How Can a Good Night's Sleep Keep You Healthy
There is no doubt that the list of things we all should do to stay on top of our health is growing by the second. But sometimes the focus on super foods and the latest workout means we are distracted from some of the simpler things that can make the biggest difference and one of these things is sleep.
Sleep plays such an important role in our physical, mental and emotional health as well as impacting our performance - whether that be at work, at the gym etc. In children and teenagers, sleep is vital for supporting growth and development but just because we stop growing, it doesn't mean we should forget about a getting a good night's rest. Sleep deficiency has both short and long term effects, and can even contribute to our risk of chronic health problems.
Sleep helps your brain work effectively and during the night, our brains are working hard to prepare for challenges faced the next day such as remembering new information, developing skills and driving creativity. According to some studies, the activity in parts of our brains is impacted by sleep deficiency which can make solving problems and making decisions a whole lot harder.
Emotions run much higher when we are tired. It can make us more angry, irritable and less able to deal with stressful situations. I'm pretty sure that 99% of the times my mum suggested I was tired when I was in a bad mood growing up (which did absolutely nothing but wind me up more at the time), she was right. And the expression 'sleep on it' really is a valuable lesson to learn. Things really do get a lot easier to cope with after some sleep!
Sleep deficiency has been linked to obesity due to the hormonal imbalances it causes. When we don't get enough sleep, the level of ghrelin - the hormone that makes you feel hungry - goes up and the the level of leptin - the hormone that makes you feel full - goes down, causing an imbalance that makes us feel hungrier than we might had we had a good night's sleep. It also affects how the body reacts to insulin which can cause our blood sugar levels to rise and potentially cause an increase in the risk of diabetes.
We also need good sleep in order for our immune systems to work well. Fighting off something as normal as a cold can be much harder for our bodies if we are tired. So in order to support our bodies, it is vital that we take sleeping well seriously! There are a few things that I have learned that really help me to sleep well so I thought I would share them with you:
1) Switch off - if you have a habit of catching up on the latest episode of your favourite series in bed, bin it. Leave your laptop downstairs and stick to books at bed time. It will help your brain to switch off better. The same applies for phones too - we are all guilty of a late night flick through our instagram newsfeeds but trust me, you will sleep much better if you switch it all off.
2) Make your room a calm space - it doesn't matter if you have a beautiful light loft room or a Harry Potter style cupboard to sleep in. Get creative and make it your own. Lighting makes a real difference too - if you don't have one already, a bedside light is a great purchase as it provides an in-between to help your mind wind down while you get ready for bed. Smelly candles and aromatherapy oils are a great way to encourage a peaceful mindset when you step into your room too. Lavender pillow sprays are another alternative that I really love as well.
3) Eat well and in enough time to digest before bedtime. Going to bed feeling overfull can really impact your quality of sleep. Regular exercise is also so important. Most of us are stuck at computers for hours a day so getting up and moving our bodies to make sure we tire our bodies so we aren't still restless at bed time.
4) Use calming music or a sleep meditation app to help you relax before you sleep. On nights where I just can't wind down, this really helps me to switch off the endless todo lists going through my mind!
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