In our busy modern lifestyles, sleep is very often treated as a bit of a luxury rather than as the absolute necessity that it is.
It is usually the first thing we sacrifice when our schedules get filled up.
As demands on our time overflow, we tend to fit our sleep patterns around our lifestyle rather than our lifestyle around the sleep pattern that best suit our needs.
This may run trouble free for a few days, months or even years depending on a huge variety of other factors that influence our health but long term it is an absolute recipe for disaster.
Irritability and Mood Swings
Aches and Pains
If you recognise any of the above as the rule rather than the exception a vital sleep check may well be overdue...
WHY SLEEP IS IMPORTANT
The best well-being efforts will provide little benefit without proper sleep.
This is the essential reset that is necessary to keep the body's processes working at optimal levels, helping repair, restore, recover and heal - preventing the body from breakdown.
Reconnecting to your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle delivers vital physical protection:
Boosts Immunity - helps decrease the chances of catching colds, flus and viruses.
Maintains emotional reserves - when these are low one gets easily frustrated and overwhelmed, is prone to anxiety and states of depression.
Supports cognitive health - good sleep maintains memory and focus abilities - when we are deprived of sleep this affects problems solving, the ability to reason, performance and even basic task completion around the home.
Appetite control - research shows that sleeping well decreases hunger, helps to keep appetite in check and can reduce the risk of obesity.
and conversely LACK of sleep can result in - reduced sperm count, heightened chance of serious conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers, greater incidence of stroke, accidents and death.
GET TO SLEEP
WHAT MAKES 'GOOD SLEEP'
So with all that said how do you know you're having good sleep?
Sleeping through the night without interruption and waking up feeling refreshed, rested and full of energy is the obvious sign that we've had a good night's rest. Since there are a number of factors that influence what each individual needs for rested sleep acheiving this every night seems much harder in practice.
How long is a good sleep and what happens in it?
Sleeping well is a constituent of deep sleep in which the body heals and repairs, producing vital metabolism-regulating hormones and REM sleep - the lighter phase during which dreaming takes place, in which the brain activity recovers from the days exertion processing emotion, and long-term memory and cognitive function are strengthened.
These stages of sleep take place in sleep cycles and it is thought that 4- 5 of these cycles are required to have had 'a good sleep' and to wake up feeling refreshed and energised.
Since each sleep cycle lasts up to 2 hours most experts recommend 7 - 8 hours of sleep which would enable 4 sleep cycles each night but expert opinions vary with wider recommendations falling within a range of as little as 5 and as much as 9 hours or more.
So why do some of us get away with physically needing less time asleep while others need a full refresh with many more hours?
The answer lies in the way that we are affected by our hormones , genetics and lifestyle.
GET TO SLEEP
GETTING TO SLEEP
Actually getting to sleep can be more of a challenge than it should.
In states or lifestyles of constant 'ups' acheiving natural 'relaxed' regular down time may need to be relearned.
We typically have set morning routines that enable us to mentally prepare for the day and signal to us that all is in order. Usually however, less so for our nighttime and rest.
A variety of simple techniques that enable a tapered winddown can be immensely effective in channelling the physical and physiological triggers to ease into sleep:
Journalling is a popular method that is a constructive way of processing the day's events and enabling the mind to settle. This tells the brain that all is in order enabling it to let itself retire from solution-finding and take things easy.
Gentle stretching to ease out tension, soothes the muscles and methodically slows heart rate. Slowing the heart rate down is one of the key states that pulls the body into that all important deep sleep.
Dimming lights signalling night time to the brain which impacts the brainwaves. Processed by the optic nerve this taps into the body's internal clock preparing the nocturnal patterns for rest.
A relaxing bath to calm aches or pains and ultimately lower body temperature to induce rest.
Removing all electronics and uv lights from the sleep area this includes mobiles and tablets too - not only does this clear the bedtime environment from disruptive signals to the neuropathways but it practically blocks any temptation to check that last quick email before hitting the pillow and potentially stirring up any stress.
if you normally rely on your phone's alarm invest in a good old fashioned alarm clock!
While incorporating new routines and sticking to them can take several months or years to adapt to, deeper understanding of any unique factors that could be affecting your sleep can enhance your bed time regime with effective support.
Read on for further insight from our experts.