Listen to your body, heal and sleep
Key tips to help you understand the important of having a healthy sleep routine.
April 26, 2023
One of the most important roles of sleep is to help the brain consolidate and process information. During sleep, the brain (think of it like our bodies computer system) processes and organizes memories. Sleep also plays a crucial role in regulating our emotional responses and supporting our immune system.
Have you ever noticed you become more short tempered or cry more when you’ve had less sleep? Or that you suddenly get a cold when you haven’t been sleeping properly? It’s not a coincidence.
So let’s dive a little deeper to understand why sleep is so crucial:
- Sleep is essential for our physical health: During sleep, our bodies carry out important processes such as repairing tissues, building bone and muscle, and releasing hormones that regulate our metabolism, appetite, and immune system. Chronic sleep deprivation can increase the risk of various health problems, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even some forms of cancer.
- Sleep is important for learning and memory: Sleep plays a critical role in consolidating memories and integrating new information into our existing knowledge. When we sleep, our brains replay and reinforce neural connections that are important for learning and memory, helping us to retain information better.
- Sleep is essential for mental health: Sleep is essential for regulating our emotions and maintaining our mental health. Chronic sleep deprivation can increase the risk of developing anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.
- Lack of sleep affects our performance and productivity: Sleep deprivation can impair our cognitive abilities, making it harder to concentrate, remember things, and make good decisions. This can have serious consequences for our performance at work, school, or other activities.
- Sleep is crucial for safety: Lack of sleep can impair our judgment and reaction times, making us more prone to accidents and errors. For example, drowsy driving is a significant cause of car accidents.
The big question is then what can we do to improve our sleep? Improving our overall sleep hygiene has to be the focus and there are some simple steps we can take to get us started on a healthier path:
- Establishing a regular sleep schedule: Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (even at the weekends) can help regulate our body's internal clock and improve the quality of our sleep.
- Creating a relaxing sleep environment: Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet to promote sleep.
- Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine: These substances can interfere with sleep quality and disrupt the body's natural sleep rhythms.
- Limiting exposure to screens: The blue light emitted by electronic devices can interfere with our body's production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Try switching off all technology at least 30-60 minutes before sleep time.
- Engaging in regular exercise: Regular physical activity can help promote healthy sleep and improve sleep quality.
By prioritising our sleep and taking steps to improve our sleep habits, we can support our physical and mental health, improve our cognitive function, and enhance our overall wellbeing.
If you are interested in finding out more about the impact of sleep, and more detail on the benefits of improving sleep, I would highly recommend “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker. It’s an illuminating book and really does show how fascinating and complex the human brain is, and how sleep really is key to our health.