Have you ever noticed how terrible you may feel when you have not had enough sleep? Did you notice less focus, poor judgement, difficulty controlling your emotions? Dont worry we have all been there. Getting enough sleep is crucial for bodily function and healing. Neuroscientist Dr Sarah McKay reports it “is the foundation on which all other aspects of brain health are built. One night without good sleep and your brain function drops considerably”.
What are the benefits of enough sleep?
- Improve memory – yep getting more Z’s helps your brain organise what it has seen, learnt and processed during the day. Think of it as your brains time for filing all those memories.
- Healing – without adequate rest and recovery our body remains in a constant state of alertness. Sleep promotes healing by putting our nervous system in the parasympathetic mode or “rest and digest” mode.
- Weight management – who would have thought that rest can promote weight loss/management. Have you ever noticed the types of food you crave when your are tired or under stress?
- Productivity/alertness – im sure we have all noted how poor we are at getting things done when we are tired.
So how much sleep is enough?
There is no set answer to this. Most of us need approx 7-9hours with the answer more coming down to what is the minimum. Dr John Medina in his book Brain Rules reveals “studies show that when sleep is restricted to 6hrs or less per night for 5nights, cognitive performance matched that of a person suffering from 48hrs sleep deprivation”. I know for me that if I dont sleep for a minimum 7 hours per night – I am like a bear with a sore head.
Dr Medina also reported that “lack of sleep has been shown to accelerate aging”. So if you are looking for that ageing antidote – it may just be to get more sleep.
How do I improve the quality of my sleep?
- Decrease stress during day – meditate, yoga, exercise
- Set work boundaries – eg stop work at home after a certain time
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake – caffeine especially of an evening
- Free up time – ie make time for yourself, this is your chance to wind down
- Pick a day to plan the week ahead – this allows you to be organised – stop that brain racing of an evening
- Switch off from all screens, yes ALL approximately 90min before bed. The blue light from screens decreases the release of melatonin the sleep hormone. Reading a book by a yellow lit lamp is fantastic for promoting melatonin release.
- Stick to a routine – exercise, bed time, eating
- Create sleep associations – whether it be a cup of cammomile tea and reading a book before bed or simply doing some meditation. Setting some associations will help with getting you ready for a sleep pattern
- Work with professionals – if all else fails, talk to someone – counsellor, psychologist – at times we all just need to talk some things through.
Having always been someone that requires adequate sleep, when I go through stages of minimal sleep, I make a conscious effort to work out my triggers and make a plan to minimise them and improve my sleep. It is as simply as trying things for a few weeks……I also take a hint from Narla- my dog……stop, drop and sleep.
Written by Maddie.