It’s something we can’t live without and something that a lot of us struggle to find a healthy balance with. Sleeping is essential and allows our body to reset its batteries, relax and unwind ready for a new day. Many of us don’t know the true importance of sleep and how it affects our mind and body if we get too much or too little.
Rockwell Shah from Pzizz sums it up perfectly: “Sleep is critical to your overall wellbeing. In fact, it's one of the "three pillars of health" along with nutrition and exercise.” In this article, we just that, how this pillar has an overall effect on our wellbeing. We uncover the secrets of sleep and how everyone should be making sure they get their pattern just right.
Our bodies are like machines that need refuelling when they get low on energy, and like a car, we wouldn’t leave the tank empty until it ran out, this should be the same for our bodies. Essential to a healthy and happy lifestyle, protecting our physical and mental wellbeing is vital to a prosperous life.
We spoke to Lisa Artis, sleep advisor for The Sleep Council who agrees that a good night’s sleep is essential: “A good night’s rest is essential to a healthy lifestyle - protecting you physically and mentally as well as boosting your quality of living. It makes you look better, feel better, behave better, perform better and think better.
“Just one bad night’s sleep affects our mood, concentration and alertness while long-term sleep deprivation has far more serious consequences: it’s been linked to several serious health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and strokes.”
“The science is clear: the shorter your sleep the shorter your life. When you're not getting enough sleep you'll likely find yourself getting into more accidents, performing worse, getting answers wrong, taking more unwise risks, having trouble staying on task, getting more upset when you encounter small obstacles, feeling generally more stressed, having a harder time resolving social conflict, being more aggressive, feeling more pain, and getting sick more often... sometimes fatally so. Basically: better sleep, better life.” Rockwell mentions.
Sam, the sleep expert at SleepKick says that getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night is important for our wellbeing: “Almost all of us need between seven and a half and eight hours sleep a night. During sleep your brain cleans itself of toxins, you lay down new memories and fix and replace damaged muscle cells. Sleep is fundamental to both your body and mind functioning as they should. Sleep is so important in fact, that the less you sleep the shorter your life span. Recent research has linked lack of sleep with increased risks of heart disease, strokes, cancer, weight gain and becoming ill.
“The benefits of sleep include remembering more and an improved memory, increases in creativity and higher levels of emotional intelligence, an ability to work with others and tolerance of others. Research has shown those getting a full night’s sleep are faster, have better hand-eye coordination, increased strength and stamina and suffer less from fatigue and injury. Lack of sleep reduces functioning in many structures of the brain and also reduces the metabolic rate of the brain reducing the fuel the brain is getting. All these factors are key to you living a full, stimulating life and key to your wellbeing.”
There are a number of factors that can affect our sleep, whether that means we are getting too much or too little, but it can often be difficult to determine what is causing the troubles.
We spoke to Dr Marian Pearson from Sleep East who spoke a little more about what can trigger a restless sleep: “Insomnia is increasingly widespread in our society and the media are full of theories about what causes it, and what you can do to cure it. One thing is really clear and that is that there are many different aspects of life that have an effect on sleep quality and many little tricks that have worked for some people and helped them move towards better sleep. There is a pervasive urban myth that if you have insomnia it is somehow your fault and that if you would only, leave your phone in another room, spray your pillow with ‘sleep mist’, eat a banana at bedtime, or whatever the latest theory is then you would be able to sleep as well as anyone else.”
Caffeine can be a real culprit for those who struggle to doze off at night and people often forget that the side-effects for caffeinated drinks take a while to kick into your system. Caffeine is a stimulant, meaning it wakes your body up and alerts you during the day, something you wouldn’t want whilst you’re trying to sleep. By blocking sleep-inducing chemicals in our body, it increases adrenalin and essentially stops the body from relaxing into a sleepy state. For those who can’t live without a cup of tea or coffee in the evening, try opting for a decaf option if you know you struggle to enjoy a restful night.
Much like caffeine, using electronic devices before bed can have various side-effects for those looking to head to bed. Using these devices can delay the body’s internal clock meaning it stays alert for longer, therefore putting down any devices at least an hour before bed can really improve the chances of a great night’s sleep.
Many of these new devices emit a short-wavelength of artificial blue light which can affect the way we sleep. Investing in a pair of computer glasses, or glasses that block this blue light is an easy and cheap way to solve this problem.
“Most people that suffer from insomnia suffer from "too much thinking." They just can't shut their brains off at night. The key then is if you can quiet your mind, you can fall asleep.” Says Rockwell.
“Try 4-7-8 breathing (4 second inhale, 7 second hold, 8 second exhale) or Resonant Frequency Breathing (5 second inhale, 5 second exhale). Just breathe continuously in one of these patterns until you fall asleep.” As Rockwell recommends, trying to take your mind off of what is keeping you alert isn’t always easy, but there are simple ways to help you along, including breathing exercises, listening to relaxation podcasts or reading a book until you feel sleepy.
There are some simple and easy steps that can be followed that are proven to significantly help those with troubled sleeping patterns.
Lisa recommends following a healthy and balanced lifestyle and avoiding screen time when possible: “To ensure you experience good sleep, it’s essential to follow good lifestyle habits and to eliminate the factors that are causing you disturbed sleep. For example, making sure your bedroom is the right environment (cool, dark and quiet), that your bed is comfortable and supportive, looking at the lighting in your home, and avoiding foods and drinks that can hinder sleep.
“Avoid screen time at least an hour before bed and find alternative ways of relaxing like warm baths with calming scents, quiet soothing music, reading, gentle stretching and yoga. It’s also important to establish a regular sleep pattern – going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time. Your bodies and minds will feel much better for it.”
“What you have to do is put on your metaphorical detective’s hat and work out what is happening in your case for yourself. This means keeping a sleep diary, not only recording how much sleep you actually get and how long it takes for you to settle but also looking at diet, exercise, routine, self-care, anxiety and so on, which happen during the day. There are loads of templates for sleep diaries on the internet that can help you to find out more about what is going on for you personally.” Says Marion
Keeping a sleep journal is a wonderful way of tracking your sleeping pattern and checking what may be triggering a disturbed sleep. It can often become apparent very quickly if there is something in particular that may be at the cause of the issue.
Making sure you stay relaxed during the day can make it easier at night as your body isn’t fighting unwanted stress and anxiety. There are a number of ways to achieve this; writing down your thoughts is a great way to relieve unwanted stress, taking a walk before bed or even looking at our weekend breaks in Cheshire and enjoy a massage treatment or relaxing facial.
Whether you struggle to sleep or you want to improve your sleeping pattern, making sure you get enough sleep can lead to a happy and healthy life. If you want to find out more about our weekend breaks, or spa breaks that are the perfect setting for a relaxing and sleep-inducing treatment, make sure you explore our website.