Sleep has long been recognised as an integral part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, implementing this is much easier said than done when hectic schedules and demanding work loads are encouraging us to utilise caffeine and other stimulants to fuel us through a working week on a lack of sleep. As a result, your brain struggles to fully switch off, which can in turn become counter productive when trying to get the most out of your working day. On top of this, if you never fully give yourself permission to get the amount of sleep your body naturally desires (studies show between 6-8 hours per night), you are inevitably putting yourself at a disadvantage and so not fully reaching your absolute daily potential.
Ok so sleep is understood as being of importance within a well-balanced, switched on lifestyle, but where do the other benefits of a decent amount of shut-eye lie? There have been studies showing the influence that restful and time-full sleep can have on your weight as well as your mind. If your hours of zzz are diminishing but your waist line is simultaneously (and unwelcomingly) expanding, and you haven’t got round to figuring out why yet, it could be as simple as the sleep deficiency you are experiencing night after night. When your sleep has been brief, your appetite (and perhaps more specifically, sugar cravings) will inevitably increase, encouraging you to eat more, mindlessly. Similarly, a lack of sleep is thought to result in a higher blood sugar level than normal, increasing your potential to develop type 2 diabetes, and decreasing your level of leptin (encouraging you to feel more hungry).
As well as the immediate benefits that can come as a result of boosting your sleep intake, some other (perhaps more long-term and often forgotten) ones include the reduction of inflammation, which is heavily linked to illnesses like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis; and, slightly more trivial in comparison, premature ageing! It is also a step towards to reducing stress levels, boosting your immune system, sharpening your attention span and improving your creativity. On top of this, sleep aids your brain in preparing for the next day, not only relaxing it but allowing it to really rejuvenate overnight.
There are some straightforward tricks to implement when aiming to improve the overall quality of your sleep, including keeping your bedroom cool and dark – this could prove tricky for the ‘scared of the dark’ type but to persevere will undoubtedly give you a more satisfying night’s kip. As well as this, and now widely recognised as something which could potentially hinder your quality of sleep, is putting aside (or completely switching off) any electronic devices whilst preparing to sleep. You would be surprised at just how significantly this can alter the quality of your night. Another thing that allows you to fully embrace a brilliant night’s sleep is aiming to stick to a regular bed/wakeup time every day; your body clock will thank you for regulating it and your meal times will benefit as a result. Caffeine (yes, the stimulant dividing the nation), is not necessarily bad for those who have built up a tolerance to it, however a stimulant is exactly what it is, and the effects are fairly prominent if you are not used to having it. So consuming a coffee (for example) after mid-afternoon, will hugely impact on your overall quality of sleep. One other thing which can contribute to a disturbed night’s sleep is eating large meals close to going to bed; not only does this hinder digestion but it in turn, makes you feel extremely uncomfortable all the way through the night.
It’s clear that sleep plays an integral role in making us feel the best that we can, and it really is so simple to do. I dare you to give them a go and see if you notice the difference!