Updated: May 19, 2019
Sleep, glorious sleep! When sleep time comes easy it can feel utterly blissful. Especially on these dark, cold wintery mornings when you just cannot prize yourself from that warm, toasty bed. But what are the benefits of dreamtime and how can not having enough sleep affect us? January 3rd is the #FestivalofSleepDay so what perfect time to remind ourselves why #sleep is so important and how can we make it better?
Why is sleep so important?
Experts say that between 6-8 hours of sleep a night is what we should aim for. That makes up at least a third of our day. So why do some of us not give it as much thought as we should?
The cells in our body have time to replenish while we are under the influence of REM sleep. Sleep also increases our physical #energy levels. Not only does our body get rejuvenated, but our minds do too which is vital for good mental health. Our brains use sleep as an important tool to consolidate memory files. This helps us to absorb new information easier and to assist with better memory recall. We've all heard the phrase "sleep on it" or "see how you feel after a good night’s sleep, right? Our mind works so much better after its been able to rest, recover and 'defrag" itself like a computer. Our brain files and throws away any dud information that we excessively hold due our daily mental processes that we no longer need in order to shift and create space that ultimately helps the brain function more smoothly. Emptying the trash on your computer? Sleep is pretty much the same. It helps you think clearer and assists you with better recall of short and long term memory. A good night's sleep helps you function more productively the following day because your mind has had a good tidy up. You will find it useful to get a full night’s sleep, especially if you're starting a new hobby or are attempting to break a habit in your new year’s resolutions as new neural pathways are being created and laid down in the brain. Sleeping will only help you along by strengthening these new habits! (Good luck if you have made any #newyearsresolutions by the way - you got this!)
Don't worry, I'm just sleep-eating again!
Did you know that getting enough sleep can help you maintain a healthy weight? How many times have you not had enough sleep for one reason or another, wake up late only to find yourself grabbing the easiest thing to eat for breakfast as you run out the door? Or even worse, grab a fast-food quick-fix just so you have some 'energy' inside the body to be able take on the day? Yep. Guilty! We've all been there. I for one can raise my hand and say I've done it many times. Not only that, but throughout the day, it has been proved that poor sleep can make us feel hungrier due to the hormone Leptin which is released from the brain that controls appetite. Often we find ourselves grazing all day on unhealthy foods just to get by due to lack of energy and motivation to eat better.
So what can we do to make sleepy-time better?
Think ahead. Prepare. I know it sounds dull, but you will thank yourself for it in the long run! The #mentalhealth organisation Mind has written a fabulous guide to help you create a healthier sleeping pattern which you can find in more detail here. I shall summarise their main points for you:
Establish a "going to bed routine"
Relax before you go to bed
Make sure your bed is comfortable
Keep a sleep journal- this may highlight things which cause you poor sleep
Try to resolve any stress or worries- contact a local counsellor to help talk through whats on your mind
Be mindful of technology use immediately before bed
Check for a physical cause with your GP if you are consistently not sleeping well
Consider food, drink and exercises changes
Consider your medication
Maybe adding an overhaul of your sleeping regime can be your new years resolution? It can only help you feel better, so whats not to like about that?!
If you or anyone you know is suffering from stress, anxiety or depression that may be causing sleep issues, please feel free to get in touch. Tackling these problems can benefit both physical and mental health and there is no better time to start than now.