The Importance of Sleep
Hello everyone and we hope you’re having a lovely weekend, and I really hope you enjoyed my newsletter. The feedback has been amazing. Following on from the “The Jigsaw of Health”, let’s talk about sleep!
A key pillar of good health is undoubtedly sleep. All other areas of our personal health and well-being feed into our sleep. When you sleep well, you will have more energy to be physically active, you will crave less sugary foods, and you will be more inclined to eat foods that are healthy for the body. You are also likely to have improved concentration and lower stress levels. On the other hand, if you are not getting enough good quality sleep, the impact can be felt on your physical and emotional health.
How many hours of sleep do I really need?
The idea of hussle culture and busyness equating to personal worth has done us a real disservice. To say that you don’t need much sleep at night and can survive on a few hours of sleep as you are so busy building success was a type of boast. The idea that we don’t need sleep is a complete myth that
serves modern culture and capitalism. Even short-term sleep deprivation causes raised blood pressure, impairs our body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Cortisol kicks off our sympathetic nervous system, our fight or flight response making us jumpy and possibly stressed. Sleep also increases our levels of leptin, another important hormone. Leptin is what tells us that we are full after eating. When we don’t get enough sleep, our levels of ghrelin increase. This hormone stimulates hunger. So, if we are not getting enough sleep, we are likely
eating more and feeling less full!
Our levels of sleep will also impact how our immune system functions and the levels of inflammation in our body. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night is crucial for all our systems to function correctly.
So how does sleep work?
Unfortunately, sleep deprivation is not something that can be remedied by sleeping longer at the weekends or ‘catching up’ when we have a break in routine. The quality of our sleep is determined by our sleep cycle and the quality of sleep we get over time. Every night we should aim for an adequate amount of Deep sleep and REM sleep.
According to the Harvard Review, Different yet equally important restorative work happens during deep sleep (stage 3) and REM sleep (stage 4)
Deep sleep is vital for renewal, hormone regulation and growth, and without adequate deep sleep, we are more likely to get sick, be prone to depression and retain excess weight. During stage 4 sleep or REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement), our brains process memories and emotions. This is important for learning and higher-level thought. Therefore, insufficient REM sleep can cause slower cognitive and social processing, problems with memory, and difficulty
If you want to improve your REM sleep, you might try:
- Avoid screens like our smartphones, tablets and TVs for an hour before bed.
- Avoid alcoholic drinks at night. Though they may initially make you sleepy, they interfere with sleep, particularly REM sleep.
- Put together a relaxing sleep routine before bed. Warm baths with magnesium flakes, or take a magnesium supplement before bed. My personal favourite is the FabU R&R which contains magnesium and a blend of other ingredients that promote restful sleep.
- Relaxing music like classical music or quietly reading are all excellent activities that can also help.
- Get regular exercise. Even 20 mins a day will help but try and do this in the morning or afternoon rather than the evening.
How to improve our sleep quality
Fortunately, there are many small habits you can instil to improve overall sleep quality and make a massive difference to your overall well-being with quick wins.
Adopt a sleep schedule- try and go to bed and wake up at around the same time every day. Look at your sleep hygiene- ensure your room is cool and dark, and remove distractions from the room like TV or screens. Try eye masks – I love the Space Masks, which are self-heating and relax the muscles around the eyes, releasing tension. Use a Pillow spray that contains essential oils to help
you drift off to sleep and wear earplugs if needed.
Get some morning light- Spend 20mins outside in the morning; this will signal to our central body clock, which regulates our rhythms. Try to limit caffeine intake after noon- Caffeine blocks our adenosine receptors. Adenosine is a chemical that builds up the longer we are awake. The more adenosine we have, the sleepier we feel. Remove all screens from your bedroom- All our devices emit blue light. When it hits our retinas, this light signals to the pineal gland telling it not to make any of the sleep hormone melatonin.
Let’s change the narrative away from talking with bravado about how little sleep we need to celebrating how we prioritised our health and how we are focused on getting those 7-8 hours and celebrating this instead. Sleep quality not only benefits you, your health and wellness, but also your relationships with family, friends and colleagues. It’s one of the best gifts you can give to yourself and will support you in living longer.
I hope you enjoyed my blog post,
*images sourced from Pinterest