Hints and tips for achieving a better night’s sleep. For a happier, healthier you.
Sleep is a hugely popular topic of conversation. And with over 60% of us unhappy with the amount of shuteye we get* it’s not surprising that it’s often the first thing we discuss with our partners in the morning – especially when young children are involved! Read on to find out why sleep is so important, how our bodies can be affected when we don’t get enough and some top tips for getting a blissful night’s rest.
*Dreams UK Sleep Survey 2016
Why is a good night’s sleep so important?
Sleep plays a significant role in brain development and is essential to maintaining cognitive skills such as speech, memory and innovative and flexible thinking. It’s also vital in protecting our physical health.
And whilst most of us know that a lack of sleep often leaves us feeling grumpy and sluggish, how many of us realise the huge impact it can have on other areas of our lives, including our physical and emotional health?
Tell-tale physical signs
The physical impact of not achieving the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night can bring a range of issues:
- Sallow skin;
- Dark circles under the eyes;
- A lowered immune system;
- Increased chances of developing chronic illness such as diabetes and heart disease;
- Imbalance in the hormones that tell us whether we are hungry or full, which could result in weight gain;
- Reduced energy levels;
- Higher insulin levels which could increase the risk of type 2 diabetes;
- Decreased ability to heal, build muscle mass or repair cells and tissues;
- Back and neck issues from poor sleep positioning;
But the impact of poor sleep isn’t limited to physical issues, it can also have a significant emotional effect:
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Irritation, anger or hostility
- More easily annoyed
- Fuzzy thinking and difficulty in making decisions
- A lack of positivity
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased anxiety
Stress and sleep
Like sleep, or the lack of it, stress is another factor that affects many of us and I’ll be looking at this in more detail in my next newsletter. But increased stress levels can have a significant effect on the quality and quantity of sleep so it’s well worth considering whether you feel anxious and if you can pinpoint stress factors in your life that could be addressed.
What can I do?
So, what can you do to combat the signs of sleep deprivation and reduce the impact it has on your life? Here are some tips for getting that all important 8 hours:
- Don’t go to bed on a full stomach – avoid heavy or large meals within a few hours of bedtime. They could lead to discomfort and keep you awake;
- Avoid alcohol before bed – initially it may make you sleepy but can cause wakefulness after a couple of hours and make it difficult to get back off again;
- Stop the stimulants – caffeine and nicotine are best avoided in the run up to bed time. The effects of caffeine can last for up to 8 hours, so that late afternoon coffee could be causing a problem;
- Create a calm environment – cool, dark and quiet are the ideal elements to promote a good night’s sleep;
- Develop a wind down routine – calming activities such as taking a bath, reading a book or performing relaxation techniques could all aid sleep;
- Timing is key – try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day to re-inforce your body’s sleep/wake cycle;
- Power down – switch off computers and phones at least an hour before bed;
- Pillow perfection – make sure your pillow is the correct size and firmness for you. It should fit snuggly into your neck and shoulders so that it fully supports your head;
- Check that mattress – the recommended lifespan of a mattress is eight years so it might be time for a trip to the shops;
- It’s all about the base – Your mattress should suit your physical needs, which isn’t necessarily always a hard mattress, as is often the case. In addition, your mattress of choice also needs support. Placing a mattress on slats will not benefit the longevity of it. Consider investing in a divan which is itself sprung and onto which your mattress rests. This combination will be much more beneficial.
But if you are still feeling the effects of lack of sleep and need something extra to help you combat the impact this is having on your life, then why not come and see me?
As an Osteopath and Naturopath (with clinics in North London and Soho, Central London) registered with both The General Osteopathic Council and The British Naturopathic Association, I am committed to helping my patients achieve physical and emotional wellbeing.
I will work with you to address your presenting symptoms and to understand the cause of them. I will also support you to improve your overall health. Plus, there is some encouraging evidence which suggests that acupuncture has a role to play in helping people to deal with longstanding sleep problems and that might be something we could explore.
So why not get in touch today to find out how you can start the journey to a better night’s sleep?