We all do it, but do we know just how important it is?
Using the words of a sleep expert, Dr Michael Twery, “Sleep affects almost every tissue in our bodies, our growth and stress hormones, our immune system and appetite”.
There are a myriad of health benefits when your body receives enough sleep. Many resources explain that melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, is a key component of a good night’s sleep. It increases its production with evening darkness, helping orient the body’s circadian rhythm. Various resources show adults between 26 and 64 should sleep 7-9 hours a night.
Lack of sleep can negatively impact your health. It doesn’t just make you feel a bit grumpy, but as research has shown, sleep deprivation affects:
- The immune system: A person can be more prone to infections, which may take longer to resolve, and respiratory diseases.
- The cardiovascular system: Sleep helps the heart vessels heal and rebuild and affects processes that maintain blood pressure, sugar levels, and inflammation control. Too little sleep may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Hormone levels: Insufficient sleep can affect hormone production, including growth hormones and testosterone production. It also causes the body to release additional stress hormones, such as norepinephrine and cortisol.
- The brain: Sleep deprivation affects the prefrontal cortex, which handles reasoning, and the amygdala, which deals with emotion. A lack of sleep may also make it harder for a person to form new memories, affecting learning.
- Fertility: Poor sleep may affect the production of hormones that boost fertility.
As well as affecting your physical health, a lack of sleep also impacts your mental health. A good night’s sleep can relax the systems in your body that are responsible for stress.
But what can you do to help improve your sleep? Before we start, here is a simple method for you to remember:
The 10-3-2-1 method is as follows:
- Ten hours before bed: No more caffeine.
- Three hours before bed: No more food or alcohol.
- Two hours before bed: No more work.
- One hour before bed: No more screen time (shut off all phones, TVs and computers).
Here are some WorkSpa tips
Is it set up to give you a good night’s sleep? Is the bed comfortable? Is it too hot or cold? Keeping an eye on your heating and having easily removed layers on the bed can help you find the right temperature. The ideal temperature for your thermostat is between 65 and 72 degrees. Women going through menopause and experiencing hot flashes should keep the room as cool as possible and wear cotton or breathable fabrics to bed.
Create a consistent routine: Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends. Being consistent reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
Get bright light first thing. This resets your circadian rhythm. Aim for 10 minutes or 15 to 20 minutes if it’s overcast or you’re getting light through a window. Once you’ve shifted your schedule, be consistent with when you get this early light.
Create some creature comforts: Warm milk has long been believed to be associated with chemicals that simulate the effects of tryptophan on the brain. This is a chemical building block for the substance serotonin, which is involved in the sleep-wake transition; if your vegan worm up, some oat milk or Chamomile tea can also be helpful. “It’s believed to have flavonoids that may interact with benzodiazepine receptors in the brain that are also involved with the sleep-wake transition.
If your mind is wandering in circles, or you wake up at night with things on your mind, try keeping a notebook by your bed and writing down what’s bothering you. This can help you sort your thoughts out rather than going over them.
Overall, the importance of sleep for our physical and mental health is crucial, and we must take care of ourselves by ensuring we have enough sleep each night.