Are you getting enough sleep?

Sleep is good for your heart, mind and weight. It’s a fact!

Are you tired? Struggling to get through the day? Feeling exhausted all the time? It might be worthwhile taking a look at your sleep pattern. The right amount of quality sleep can help protect your mental health, physical health and overall quality of life.

Your circadian rhythm or your sleep/wake cycle is basically a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain. Outside factors can also impact it. When it’s dark at night, your eyes send a signal to the hypothalamus in the brain telling it that it is time to feel tired. Your brain, in turn, sends a signal to your body to release melatonin, which makes your body tired.

Your circadian rhythm works best when you have regular sleep habits, like going to bed at night and waking up in the morning around the same times from day to day (including weekends!). When things get in the way like a late night, change in the clock or jet lag it disrupts your circadian rhythm, which makes you feel out of sorts.

Without sleep, restful and restorative sleep your body will not be able to recover from the stress that has been placed on it during the day or rebalance, heal and rejuvenate itself properly. Sleep helps your brain work properly. While you’re sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day. If you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and coping with change. This is not helpful in this fast-paced world we live in.

Sleep also plays an important role in our physical health. Sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. There is more I am afraid…. sleep deficiency increases the risk of obesity. It affects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood glucose (sugar) level. If that’s not enough sleep also helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones. When you don’t get enough sleep, you feel hungrier than when you’re well-rested. Sound familiar?

Sleep or lack of can also affect our growth and development and plays a role in puberty and fertility.  It affects our immune system and can result in difficulty combating common infections.

Convinced that sleep is important? I hope so, so how much sleep do we need?

We are all individual and have different sleep requirements so the real test of whether you had enough sleep is whether you feel refreshed in the morning. The restorative sleep takes place usually between midnight and 4am. This is the time you should be in a deep sleep.

A good tip to identify if you are getting good quality sleep is to keep a sleep diary for a couple of weeks. Write down how much you sleep each night, how alert and rested you feel in the morning, and how sleepy you feel during the day. If you are not refreshed and have any of the sleep deprived symptoms mentioned in this blog consider making some changes. Chronic stress, high sugar diets and technology are often the major culprits (sorry!) but we can make small changes which will make a big difference.

Why not try out some of these tips:

  • Spend time outside everyday (when possible) and be physically active
  • Keep your bedroom quiet, cool, and dark
  • Avoid caffeine before bedtime
  • Avoid smartphones sand tablets before bed – the blue light hits the back of your retina and sends a message to your brain not to make any of the sleep hormone – melatonin. (With tv it is more about what you are watching)
  • Don’t bring the phone to the bedroom
  • Eating little and often during the day – no large meal at bedtime
  • Avoid alcohol before bed
  • Have a cup of camomile tea or peppermint tea before bed
  • Use of lavender oil (on the pillow or soles of the feet)
  • Try to keep to the same sleep routine
  • At least an hour before bed write yourself a ‘to do’ list for the next day
  • Magnesium is good for sleep – nature’s tranquilliser – a few almonds or cashew nuts
  • Relaxation techniques (breathing/meditation/bath).

Good luck and sleep well