The benefits of a good night’s sleep – and how to get one!
13th March 2020
We all love a good night’s sleep and personally, we’re always craving an extra hour to two in bed. However, over half of UK adults admit to not even getting their much needed 8 hours each night. But what if we told you that your visit to the sandman wasn’t just an indulgence in relaxation, but a health necessity. To mark World Sleep Day, we’re taking a look at the various health benefits of a good night’s sleep, and giving you some tips on how to achieve one!
The benefits of a good night’s sleep
Sleep can make us smarter
We spend our whole day encountering new information and learning new skills and facts. However, it’s during sleep our brain really gets the chance to digest it all. Whilst we sleep, our brain is busy creating new connections – called synapses. These synapses form the basis of our thoughts, memories, problem-solving and decision-making. Essentially you could spend a whole day on a course, but if you had a bad night’s sleep you might not be able to recall that information the next day. It won’t become part of your personal knowledge – and therefore you won’t be as smart!
Sleep can keep our heart healthy
Broken sleep can have a pretty big impact on your heart health. A Swedish study even highlighted the correlation between heart attacks and the clocks going forward in the Spring! There are numerous ways that sleep keeps our heart ticking over as it should. One of the big ones is the impact sleep has on our blood pressure. Waking up too often puts your body in to fight or flight mode – and this triggers your cardiovascular system. Your blood pressure increases to ready you for waking, but if you’re being kept awake too often, your blood pressure doesn’t have the chance to get back down to a normal level. High blood pressure is a major factor of stroke and coronary heart disease – making sleep very important for reducing the risk of these potentially fatal conditions.
Sleep can reduce the risk of diabetes
Another serious medical condition that a lack of sleep can lead to is diabetes. Poor sleep has been linked to bad insulin regulation. This can lead to an impact on your body’s ability to regulate its blood sugar levels. An increase in your blood sugar levels can cause diabetes. This is usually brought on by a poor diet, but lack of sleep can definitely perpetuate the condition. Just like blood pressure, your blood sugar levels are an important factor in your cardiovascular health. This is also especially important for people with PCOS, as they are more at risk of developing diabetes.
Sleep can improve our emotional health
It seems pretty obvious that a lack of sleep can impact our mood – we’ve all been cranky after a late-night or early start! But there is actually a scientific reason why. When we don’t get enough sleep our body elevates the production of the stress hormone, cortisol. Not only can that make you feel anxious at the time (anyone else found themselves staring at the ceiling worrying about 20 different things at 2am?) but it can have long-lasting effects on your emotional health. Unfortunately, it is a bit of a vicious cycle. Once we are stressed, it can be harder to sleep, so it’s important to manage your emotional health both during the day and at night.
Sleep can help us maintain a healthy weight
It’s not only cortisol the body produces when we don’t get enough sleep. A lack of rest can cause other hormonal changes in our body. It can lead to an overproduction of gherkin (that increases appetite) and a decrease in leptin (which tells us when we’re full). These changes can cause us to overeat and also make unhealthy food choices. However, that isn’t to say that simply sleeping 8 hours a night will help you achieve a healthy BMI. If you are trying to lose some weight it’s important to follow all aspects of a healthy lifestyle. That includes everything from diet and exercises to resting when needed!
Sleep can help us get better
The body is constantly rejuvenating but most of this happens whilst we are sleeping. Sleep is the key time we can recover from injury. If we’re not getting enough hours of shut-eye, it might be the reason that sprained ankle is taking weeks – not days- to recover from. Sleep also helps us fight of infections. Whilst we’re dreaming, our body is busy producing proteins and cells that support our immune system. Our immune system is there to help us combat foreign invaders that could make us sick – which has never been more important than it is now, with the current coronavirus outbreak.
How to get a better night’s sleep
Now you know the benefits of a good night’s sleep, here are some tips to help you achieve better sleep hygiene!
Set yourself a bedtime
We appreciate you may not have had a set bedtime since you were 7 – but it’s actually just as important for adults, as well as children, to have a consistent bedtime. This will help regulate your body clock and you subconsciously start preparing for sleep at the same time each night, making it easier to nod off.
Don’t lie in
Just as you should try to go to bed at the same time each night, you should aim to get up at the same time each morning. We know it can be tempting to hit snooze once the weekend arrives, but this will mess with your body clock, just as much as staying up late will.
We should all try to digitally detox as much as possible, but it’s imperative you step away from tech ahead of bedtime. The blue light from your phone or laptop screen is one of the biggest enemies of a good night’s sleep, so give yourself a few hours before bed where you literally switch off.
Wind down routine
Ditching tech should form part of a wider wind-down routine. About an hour before you want to sleep, take a relaxing shower, listen to one of our guided meditations, do some light yoga and engage in a mindful skincare routine. Or build your own nighttime ritual that helps you relax!
Make your bedroom sleep-friendly
Your bedroom should be the most relaxing place in your house. Having a peaceful environment will help increase your chances of a good night’s sleep. Try to limit artificial light, external noise and keep your room tidy. Any distractions might cause your sleep to be disturbed, so try to consciously limit them to a minimum.
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