Wake up, get the kids ready for school, drop them off at school, go to work, pick the kids up, make them dinner, put them to bed, start making your dinner, clean up and go to bed by 2am. Sounding familiar? With so much to fit into a short 24 hour day, one of the easiest things to give up seems to be a few hours of shut eye. Who really needs 8 hours sleep anyway? Surly 4-6 hours a night will do?
Research suggests that restricting your nightly sleep to 7 hours or less can begin to have significant impacts on many areas of your health. A study published in 2007 found that people who had their sleep restricted showed a range of neurobehavioral deficits. Some of these deficits include a reduced attention span, slower memory and an increase in depressed mood states.
In addition to how we feel, not getting enough sleep can actually cause weight gain! There have been numerous studies linking poor sleep habits with weight gain and obesity. We know when we are tired and feel like a quick pick me up, we are more likely to go for that high energy less healthy option, than that veggie stick. This may occur because of a decrease in will power linked closely to poor decision making because of the lack of sleep. It may also be due to the knowledge that that high energy food will give you just that little bit more energy you need to finish that very important thing you’re doing. Additionally, we know that lack of sleep can affect your internal balances, this can lead to increased energy storage from any of that extra food you have been eating.
Ok you know now that a lack of sleep is bad for you…. But how can we improve it?
Firstly, your body has a natural body clock that works on a 24 hour cycle. Getting good sleep will mean that you need to use your natural body clock. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time daily. If you’re tired don’t ignore it. Get up and get sun light, your body has hormones that respond positively to the natural light.
Secondly, work on your sleep environment. Make sure you have a comfortable mattress and a nice cool room. Your body does not want to sleep when there is light, so try to make your room as dark as possible. Make your bedroom a place for sleeping, try not to watch TV or surf the net in bed. If you get used to going to sleep in bed, sleeping in bed will be easier.
Thirdly, avoid stimulants. This could include caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes. In addition, avoiding light especially the light produced from a screen can be helpful. If you have ever gone camping, you know as the sun goes down you begin to get tired and you go to sleep. The reason for this is that a chemical change occurs in your brain that helps you to get tiered as light is reduced. Try dimming lights around your house as the hour of your bed time approaches. The less light in general but especially from your mobile phone, iPad or TV near to bed time, the easier it will be for you to fall asleep.
Other general tips include exercise daily, use relaxation techniques, take a warm bath and avoid naps in the afternoon.
Sleep is an important part of your health and wellbeing. Without adequate sleep, you will struggle to achieve your other life or lifestyle aspirations.