We never get enough am I right? Why is sleep so important and why do all health-related people go on and on about it being so important, and everyone talks about how little sleep they got or how much they need?
Sleep is important. That’s why everyone talks about it. Sleep is part of self-care for ourselves.
The basics are:
– It is a time for the body and mind to rest and regenerate.
– We need it for optimal health – We need good quality sleep.
– Lack of sleep does lead to health-related problems and can contribute to chronic health conditions.
– It is part of life, so accept that we need it and aim to do it well.
Let’s have a closer look at what happens when we sleep. In an ideal world, our bodies naturally tell us when we need to sleep based on an intricate relationship between our bodies circadian rhythms and the environment such as length of days and nights and temperatures. How long we sleep is dependant on the individuals’ needs. When we sleep the body has a chance to carry out all of the resting, rejuvenating, rebuilding and detoxifying roles it is required to do.
There are things that can have an effect on our sleep, think; stimulants, depressants, chemicals, toxins, thoughts and emotions and the environment constantly bombard our bodies, and these can alter our body’s ability to signal sleep and maintain good quality sleep. In the evening when your body is weary you should listen, get the things done that you need to and start to get ready for bed. The body is sending messages to the brain to say that it is time to rest and repair, these messengers are hormones and the brain starts to make you feel sleepy, sometimes your body will also feel weary particularly if you have been physically active most of the day or done a hard work out. Your body will also send messages to the brain to say it needs rest. If you attempt to go to bed when your body indicates that you are tired it is during this time that you will find it easier to fall to sleep. Once asleep there are many functions going on within the brain and the body and these can be based on many different things. We cycle in and out of deep and light sleep and at different times different body systems will be doing their job ready for the next day. The brain will still be ticking over through different ‘brain waves’ when sleeping and also doing its own resting and be repairing and cleansing too.
So why can’t I sleep?
It can be a process of trial and error to work out what is working and what is not and sometimes this changes as well.
So aiming to have good sleep health habits is a priority to getting good sleep and therefore improving health and being able to fire on all cylinders.
Some of the things that may contribute to difficulties sleeping and why:
– Alcohol – it is actually a depressant and a stimulant and also not nourishing to the body. So drinking before bed or having a bender, your body has to work to remove it from your body during the night, which will impact the quality of sleep.
– Too much coffee during the day or immediately before bed. Coffee again is a stimulant and therefore makes it hard for the body/nervous system to wind down when it is time to sleep. Also, the detox systems of the body need to work during the night to remove caffeine from the body before it can work on its repairing role. Some people have not problems with metabolising caffeine while others will be a lot slower and find it does affect sleep.
– Exercise – Many people exercise after work which is fine but closer to bedtime can be difficult for some particularly if it is quite strenuous as this stimulates the nervous system and can take a while to calm down too close to bedtime.
– Work – if your work is stressful or there is stress related to work that you are doing before bed then it can be too overstimulating to be doing prior to sleep. If it is just doing bits and pieces before bed from time to time then make sure it is not stressful in nature.
– Electronic Devices – what is it with electronic devices? we can live with them and we can not live without them. The fact is that they are here to stay so moderating the amount we use them at particular times is important particularly if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. The lighting from the screen is blue waves which signal the brain to be awake. If you are able, change the screen colour to red if you are using devices before bed to signal the brain that it is, in fact, getting ready to slow down and sleep.
– The environment – where you sleep is important, try not to make it an overstimulating environment with lots of bright colours and lots of bits and pieces that will catch your attention. A calming environment is best if you have trouble falling asleep.
– Pillows and Mattresses – your pillow and your mattress are important! If you don’t have a supportive and comfortable pillow and mattress then this will affect your sleep.
– Gender – Women are more likely to suffer from sleep problems, this may be due to the varying demanding roles that are required of them and because of hormonal changes both during their cycle and when going through menopause.
– Age – As we age we find it harder and harder to sleep and this can be for a multitude of issues such as;
– Stresses of day to day life – as for work if there are events in life that stressful these may be affecting your sleep and how you deal with these events are important. If they are long-term events you may need to engage some support to deal with it. If it is short-term, it may be easier to cope using healthy coping strategies such as using sleep routines, meditation, calming exercises, change in diet, until things settle down.
If you have long-term sleep problems get them checked by a health professional, if there are areas of life that you can change that will improve your sleep then try changing them. Don’t be hard on yourself if you are not sleeping and it is a short-term issue know that you will be able to sleep again with some changes and appropriate advice.
Enjoy your sleep.
When you wake up you might like to read this article..