Failing to get your 40 winks can be detrimental to your health. We investigate the vast benefits of sleep and how our sleeping habits can be improved.
Sleep is immeasurably beneficial to our health. Besides its recuperative abilities, it can improve our sense of wellbeing and advance concentration. Sleep also has a number of biological effects on the body that help it to function properly. During our sleeping hours, our body aids the processing of glucose. This, in turn, can prevent the development of diabetes. Our slumber also facilitates the release of certain reproductive hormones that improve fertility. Additionally, sleep can ward off heart disease, boost the body’s immune system and increase sex drive. Needless to say that without the necessary amount of sleep, our health can suffer greatly.
Members of the medical community generally agree that eight hours sleep is optimal for adults to feel rested the next morning. However, the NHS also states that ‘some need more [than eight hours] and some less. What matters is that you find out how much sleep you need and then try to achieve it’. As a rule, if you wake up with a sluggish feeling that lingers throughout the day, you are likely not getting enough sleep.
Matthew Walker, director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley in the United States believes that ‘no aspect of our biology is left unscathed by sleep deprivation’. He adds that: ‘Sleep loss costs the UK economy over £30 billion a year in lost revenue or two percent of GDP.’
Sleep is essential for a healthy body and mind. When you get a great night’s sleep, you feel like you can achieve extraordinary things. Our modern lives create all sorts of barriers to getting a great night’s sleep: stress at work, our ‘always on’ mobile devices, poor exercise and diet all have an impact. The average Briton is under-sleeping by at least one hour a night and it’s having a massive impact on our health and wellbeing. But it is possible to regularly enjoy a great night’s sleep. Three things directly impact how we sleep: a quiet mind, a relaxed body and a bedroom dedicated to sleeping. A bedtime routine that prepares your mind and body for sleep half an hour before you head to bed is also key to increasing your chance of getting eight hours a night
Trouble nodding off?
There are a number of lifestyle changes that can be made to help you drift off to sleep more easily, these include:
- Avoiding caffeine
- Cutting down on alcohol
- Quitting smoking
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding late night meals
- Winding down with yoga, soothing music or a bath
- Ensuring your room is dark and tidy
- Optimising your bed for comfort
- Banishing interior/exterior noises
- Keeping your bedroom between 18C and 24C
Lack of sleep
There are a number of factors that cause people to miss out on sleep. It could be a specific health condition such as sleep apnoea—a relatively common problem that causes the throat to narrow whilst sleeping. Poor sleep can also be triggered by stress or anxiety but it most commonly comes as a result of bad sleeping habits.
After several sleepless nights our brains begin to fog, causing decision-making to become more difficult. This may make us feel drowsy during the day, which can result in serious accidents or mishaps. According to think.gov.uk, almost 20 percent of accidents on major roads are sleep-related.