The power of sleep & how to improve yours
What happens when we sleep?
When we sleep our bodies are hard at work repairing and rejuvenating itself. To name just a few things that happens when we sleep:
- Muscle tissues grow and repair
- Blood flow to muscles increases
- Human growth hormone is released (the muscles building hormone)
- The immune system produces important infection-fighting proteins
Soo.. What are the benefits?
It is obvious why sleep is important for everyone but especially for those who are physically active. The many benefits of sleeping well include:
- Improved concentration
- Improved mood
- Sharpened memory and planning skills
- Maintains the fat burning system that regulates our weight
- Reduced cravings for unhealthy foods
- Boosts immunity
- More creativity
- Lower blood pressure
What if you don’t get enough sleep?
On the flip side, if you don’t get enough sleep, your body doesn’t have the chance to do all of its repair work. Even after just one night of poor sleep, you may experience:
- Lethargy – both mind and body
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty making decisions
- Inability to concentrate on work
- Impaired memory
- Weakened immune system
- Cravings for unhealthy foods
How much sleep do you need?
The amount of sleep needed to feel well- rested varies between individuals, that being said the National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hour per night. Only you know what amount is needed for you to feel and perform at your best. Aim to get a consistent amount each night, by having the same bedtime & wake up time. Then monitor how you feel and adjust accordingly. If you are sleeping for a consistent amount each night and still feeling tired there may be an issue with the quality of your sleep rather than the amount.
Reasons why you can’t sleep well – sleep hygiene and environment
Sleep hygiene is key if you want to sleep well. You also want to ensure your sleeping environment is primed for a restful nights sleep. The following can negatively affect your sleep:
- Drinking caffeine or other stimulants too close to bedtime – aim to cut yourself off around 2pm.
- Eating a large meal before bed, especially foods high in sugar or carbs
- Drinking alcohol – yes you’ll pass out quickly but your sleep quality will be poor
- Having an inconsistent bedtime and wake time
- Snoozing & napping
- Screen time & too much light exposure before bed
- Not having an adequate wind-down period between work and bed
Good Sleep Habits
The following lifestyle changes will promote better sleep:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
- Stop hitting snooze – this is not quality sleep and will leave you feeling more tired
- Exercise regularly
- Avoid caffeine and stimulants after 2PM
- Avoid/cut down on alcohol
- Develop a bedtime routine: bath, book & bed!
Setting the right environment
Think of your bedroom as your sleep sanctuary, a few things you can do to create a dreamy sleep environment are as follows:
- Invest in a good mattress & pillow
- Blackout curtains or an eye mask
- Dim any bright lights 30 minutes to an hour before bed
- Use essential oils such as lavender to help you relax
- Limit screen time in the evening – the blue light that comes off our screens surpasses melatonin, the sleep hormone.
- Turn the heating down, the optimal sleeping temperature is 18 * C
Tracking your sleep
Sleep trackers such as Whoop, Fitbit and Oura ring are a great way to monitor the amount and quality of your sleep. Sleep trackers may be beneficial in ensuring you get a sufficient amount of sleep each night, analyzing how much time you spend in each stage of sleep, and even making you aware of potential sleep issues like snoring and sleep apnea.
I hope this blog helps you on your journey! If you would like 1-1 support and guidance with this, click HERE to get in touch.