*by Caroline Bramley
Sleep plays a crucial role in physical and mental well-being throughout life and making sure you are getting enough quality sleep is vital to your health.
Lack of sleep can have instant damage such as accidents but it can also do harm over time by increasing the risk of developing chronic problems like heart disease, hypertension or diabetes. It can also impair your decision making abilities which can impact all areas of your life.
Sleep deficiency also increases the risk of obesity. For example, one study of teenagers showed that with each hour of sleep lost, the odds of becoming obese went up. Sleep deficiency increases the risk of obesity in other age groups as well.
Negative effects of not getting enough sleep also includes increased risk of obesity, potentially lowered fertility and could lead to ‘microsleep’ where your brain goes into airplane mode for a anything from a fraction of a second up to 30 seconds.
The positive effects of getting enough good quality sleep includes improved memory, a better functioning metabolism, increased immunity against foreign bodies, lowering the likelihood of inflammation, greater stamina, lowers stress and could extend your life in general.
So how can you get a good night’s sleep? First thing is to get into a routine; this is hard if you work on shifts but if not, going to bed at the same time every night helps set your internal clock and improves your quality of sleep. You may find after a while you’ll start waking up before your alarm clock but if you don’t you may want to start going to bed just a little earlier as optimum sleeping patterns means you’ll wake naturally.
Your body has a preference for what position you sleep in and the type of support it wants, even if you’re not entirely aware of it. Everything from firmness of your mattress to the size to the position of your bed can affect your sleep so work out what mattress size you’ll need here for optimum sleep. You should have enough room to comfortably turn and stretch. If you regularly wake up with a sore back or an aching neck, you may need to invest in a new mattress and Bedstar have a great range of mattresses and pillows.
A comfortable and supportive bed isn’t the end of your quest for a good night’s sleep so once you have that down you’ll need to focus on the rest of your bedroom environment and ultimately on your own habits.
Noise, light and temperature play a big part in getting off to sleep and staying that way until you wake naturally. If you live in the city, near a main road or flight path, or just have particularly obstreperous neighbours think about getting a sound machine or downloading an app like Rain Rain to drown out distracting noises – even static from your clock-radio will work. These are particularly helpful if you have a baby or young child who is having difficulty going down.
Keep your room cool but not cold as an overly warm bedroom will make your skin prickle and keep you awake. Try to go to sleep in a completely dark bedroom, any sort of light will jar your senses awake so avoid turning lights on where possible if you need to visit the bathroom in the night or stick to dimmed lights.
The true path to good sleep lies in your willingness to adopt new habits or revert to old ones. We live in a connected age and it’s easy to sit up late into the night watching TV or playing on our phones and we convince ourselves we are winding down our minds but these activities are stimulating rather than relaxing your brain. Avoid screens for an hour before bed by listening to some music or simply reading a book.
Regular exercise will help you sleep better as will shunning large evening meals or by just eating earlier. Although a high-fibre snack before bed can help with your night-time snooze. Caffeine can also disrupt sleep up to 12 hours after ingestion so switch to decaff after lunch.
Finally, say goodbye to weekend lie-ins. They seem great but they’re actually throwing your sleep pattern out of the window. Just an extra hour in bed at the weekend can undo your week’s work. Get up at the same time (you still get your extra hour when the clocks go back) and have a nap in the day time if you’ve had a late night. You’ll still be racking up your required hours but won’t be disrupting your circadian rhythm.
When it comes to sleep it’s all about quality, make sure you give your mind and body the quality it deserves.