Getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best ways to optimise your mental and physical health.
Long-term sleep deprivation has been associated with multiple health problems, including poor immunity, memory issues and weight gain.
This article explains why sleep is so important and what you can do to get a restful night’s slumber.
What is Sleep?
Sleep is a natural brain state which occurs daily.
Whilst sleeping, our awareness and responsiveness to stimuli is reduced. During your sleep, you typically go through several sleep cycles, lasting an average of 90 minutes.
Sleep can be thought of in two components; light sleep and deep sleep. During a sleep cycle, you’ll normally go from light sleep to deep sleep, back to light sleep, followed by REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is associated with vivid dreams.
Then the sleep cycle repeats, although REM periods of sleep tend to get longer as the night goes on.
The NHS currently recommend that adults get around eight hours of sleep per night.
Why is Sleep Important?
Sleep is important for a healthy central nervous system (CNS).
Your CNS consists of the brain and spinal cord and controls most activities in the body such as breathing, movement and cognition.
During sleep, the neurons in your brain processes new information learnt. This is why we’re often told to get a good night of sleep before an important exam or meeting!
Not getting enough sleep can exhaust your brain, leaving you feeling forgetful, moody and unable to concentrate the next day.
During sleep, your immune system produces immune-fighting proteins called cytokines. These proteins can help your body to fend of infections such as common colds and the flu.
It goes without saying; if you don’t get enough sleep, you are less likely to defend yourself against these sorts of infections and may find yourself getting sick.
One study by King’s College London found that not getting enough sleep resulted in participants consuming an extra 385 calories the next day.
Feeling tired can make you more likely to reach for a greasy fry-up or a chocolate bar for a quick energy boost. So, if you’re watching your weight, getting enough sleep is crucial.
We also know from studies that sleep deprivation is associated with:
- Increased risk of type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Mood disorders
- Metabolic syndrome
- Reduce quality of life
- Performance and memory deficits
Top Tips for a Restful Night’s Sleep:
- Avoid napping during the day
- Maintain a regular sleep and wake up routine
- Keep your bedroom comfortable, quiet and cool
- Limit usage of screens (TV/phones/computers) at least one hour before bed or switch to ‘night mode’ to reduce the blue light emitted by the screen
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol before bedtime
- Avoid working out within several hours of going to bed
- Create a regular sleep routine before bed, which includes an activity which relaxes you i.e. having a hot bath, reading a book or doing some light stretches or meditation