THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP Lichfield City Academy
Sleep is one of the most basic human functions and yet around a third of us struggle to get enough. Some simple changes can make a big difference.
Studies have shown that losing just one night’s sleep is likely to result in fatigue, irritability, an inability to concentrate and mood shifts the following day. The chance of having a serious accident increases and after a few days of sleep loss you become less alert and your thought processes slow down, with the ability to focus on long, repetitive tasks suffering more than shorter, more interesting jobs.
Regular sleep loss can also have physical effects, including fluctuations in blood pressure and heart rhythms and changes in our digestion, while long term sleep deprivation has been linked to more significant health problems.
The impact of sleep on day-to-day performance shouldn’t be underestimated and however busy your schedule, it is essential to allow yourself enough time and create the right environment to get enough quality sleep.
If, however, you are finding falling or staying asleep a challenge, there may be external triggers that need to be addressed or simple changes that can be made to your routine. Creating a quiet, peaceful and dark environment is very important, which means removing all media devices and so also the temptation to use them. There is some evidence to suggest that the signals emitted from mobile phones and even televisions disturb sleep, in particular, delta sleep, which is essential as it is when recovery and rejuvenation of the body systems takes place.
Earplugs and white noise machines can help to block out unwanted sounds, while blackout curtains are effective at minimising the waking effect of the early morning sun. While researchers disagree on the ideal temperature for sleep, most recommend that the bedroom is slightly cool, as a high temperature can lead to lighter sleep and more wake time. That might mean turning the thermostat down at night or changing the weight of your bedclothes with the seasons.
There are other practical things we can do to help our bodies go to sleep naturally and get a good night’s rest. It is wise to eat a little food before bedtime to prevent hunger pangs from waking you up. Opt for something carbohydrate based such as a slice of toast, ideally with some protein, or oatmeal, which releases energy more slowly. Alcohol should be avoided, as this promotes a false initial sleep followed by a more shallow sleep phase, disrupting the much-needed delta sleep.
While it’s tempting to try to tire yourself out, don’t exercise within two hours of going to bed, as this raises the metabolism, making it harder to come down into a more relaxed state before bedtime.
ALL IN THE MIND?
In many cases, however, the cause of people’s sleep problems is primarily internal, with 90 per cent of insomnia thought to be triggered by stress and anxiety. With our fast-paced, complicated lives and the constant and all-pervading presence of technology, it’s unsurprising that many of us find it difficult to wind down come bedtime.
If you are conscious of being kept awake by worries and thoughts, keep a pen and notepad by your bedside. Before bedtime and if you wake in the night, brain-dump any concerns, ideas and to-do lists that might otherwise circle around your mind keeping you awake.
Sweet dreams Lichfield City Academy