), dark and quiet – and use sleep earplugs to block out noise. Also, try and stick to a consistent sleep and wake up schedule.
Plants are great for cleaning the air and creating a calm environment too. Jasmine and Lavender plants give off a sweet scent and are often used as essential oils for relaxation.
Avoid mid-afternoon caffeine
Consuming caffeine too late in the day can negatively impact your sleep, so cut down on drinks like tea and coffee after lunchtime. Caffeine has a half-life of about six to eight hours. That means 50% of the caffeine is still in your system after eight hours.
Moderate physical exercise can make a big difference in your sleep quality. Exercising during the day will not only help you fall asleep more quickly but will also lead to longer, deeper sleep with fewer awakenings during the night. But don’t do it too close to bedtime!
Don't drink alcohol too close to bedtime
Drinking alcohol too close to bedtime can prevent you from reaching deep sleep by reducing your REM and Stages 3 or 4 sleep. It can also dehydrate you, making you wake up thirsty.
Looking for support?
The best sleep routine depends on what works for you, but the most important thing is working out a routine and sticking to it.
If you’re looking for some extra support at home to develop a routine and create healthy sleep habits, we can help. Our ‘good morning’ and ‘good night’ services offer support with washing, bathing, preparing a healthy meal and making sure you have everything you need to start, or end your day well. Get in touch with us here.
For more information on the importance of sleep, here are some useful websites: