Sleep is either one of those things you give little thought to, dropping into bed most nights and sleeping without difficulty. Then there are those for whom sleep is elusive, who struggle to get through the night without waking, possibly tossing and turning, worrying or suffering from insomnia. If you’re an insomniac, the thought of sleep probably haunts your every waking moment.
Going without sleep is miserable, makes you emotional and unproductive, and for busy working people, it can be make or break in the success of the working day sometimes.
It’s time to take sleep seriously!
Our bodies need good quality sleep, just like they need good nutrition and regular exercise.
Unfortunately, we are now getting less sleep than ever, and the quality of sleep we are getting is nowhere near good enough.
1. Lack of sleep can impact your weight.
Do you often find yourself reaching for the biscuit tin if you have had a bad night’s kip? This is because being tired affects your appetite; making you crave high sugar, high fat foods for a quick injection of energy. You are also much less likely to have any motivation to hit the gym if you are sleep deprived. There’s also some hormone activity at play here – sleep deprivation triggers stress hormone cortisol, making it harder for your body to process fat.
Obviously getting more sleep is the issue here but whilst you work on that, try swapping those carby snacks for something healthier.
2. A bad night’s sleep has a detrimental impact on your concentration and productivity
It can often feel like you are suffering with a mild hangover when you have had insufficient sleep. Your brain feels foggy and your concentration levels are shocking. This is because a lack of sleep impairs your brain function – whilst you sleep your brain processes data, giving you a metaphorical ‘clean slate’ in the mornings. Research shows that without that mental clearout you’re more likely to be foggy the next day. Not good if you have an important meeting or event.
If you’re really unable to sleep, try and give your brain a break anyway. Stop struggling – that can be counter-intuitive anyway – and just relax. Download a meditation app and turn off that brain strain for a while.
3. If you booze, you will need to snooze
If you are one of the 31% of people in the UK who suffer from insomnia, you will know only too well that you will try anything to nod off. For many the solution is a few (large) glasses of wine or a sneaky whiskey or two before bed.
Yes, alcohol will send you to sleep. But the quality of sleep will be greatly impaired. Drinking disrupts your sleep cycle. You spend less time in deep sleep and more time in the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep.
Not to mention those frequent trips to the toilet to relieve your bladder, which often feels like it’s been stretched to the size of a space hopper.
Do we need to say it? Try a warm drink like chamomile tea or mild hot chocolate instead.
4. It’s all about the base
If you can’t get comfy, you’re less likely to sleep well. Not rocket science.
Us hoteliers take mattress selection very seriously, it really is the secret to a decent night's sleep. Sleeping on a lovely mattress can significantly lower your stress levels compared to trying to get your eight hours on a lumpy, bumpy old one. Couple that with a luxurious soft goose down duvet or a hypoallergenic silk one, and a good quality pillow that supports your head and you will be soothed into the land of nod in no time.
5. Live long and prosper
Not getting enough sleep will kill you. Literally. Studies show that sleeping less than six hours a night makes you 12% more likely to die prematurely than someone who sleeps eight hours. Remember this the next time you are tempted to binge watch your favourite Netflix show in one setting.
Go to bed! Turn it off, shut down that screen and get cosy.
6. Watch out for screen time
Leaving aside the obvious mind-churning activities like checking your emails, screen time is a sleep killer for other reasons too. The blue light emitted suppresses melatonin, the magic sleep hormone, and keeping your phone near the bed can also mean you’re hearing beeps and tones and notification triggers through the night without realising.
Shut the laptop, switch off the TV and leave your phone in another room. If that advice makes you panic, you’re probably watching too many screens! Pick up a book, or listen to some music (not on your phone though, yeah?!)
7. All hail the power nap
With flexible working hours available more now than ever before, a power nap is an achievable and beneficial addition to your daily sleep quota. If you work from home, are at a conference or are away on business, a power-nap can massively improve your cognitive performance.
What does this mean? Your creative juices will flow, your capacity for learning will soar and your stress levels will drop. It’s a win-win situation for employees and bosses alike.
8. Consume sleep-inducing foods with your evening meal
It goes without saying that anything containing caffeine is not a good idea before bedtime if you want to drift off easily and have a good night’s sleep. But there are also several foods, and drinks, that you can actively aid restfulness.
Walnuts, salmon, turkey, eggs, collard greens, sweet potatoes and carrots can all help you fall asleep more quickly. As does chamomile tea and warm milk.
9. Indulge in a massage
When you have a massage, your body produces up to 28% more serotonin (the happy hormone) than usual which leads to the creation of melatonin; the sleep inducing hormone. Massage also reduces your cortisol levels which are responsible for feelings of stress.
So maybe it’s time to stop thinking of a massage as a treat and more as an essential activity for overall wellbeing. \
10. Sleep more, earn more!
Those earning £65 – £75,000 per year get the best sleep. This comes from a report by The Sleep Council. Now isn't that an incentive to turn focus on all things sleep!
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