Sleep Awareness Week

It’s the National Sleep Foundation’s annual Sleep Awareness Week (August 3-9). Their mission is to highlight the critical importance of good sleep as a fundamental foundation for health, happiness and productivity.

Every animal ever studies sleeps and indeed must sleep to maintain health, we  humans are no different. When it comes to achieving your personal, family, and professional goals – good sleep is a non-negotiable.

Get more Sleep!

What will help you feel more energised each day, improve your mood and even help you lose weight? Sleep! It really is that simple…SLEEP!

The body does most of its background repair and regeneration each night while you sleep. The brain cleans itself from the inside out, muscles repair and even calcium is added to bones all while you slumber. Getting adequate sleep is the best way to help your mind and body function at its best. When we have inadequate sleep, the first things that suffer are related to brain function. Our attention span and memory are affected, our reactions are slower and our mood fluctuates. We also tend to be far more prone to anxiety.

If inadequate sleep continues to occur on a regular basis, we find that our physical and mental health may be at risk. The likelihood of depression increases, it seems that our immune system suffers and we are at higher risk for metabolic impairments, such as those leading to diabetes.  Our performance at work is affected and there is much a higher chance of road related accidents.

Recent studies have also been able to show quite clearly and consistently, that sleep problems likely have a much stronger contributory effect on pain than the effect of pain on sleep. These studies have found evidence that poor sleep is a primary factor predicting aggravation of pain responses and determining longer-term risks of developing persistent pain or other pain-related condition.

So how much is enough?

Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night, varying with age, sex, health status and individual need.

We all know that getting to bed earlier is easier said than done but there are lots of other things that can be done to improve the quality of the sleep you get. Some simple strategies you can implement are;

  1. Get in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Try to go to sleep and get up around the same time every day. This helps set your body’s internal clock and optimises the quality of your sleep.
  2. Control your exposure to light. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle.
    • Expose yourself to bright sunlight in the morning. The closer to the time you get up, the better. Spend more time outside during daylight.
    • Switching off all screens an hour or two before you hit the sack (yes, even your phone…) and try to remove any stimulus that might rouse you during your lighter phases of sleep; remove all lights from your bedroom, even a night lights and alarm clocks can wake you from light sleep.
  1. Exercise during the day. People who exercise regularly sleep better at night and feel less sleepy during the day. Regular exercise increases the amount of time you spend in the deep, restorative stages of sleep.
  2. Our daytime eating habits play a role in how well you sleep, especially in the hours before bedtime. Try avoiding food for a couple hours before bedtime, this can ensure that your digestive system doesn’t keep you awake.
  3. Mindfulness meditation (being present in the moment) before bedtime. Many of us struggle to sleep because we lie awake thinking about work, family, health, pain or money and just can’t find an ‘off button’. Practicing simple mindfulness exercises can help you calm your mind and sleep better. It helps to reduce stress and improve the quality and duration of sleep.

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