Most adults need 7-8 hours of good quality sleep a night to function optimally; it’s not about amount of hours, what’s more important is the quality of the sleep. How do you feel when you wake up in the morning? Do you feel well rested and ready to face the day or do you feel that your brain hasn’t switched off all night? Try to stick to the same sleep routine during the week and weekends, going to bed at the same time and waking at the same time. This doesn’t mean at the weekends you need to be out of bed at 7am but awake and reading a book or listening to the radio. Keeping the same routine keeps your body clock in check; it avoids sleep insomnia Sunday night which results in tiredness Monday morning and has a knock on affect for the rest of your week.
Why is Getting Enough Sleep Important?
Apart from feeling tired and short tempered when you haven’t had enough sleep, it can directly affect our physical health, weight, mental health and well being. When we are asleep we grow and repair muscle tissue, produce healthy hormones, process and store memories and learn new information. Not getting enough sleep on a regular basis can directly affect our weight. When we are tired, our body releases more Ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates hunger. We do this because our body is telling us we need to restore our energy levels. This results in reaching for sugary foods that will give us a quick energy boost like a biscuit or a packet of crisps. These foods are lacking in nutrition, high in calories and will spike your sugar levels, only for it to slump down an hour later and you will be hungry again. If you have had a bad nights sleep, try to eat foods that will sustain you: a banana, a handful of nuts or a rice cake spread with some cottage cheese or hummus.
People who continually have poor sleeping habits on a regular basis are far more likely to be over weight or obese. This puts you more at risk of suffering weight related illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, depression, reduced immune system and increased pain. Not only are we at risk of illness, our cognitive functions suffer as our brain cannot process information as well.
How Can I Get Enough Sleep?
We live in a world that is open 24 hours a day making it difficult for the human brain to switch off. It is important to remember that sleep is not a luxury it is a necessity to life, just as breathing and eating are necessary. Try to create healthy habits to improve your sleep hygiene and will help with sleep insomnia.
- Keep regular sleep hours, both during the week and at the weekend.
- Turn off electrical devises such as phones and Ipads at least 2 hours before going to bed. These stimulate the brain and disrupt our bodies sleep/wake cycle. Exposing yourself to natural light during the day and darkness at night helps regulate this cycle.
- Daily regular exercise can improve sleep quality but try not to exercise too closely to going to be.
- Create a calming atmosphere to encourage sleep. Remove piles of washing, paperwork or other distractions.
- Cut down on your daily caffeine intake, especially after mid afternoon. If you like a warm drink before bed opt for warm milk or a herbal tea.
- Try to limit your alcohol consumption. When you drink alcohol, you fall asleep quickly initially but the rest of the night will be disrupted.
- Nicotine just like caffeine is a stimulant. Try to avoid smoking too close to bedtime or better still, give up.
- Relax your body before bed. Do a stretch session, read, have a bath. All these sorts of activities can help encourage the brain to switch off and prepare for sleep.