Are you one of the 40% of adults who sleep for less than the recommended 7-8 hours every night?
Whether you love getting in those zeds or partying all night, the right quality and quantity of sleep is essential for good health and wellbeing.
The magic pill
The pandemic disrupted our sleep routine more than ever. This lead to many of us experiencing sleep deprivation as well as some oversleeping. At the same time mental and physical health problems are also on the rise. Denise Pope, wellbeing expert, describes sleep as the magic pill for our health. Whether you are a lark or an owl, lack of sufficient sleep is exhausting and you will suffer.
What’s the issue?
Parties, pets, menopause, military helicopters, snoring and of course, children contribute to our sleep- deprived nights. However, if you can sleep for hours on end, not even waking to these usual offenders or the extra loud alarm, you too may have a problem.
The physical risks of under sleeping include developing dementia, diabetes, heart and other diseases, with similar issues for over sleeping. As you hit 50-70 years of age risks go up by 30% and risk of death from heart disease doubles in women. Mental health is equally affected with American studies showing a link to increased depression, anxiety and suicide in school children. Adults are affected in the same way.
Poor quality sleep also disturbs cognitive function with poor concentration, focus and memory leaving you with awful brain fog. Even worse, The Sleep Council found that 20% of UK road deaths can be attributed to fatigue. There are no end of statistics that prove the importance of getting the right amount of sleep.
Get rid of waste
Scientists believe sleep helps to clear the toxic waste from the brain. This waste is what can cause problems like dementia. Beware though, poor sleep can also be an early sign of dementia. If you get too much sleep, other risks increase, like cardiovascular disease.
It’s 3am and you’re lying there thinking about how many hours before you have to get up. How many times do you experience this? It is normal to wake a couple of times in the night, but you probably won’t remember.
Some of the physical reasons for waking up in the night and not getting back to sleep include obstructive sleep apnoea, restless leg syndrome, pain, pregnancy and menopause. If as a man you wake several times to pay a visit to the toilet you definitely need to seek advice.
Whether you known the cause for waking at night it might be time to check in with your GP.
You could make some simple changes to your environment and well-being to improve your sleep. That is what and when you eat and drink, your room temperature, mattress and of course learning to manage your stress levels.
Don’t get too smart
Don’t panic when your SMART watch tells you that you only managed 6 hours, 59 minutes and 32 seconds sleep! As great as they are, clocks and watches can increase your sleep obsession and then cause anxiety. If you can’t get back to sleep after 15-20 minutes, get up and relax with a book, listen to calming music and keep the light low. Avoid your SMART phone!
Ten tips for a better night’s sleep
One – Routine
Keep a regular sleep routine even at weekends and scrap weekend lie-ins. Reset your internal clock by letting light in as you wake up.
Two – Avoid
Afternoon naps can disrupt sleep, choose a walk when you feel tired.
Three – Warm the soul
A warm bath an hour before bed can help you to sleep better.
Four – Exercise
Exercise, at the right time, helps to relieve insomnia, anxiety and stress. You need a couple of hours to relax before bed, if you do a work out in the hour before there is a high chance you won’t be able to sleep.
Five – Eat right
Sleep deprivation increases cravings for sugary or fatty foods, thereby weight increases and sleep quality reduces. Choose slow energy release, fibre rich foods.
Six – Drink better
Moderate your coffee or alcohol intake. You may fall asleep quickly after drinking a bottle or two of wine as it works as a sedative slowing your brain. However, don’t be lulled into thinking this is a solution, as it will disrupt your quality and quantity of sleep you get and it can cause apnoea.
Seven – Don’t get social
Keep your bedroom for sleep. Catch up with your friends, social media and TV at a better time.
Eight – Relaxation techniques
Use relaxation, mindfulness, deep breathing exercises for sleep.
Nine – Create a sanctuary
Get rid of clutter and choose a calming colour scheme. Set your room temperature to about 18 degrees Celsius (65 degree F). Your body cools about 2 hours before going to sleep, this is when melatonin, the sleep hormone, releases. It reaches its lowest point in the early morning and then gradually warms up as we head towards the morning.
Ten – Get outside
Get as much fresh air as often as you can to improve your sleep. It will also reduce stress and improve wellbeing.