‘’Our sleep quality is more important than our diet and exercise, combined with what it does for our health and also literally for our physical appearance’’ Shawn Stevenson
What is good quality sleep?
Good quality sleep is a combination of
- how many hours you get in a night
- the depth of sleep, in terms of how much your sleep is broken throughout the night
- how much time you spend in the different types of sleep e.g. REM, Deep, Light, as well as Awake Time
Time spent in each of these areas all impact on a good quality and restorative sleep.
Effects of poor sleep
I’m here to help you! Believe me, I was where you are now!
Sleep deprivation affects everyone in many ways. Although the brain accounts for only 2% of body mass, it uses a 25% of the body’s entire energy resource. Poor quality sleep and sleep deprivation have a negative impact on our attention span, memory recall and learning.
The body heals during sleep. With good quality restorative sleep, we have a better response to stress, increased productivity in all aspects of life (both work and personal), our mood is improved, we feel happier. Along with nutrition and movement, sleep plays an important role in regulating your metabolism. Studies indicate a link between lack of sleep and obesity.
Symptoms of poor sleep include
- increased nervousness
- feeling anxious
- increased impatience
- low energy
- reduced ability to focus and make good decisions,
- reduced immune system responses
- increased inflammation throughout the body (systemic inflammation)
- headaches and migraines
- appetite disruption, meaning either increased or decreased desire to eat
- reduced metabolic rate, meaning less burning of energy so increasing fat in the body, affecting weight
- hormone disruption
- blood sugar imbalance, which has an impact on sugar highs and lows, along with increased systemic inflammation, potentially leading to weight gain and pre-diabetes
So, make time now to look after your present and future health by working on improving your sleep quality.
What you can do to improve your sleep quality?
Before bedtime, it is important to implement a routine to prevent and ease restless sleep. Did you know that often, people can’t sleep because they are too tired or they are going to bed too late?
Learn to listen to your body. It sends signals alerting you to your status of wakefulness/ sleepiness, but often, we ignore these and keep pushing ourselves to the edge.
9 simple tips
Where to start? Here are 9 simple tips you can integrate into your life:
- Pay attention to what you eat and drink – do not go to bed too full or hungry. Too full means your digestive system is active during the night when it should be resting and repairing. Too hungry means your blood sugar drops and impacts your sleep depth.
- Keep caffeine and energising drink intake to morning – Caffeine can remain in your system well into the early night time (bedtime) and with its stimulating effects, sleep is difficult to achieve.
- Stick to a routine – try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day including weekends. Your body operates very much on routine, so it will thank you and reward you for routine. Create a night time ritual – meditate; read a book; stay away from electronic devices (and keep them out of the bedroom) at least 30 minutes (but ideally 2-3 hours) before bedtime; indulge in a nice bath using some essential oils (lavender, chamomile) that are calming, helping to lower your cortisol (stress hormone) level to help you sleep.
- Manage stress – give yourself permission to have a break when you need it; declutter your bedroom; organise yourself by prioritise and learn to delegate organise your day ahead by prioritising tasks and delegating where appropriate (in both work and personal life).
- Not sure about napping during the day? Keeping your nap to a maximum of 30 minutes a day and not too close to bedtime to optimise the benefits
- Meditation, yoga, praying may help you release your tension and become calmer – Try 5-10 minutes of meditation during the day and get to bed earlier in the evening. There are lots of apps to choose from. To facilitate keeping electronic devices out of the bedroom, complete meditation from an app in a different room, but it can be done directly before bed, as you will not be using a screen!
- Practice Gratitude! Studies show that practicing gratitude alters the human heart and molecular structure of the brain with long lasting positive effects on the brain. It calms you and helps you let go of any toxic emotions. And, it’s free!
- Do you have cold feet and find it hard to fall a sleep? It can help to put on a pair of soft clean socks before jumping into bed. Use a hot water bottle. While a cooler environment is ideal for good quality sleep, we need to feel warm in bed to fall asleep more easily.
- Expose yourself to natural light in the morning – Morning sunlight can help normalize your circadian cycle and help you get a good amount of deep sleep. This also helps you if you suffer from difficulty sleeping. Research indicates that 5-10 minutes spent in morning light (regardless of sunny or cloudy!) helps to set the body’s Circadian rhythm correctly for the day, by stimulating the light sensor signalling in the brain. So when you can, stand outside and breathe first thing in the morning; go for a walk around the block (getting movement in as well!), sit outside to eat your breakfast, park/get off the bus further from your office and walk that extra 5-10 minutes (getting movement in too!). You will feel better throughout the day, plus you are setting the rhythm pattern for good quality sleep.
“I can’t emphasize enough the importance of your sleep. Never underestimate the power of a good sleep” – This blog was brought to you by Nutritional Therapist and Wellness Consultant Antonela Maria Butuc MSc. Find out more at www.wellnessacademy.ie