Sleep; the time between night and day or the period after which we open our eyes and it’s a brand new day. Some people cannot get enough of it while others struggle to get a good night’s sleep. Some people are very good sleepers and others could hear a pin drop. Sleep is considered to be almost as important to health as exercising and eating but why so and what are the benefits of sleep?
Sleep is a major part of our lives and comes to us quite naturally towards the end of the day. This is due to our internal body clock, otherwise known as the circadian rhythm which is based on a 24 hour cycle.
The 2 main factors that affect our body clock are the external environment such as lightness and darkness and 2 hormones called adenosine and melatonin which build up every hour we are awake and peak at night time hence, increasing the need for sleep.
Getting enough sleep during the night is important for a number of reasons, mainly your mental health, your physical health, your quality of life as well as safety. Sleep is known to improve your memory, learning, attention, alertness and makes us generally nicer and happier people when interacting with those around us.
Apart from that sleep also lessens the chance of mental health related illnesses such as depression. When it comes to physical health, sleep enables the body to keep the hormones (which control the main functions in our body) in balance, supports growth and development which is crucial if you’re training hard as it leads to increased performance. It also keeps our immune system strong, helps us make better food choices and decreases the chances of heart disease, obesity and high blood pressure.
So how can we improve our sleeping patterns and the quality of our sleep? Firstly, try and stick to a similar sleep routine every day of the week including weekends. If you want to sleep in try not to extend your usual pattern by more than an hour as this will make it more difficult for you to sleep the following night.
Try having a warm shower before going to bed; this decreases the time it takes to fall asleep and increases the efficiency of sleep. Moreover, decrease the amount of blue light coming from phones, tablets, TVs etc 1-2hrs before going to bed as this reduces how awake you are.
Avoid heavy meals and alcohol consumption before bed and try and improve your sleep hygiene. This is done by making your bedroom a comfortable environment such that there’s enough darkness, it’s at a comfortable temperature and it’s a quiet space and do not partake into mentally or physically demanding activities close to bed time.
Give the above strategies a go and see how much it can help you with your sleep. Keep in mind that sleep effects many aspects of our day to day lives so it is worth investing in a good night’s sleep.