It's recommended we sleep for an average of 8 hours a night (between 7 and 9). If we do that, we spend a third of our lives asleep. This may sound like quite a lot but when we consider the amount of work the body does while we're asleep it becomes clear why it’s so important.
Restoring neuron connections in our brains
Storing memories, building new pathways
Repairing cells and muscles
Supporting our immune response to kill disease (hence we want to sleep when we’re unwell)
Resting our digestive system
Detoxifying - our liver and lymphatic system is most active at night
Clearing out old cells - which is fundamental to good health and healthy ageing
Preparing for the next days’ “fight or flight” response (aka stressors)
The less we sleep, the less these tasks are completed and the more we feel the effects.
As two-thirds of UK adults are reported to suffer from disrupted sleep and a quarter gets no more than 5 hours of sleep a night it’s unsurprising we’re a nation of declining health.
Lack of sleep is associated with an increased risk of many different diseases including cardiovascular disease, obesity, hormone imbalances, depression, diabetes type 2 and dementia.
If you’re struggling to sleep or wake and still feel exhausted, here’s some tips to help improve your sleep quality:
1. Increase your exposure to natural day light
It might not always be sunny, but natural light in the morning helps our internal body clock to regulate - improving energy during the day and supporting sleep at night.
2. Exercise but not too close to bedtime
Exercise can reduce the time it takes to drift off as well as the amount of hours we sleep. However, exercise can stimulate alertness and energy so keep it to the morning or early afternoon where possible.
3. Reduce caffeine intake
Black tea, green tea or coffee – it all increases alertness. Aim to keep to 1-2 cups a day and switch to herbal teas and water after lunchtime.
4. Avoid artificial and blue light
Not only has the intervention of artificial light begun to disrupt our natural circadian rhythm but blue light can reduce the production of this melatonin – our sleep promoting hormone. Switch mobiles, TVs, laptops and tablets off at least 1 hour before bed to help you wind down and produce melatonin.
Keep technology out of the bedroom too!
5. Clear your mind and note down your thoughts
Chattering thoughts can often be the reason we can’t fall asleep or wake in the middle of the night. Use journaling as a way to write down what’s on your mind before you go to sleep.
6. Prioritise sleep and be consistent
Our natural circadian rhythm is all about routine. Waking up and going to sleep at the same time will help reinforce that rhythm. Now you know how important sleep is, make it a priority so you can live each day to the fullest.
If you want more guidance on how to improve your sleep, or any other health concerns, speak to me today with a free introductory consultation.
Natalie Louise Burrows
Registered Nutritional Therapist