Sleep why is it important?

Sleep is especially important to our health and wellbeing; it cannot be emphasised enough how much our bodies need sleep.  Sleep quality is important to our health and those with poor sleep patterns are liable to experience daytime sleepiness and fatigue, encounter poor concentration and possibly experience bouts of memory loss, they are significantly more likely to suffer anxiety, depression and have lowered immune systems. So sleeping is good.


How much sleep do we need?

We are all made differently and hence we all need slightly different levels of sleep.  As a rule, as humans, we are built to be awake for circa sixteen hours per day – so that means we need to sleep for approximately eight hours.  This can vary between individuals; with some people able to function on six hours quality sleep while others regularly need ten hours sleep to function at their best.  It is important to note that its not just the amount of time we spend in bed but, the quality of the sleep that we experience.


Why can’t some of us sleep?

Stress has been identified as a major cause of sleep difficulties, frequently these issues can be short-term and when the period of stress subsides sleep patterns usually return to normal.  However, if not managed appropriately sustained periods of stress can give rise to longer term sleep problems.

Drinking alcohol or caffeinated drinks late in the day can seriously disrupt our ability to sleep as can exercising or undertaking mentally taxing tasks too close to bedtime.  It is important to remember that our bodies respond positively to routine, so going to bed at a similar time and waking at the same time are beneficial to our good health.

The use of artificial lighting and electronic devices – such as laptops and mobile phones – late in the evening can disrupt our circadian rhythm – our brains natural sleep pattern – by misleading your brain that it is still daytime.  Electronic devices should probably be avoided late in the day, but many devices have a night-time setting that reduces the amount of blue light emitted.  You can also buy glasses that filter out blue light and protect your eyes.

Environmental factors can impact our sleep significantly, such as being too hot, or too cold, external noise, the quality of your mattress or even the sleeping habits of your sleep partner – if they fidget or snore etc.  These factors all need to be managed to ensure a good nights sleep.

A significant number of disorders have been linked to insomnia and sleep disorders and these include obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder, hypertension, alcohol, and inappropriate drug use.


How many of us suffer with poor sleep?

Studies in the UK and the US report that up to sixty percent of adults and up to seventy percent of children are experiencing sleep problems ‘a few nights per week’.  In most cases, these symptoms go undiagnosed and the sleep issues are not satisfactorily addressed. As someone once said there are twelve hours in the day and about fifty at night!  Up to forty per cent of adults report regular daytime sleepiness, intense enough to disrupt their daily activities, this daytime sleepiness is almost always related to poor night-time sleeping.


How to get a good night’s sleep?

Like many things in life, a good night’s sleep is often the result of good preparation and planning.  It is perhaps unfair for us to run around at a pace all day and suddenly stop and expect to experience a restful relaxing sleep… we probably need to treat our bodies with a little more respect and indulge in some pre sleep rest and relaxation

Slowing down and relaxing a few hours before we plan to sleep is important, as is hydrating our bodies by drinking water and avoiding caffeinated drinks and alcohol.  Similarly, we should not smoke close to bedtime.

Try to sleep as one continuous session – to allow the body to perform is natural sleep phases and functions – these allow the body to heal, to recuperate but also to store information in your brain. Interrupting sleep with regular interruptions will disrupt your body’s natural sleep pattern and functions.  Setting an alarm clock and then constantly setting it to snooze is not a good way to wake up feeling rested.   In time try to wake up without the use of alarm… once you get into a regular pattern of sleeping its possible to do this… try testing at a weekends or when you don’t have to go to work.


“Sleep is the best meditation.” — Dalai Lama
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