Sleep as part of a well life
Keeping well takes different forms for each of us, but there are many things that play a part. Among them are good nutrition, movement and exercise, choosing personal care and cleaning products that put your health first, and making time to nurture yourself. In this blog we’ve chosen to zero in on sleep, because it’s such an important part of wellness.
It’s no secret that sleep is important, however, the benefits of a good night’s rest can be greater than many of us realise. Uninterrupted sleep can serve us with better moods, increased memory retention, a healthier immune system, and more.
You probably know first-hand that a good sleep leaves you feeling clear-headed, alert and energised, while a poor sleep can leave you feeling irritable.
Concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol usually decrease as we head towards sleep time, but as this Medscape Neurology article finds, partial sleep loss can result in levels of this hormone increasing at that time of day. And a study by the University of Pennsylvania found that subjects limited to 4.5 hours of sleep per night reported increased feelings of stress, sadness and mental exhaustion after a week.
According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, learning and memory are greatly impacted by the quality of our sleep. Upon waking feeling alert and refreshed, we have a much higher ability to concentrate and retain new information compared to when we are sleep deprived.
Add to that, research suggests the consolidation of memories may take place during sleep. Therefore, a sub-optimal slumber can make it difficult to recall information clearly and to solidify what has been experienced throughout the day into our short term memory.
Sleep allows the body an opportunity to repair itself on a cellular level, with the secretion of growth hormone playing a part in the repair of muscles and bones. And as the Mayo Clinic explains, our immune system releases proteins called cytokines during sleep. These are required for regulating our immunity. Studies have also shown that T-cells, a type of white blood cell which fights certain diseases and infection, decrease when our sleep is compromised. In this article documenting European research, the impact of sleep deprivation on the white cells of otherwise healthy adult males was revealed.
In today’s busy world our schedules can make it hard to switch off at bed time. That’s why we’ve put together some tips for soothing a busy mind and encouraging restful sleep.
1. Make exercise a part of your daily routine
Studies from the US Sleep Foundation have shown that regular physical activity can improve sleep quality, helping you to fall asleep faster and wake up less during the night. A post-work walk can also be great for clearing the mind. Experiment with timing to see what works for you.
2. Choose caffeine free drinks after lunch
Caffeine is a stimulant that can stay in your system for around eight hours. If you’re sipping a cappuccino too close to bedtime, you may find it difficult to fall asleep.
3. Eat light at night
Try to finish eating at least an hour before bed. Heavy evening meals can overload your digestive system, which can affect how well you sleep.
3. Create a relaxing evening ritual
Dedicate some time to an activity that calms your nervous system. Making this a nightly ritual lets your mind know it’s closing down for the day. Some ideas include a mindfulness practice such as meditation, reading a book, enjoying a warm herbal tea or a soothing bath with essential oils like lavender and camomile.
4. Switch off screens an hour before bed
According to Harvard Health, blue light emitted from televisions, computers, tablets and smartphones can decrease melatonin production, leading to sleep disruptions.
5. Set a sleep schedule
Go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Sticking to a consistent sleep/wake routine helps set your body’s internal clock, keeping you in sync.
6. Keep your room cool
Most people sleep best in a slightly cooler climate. Naturally, our core body temperature drops at night, signalling the brain to sleep. An overheated room can inhibit this process.