In aid of National Sleep Awareness Week [11th-17th March), I’d like to talk about why a good sleep is so important and how to increase deep sleep.

So many people struggle with the effects of poor sleep.

Are you one of them?

A good night’s sleep is as important to health as exercise and eating right.

Your physical and emotional well-being depends on getting enough sleep.  Yet we’re living in sleep-deprived times.

Some people are even competitive about how little sleep they’re getting!  Like being able to drag yourself through the day on four hours’ sleep warrants a badge of honour.

I used to be THAT person in my teens and throughout my early 20s.

Scientists even say that we’re now getting up to two hours less sleep each night than we did 60 years ago.  And that it has a negative effect on our bodies because the purpose of sleep is to rest and recover – basically to allow the body to repair itself.

SO WHAT IS SLEEP AND WHY IT IS SO IMPORTANT?

As mentioned in Shawn Stevenson’s book Sleep Smarter, sleep can be described in the following way.

“A natural state of rest for the mind and body, in which the eyes usually close and consciousness is completely or partially lost so that there is a decrease in bodily movement and responsiveness to external stimuli.” 

High quality sleep fortifies your immune system, balances your hormones, boost your metabolism, increases physical energy, and improves the function of your brain.

If you don’t get enough sleep, you may not be able to concentrate properly and can easily become irritable and agitated.

You may also experience blurred vision, clumsiness (that’s totally me!), a sense of disorientation, slower responsiveness and a decreased motivation.  And, on top of that, if you feel tired and cranky, you are significantly less likely to make great food choices.

Research has shown that after 24 hours of sleep deprivation, there is a 6% overall reduction in glucose reaching the brain.  This is why you will crave sweets, chips, donuts, and other starchy sugary foods when you’re lacking sleep.  As your body is desperately trying to restore the missing glucose.

I used to be one of those people saying, “I’m a night owl“, priding myself on being more creative and productive during the night. 

But then on most following days, I used to be moody, irritable and sluggish. 

I simply could not see the link between going to sleep between 1-3 am and the impact it had on my mood.  

I can’t tell you how many battles I had with my mum about it in my teens.  She was right though, I should have listened to her and gone to bed earlier each night.

BUT HOW DO YOU GET A GOOD NIGHT’s SLEEP?

The most common cause of insomnia is changes in your daily routine. 

Things like travelling, switching work hours, disruption of other behaviours (eating, exercise, leisure, etc.), and relationship conflicts can all cause sleep problems.

Establishing good sleep hygiene is the most important thing you can do to maintain good sleep.  It may also be helpful to keep a sleep diary to help pinpoint any particular problems

Here are a few tips on what you could do.

  • Try to go to bed at the same time every night.  Your body thrives on routine.
  • Keep the temperature in your bedroom comfortable; not too hot, nor too cold.
  • Use your bed only for sleep and sex.  This may help you completely switch off.
  • Keep the bedroom completely dark, so you’re not disturbed by light, which your brain detects even when your eyes are closed.  Eye masks can be useful here.
  • Spend time outdoors to soak up the sun
  • Try gentle exercise every day.  There is evidence that suggests that regular exercise improves restful sleep. This includes stretching and aerobic exercise – a brisk walk ticks both boxes.
  • Make an effort to relax for at least 5 minutes before going to bed – a warm bath, massage or meditation are all highly recommended here.
  • Consider getting a traditional alarm clock so your smartphone can stay out of the bedroom.  Better yet, keep going to sleep 15 minutes earlier each night, until you start waking up naturally before your alarm.  This will give you an understanding of your required sleep duration.

And here are a few tips on what you should avoid before going to sleep

  • Don’t engage in stimulating activities – like playing a competitive video/board game, watching an edge-of-the-seat film, or having a deep emotional conversation with a loved one.  Even using smartphones and tablets can interfere with sleep, because they emit the same kind of light as the morning sun.
  • Invest in blue light-limiting shades.
  • Try to avoid eating a heavy meal within four hours of going to bed.
  • Don’t drink caffeine after lunch – like coffee, black tea, green tea and pop/soda.  
  • Don’t use alcohol to help you sleep – alcohol can actually disturb your sleep.
  • Try to avoid having naps during the day.
  • Try not to get frustrated if you can’t sleep.  Go to bed with a positive attitude – “I will sleep well tonight”

This concludes my list, for now.  I hope you have found this post interesting and that it has given you a deeper understanding of why we need a good night’s rest and how to increase deep sleep.

Here’s my invitation for you to my closed Facebook Group where we can meet up and talk more about sleep, health and how to get fabulous in a natural way.

What are your favourite ways to increase deep sleep?  Please leave a comment if you would like to share a few tips, or if you have any questions.

With love,

Anna x

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