The Importance of Sleep

I don't know about you, but if I don't get my 8 hours I am unbearable, a bit like a bear with a sore head. I don't think many of us realise the benefits of a good night's sleep. Sleep deprivation puts us at risk of heart disease and depression, it can effect your weight (it has been proven that people who get less than 6 hours a night have a higher BMI) and it can also affect your relationships (the mental health foundation found 55% of those with insomnia report relationship problems).

So if you are having sleep problems here are a few tips that may help you get along to the land of nod:

  • Have a nighttime ritual. If you are having trouble getting off to sleep your body may be producing too much cortisol (stress hormone). So have a nighttime ritual – maybe a bath or listening to calming music and try to avoid caffeine based drinks and alcohol too close to bed time.

  • Turn off your television and computer. Many people use the television to fall asleep or relax at the end of the day, and this is a mistake. Television can actually stimulate the mind, rather than relaxing it. Try listening to music or audio books instead, or practicing relaxation exercises. If your favourite TV show is on late at night, record it for viewing earlier in the day.

  • When it’s time to sleep, make sure the room is dark. The darker it is, the better you’ll sleep. Use heavy curtains or blinds to block light from windows, or try a sleep mask to cover your eyes

  • Keep noise down. If you are kept awake by barking dogs, loud neighbours, traffic, or other people in your household, try masking it with recordings of soothing sounds or white noise. Earplugs may also help.

  • Keep your room cool. The temperature of your bedroom also affects sleep. Most people sleep best in a slightly cool room (around 65° F or 18° C) with adequate ventilation. A bedroom that is too hot or too cold can interfere with quality sleep.

  • Make sure your bed is comfortable. You should have enough room to stretch and turn comfortably. If you often wake up with a sore back or an aching neck, you may need to invest in a new mattress or a try a different pillow.

  • Stay away from big meals at night. Try to eat earlier in the evening, and avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of bed. Fatty foods take a lot of work for your stomach to digest and may keep you up. Also be careful when it comes to spicy or acidic foods in the evening, as they can cause stomach trouble and heartburn.

  • Quit smoking. Smoking causes sleep troubles in lots of ways. Nicotine is a stimulant, which can disrupt sleep, plus smokers experience nicotine withdrawal as the night progresses, making it hard to sleep.

  • Exercise regularly and you will sleep more deeply. You don’t have train like an athlete to reap the benefits—as little as 20 to 30 minutes of daily activity helps and you don’t need to do all 30 minutes in one session. You can break it up into five minutes here, 10 minutes there, and still get the benefits. Exercising too late in the day can stimulate the body making sleep difficult. Don’t stay glued to the couch try some relaxing exercises such as gentle stretching which can help promote sleep.

So make bedtime your time, relax, think nice thoughts with relaxing music playing in the back ground, switch off all electronic equipment and your mind and body will thank you.

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