The REAL Importance Of A Good Night's Sleep

WHY YOU NEED TO GET MORE SLEEP AND WAYS TO TRY AND DO SO!

Poor sleep is something that comes to us all from time to time. Usually of course during periods of high stress whether that be something that's going on in the workplace, anxiety or concerns in our personal lives or a tricky combination of both. Today I wanted to share with you some details about sleep that I've picked up recently! Plus why it's so vitally important for our wellbeing in life and our performance at work. I'm also sharing ideas for achieving a better nights snooze as well as opening up the discussion to you the reader for any proven tricks that you might have. So let's start with a look at why sleep really is something that we all need in order to stay on track, before looking at how we can aim for a better nights rest.

Image Source: Pexels

Image Source: Pexels

I'll begin by saying that I'm sharing this information from the brilliant behavioural science webinar by Sarah O'Farrell at Bupa that I discussed in my post last week about checking in with your new years resolutions. Knowing how sleep has affected me and other people in my life over the years I feel this is a really important topic. So I've pulled out some specific details to share them here with you. For greater depth of information I honestly recommend watching the video - the sleep section begins at minute 32 if you wish to focus on this subject alone!

THE TRUTH ABOUT SLEEP

So why is sleep so vital?

Dispelling The Myth: We've all heard and probably used the phrase 'I'll sleep when I'm dead!' Something that seems to have weaved its way into our modern consciousness as if it's a good thing to thrive on little sleep. A myth that makes us believe, by keeping going and pushing ourselves to the limit, we're somehow achieving more and going to progress quicker and faster than those around us.

The truth is that only around 3% of the entire population can actually survive and perform well on very little sleep. The majority of peak performers and high achievers (CEO's, sportspeople for example) often have far more sleep than other people in order to help them continue to thrive. Apparently even as much as 9 to 10 hours a night.

If you think about it, throughout evolution every species that's ever been studied has undertaken the ritual of sleep. Yet it seems like a very counter-intuitive thing to do when you think about survival and how being asleep puts us at risk from predators - well if you're out in the wild at least! Yet sleep has remained a vital part of our wellbeing and there are many very good reasons why.

SO WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

Processing Stress: When we sleep we are able to process stress without releasing any further stress hormones into our system. Hormones like cortisol play an important role in helping us to cope with stress and when we're awake we release a lot of these chemicals into the body if dealing with certain issues. Too much can have damaging effects. Sleeping enables us to work through stress in a healthier, far less toxic way.

Improved Social Interaction: Better sleep improves our relationships with those around us. When we're tired we are less able to regulate our emotions - that's why we snap far quicker and our interaction with friends, family and colleagues becomes very tense. Of course if we're well rested we interact far better with other people and thus establish stronger relationships.

Increased Memory And Better Performance: Performance is improved greatly with a good nights sleep and not just for the reasons above. When we sleep we are better able to consolidate any information that we have learnt during the day. New information moves from our short-term memory into our long-term memory, keeping it in our long-term thinking and thus improving our learning experience and overall future performance. We are also better able to link up different pieces of information as we sleep and this is incredibly beneficial for our creativity and innovation.

Physical Benefits: As if the above wasn't enough, sleeping greatly strengthens our immune, cardiovascular and metabolic systems and it slows down the ageing process - bonus!

SO HOW CAN I IMPROVE MY SLEEP?

Well isn't that just the million dollar question! 

I'm not going to pretend that there are any quick and easy fixes if you're struggling to get a good nights sleep. Stress and an overactive mind can be a real sleep sucker and hard to overcome. However here are the things that you should definitely be trying to do each day to assist in a good nights sleep. 

Exercise: It's not rocket science! Exercise helps tire you out and leads you to a better nights rest. It's best to exercise in the morning and avoid hitting the gym, or whatever your fitness regime of choice may be, at least four hours before bed. Exercise increases our adrenalin and heart-rate which isn't useful just before we try to nod off for the night!

Take Breaks, Build Rest Into Your Day: The body naturally likes to rest every 90 minutes. Pushing on with tasks that require a degree of self control for longer than that will result in us depleting important energy reserves and stressing ourselves out! Taking short breaks, building in moments of rest between tasks will avoid dipping into energy reserves that over time can be very damaging. It will also help to keep us calm, resulting in a better nights sleep at the end of the day.

Avoid Blue Light From Digital Devices: And by that I mean the light from your phone, tablet, laptop and any other sort of similar gadget. Switch off a few hours before you want to go to sleep if you really want to get a good nights rest. Blue light from these gadgets over stimulates the brain and it's incredibly hard to rest if you use them too much in the evening before bed.

Create Relaxing Evening Rituals: Before bed small rituals like making a hot drink are really useful at helping you to unwind and switch off. Action them slowly and mindfully, allowing time for the brain to settle down.

Apply These Three Rules:

COOL: Sleeping in a room that's too warm will only make you uncomfortable, keep the temperature low to avoid waking up restless from the heat. 

QUIET: Of course a noisy environment is going to keep you awake. I know it's not always possible to avoid noise, especially if you live in a city, but do what you can to eliminate any night-time noise and distractions. 

DARK: If you invest in one thing make it good, blackout blinds. Just the smallest bit of light hitting the eyes can cause you to wake before you want to. Keep things as dark as possible until you want to surface!

If You Can't Sleep Use The 20/20 Rule: If you're struggling to sleep for more than 20 minutes then get up and spend 20 minutes doing something to relax yourself. NOTHING PHONE OR GADGET RELATED! Try reading a book - but a relaxing one! Laying there beyond 20 minutes struggling to sleep will only stress you out more. So remove yourself from the situation and do something slow and gentle to try and wind down before attempting to sleep again.

So that's the facts and the advice from the webinar. For me it was very insightful so I'm intrigued to know if it has been interesting for you?

Do you struggle to get a good nights sleep? What are the main things that you think keep you awake and do you have any other tips, things that work for you when trying to achieve a better nights rest?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and thank you for reading. Here's to a healthier and happier nights sleep for us all this evening - I hope!

Louise