Sleep is an essential part of all of our lives, we couldn’t function without it! The Sleep Foundation talks in-depth about the importance of sleep and the part it plays in our general well-being, as “sleep allows your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up.
Healthy sleep also helps the body remain healthy and stave off diseases. Without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly. This can impair your abilities to concentrate, think clearly, and process memories.”
So, why don’t we talk about the power of sleep enough? Whether that’s being taught about sleep in school or discussing it at work, it’s ironically something that sits on the back burner even though it’s a part of our routines that we all experience.
Why do we need sleep?
Aside from the obvious reasons that sleep enables us to function on a day-to-day basis, there are other reasons why we need sleep. Firstly, sleep allows us to form memories from a mental perspective, but it also gives our body physically enough time to repair and recharge.
Whether this is after an active session in the gym or from being on public transport and behind a desk at work, sleep is the answer to all of this!
The right amount of sleep depends on your age, however, on average, it’s around 7 hours of sleep for an adult, although if you need slightly more (up to 9) this is also considered “normal”.
An insufficient amount of sleep can lead to serious repercussions. Some studies have shown sleep deprivation “leaves people vulnerable to attention lapses, reduced cognition, delayed reactions, and mood shifts.”
Sleep is unique to everybody
Although looking at averages is a great way to calculate if you’re potentially sleep-deprived or not, it’s important to be kind to yourself and understand that sleep is unique to everybody. You may function well on more or less than the average, or you may prefer shorter bursts of sleep or taking naps. Ultimately, you have to listen to your body and stay in tune with yourself.
Sleep disorders can also play a huge part in your relationship with sleep. For example, disorders such as insomnia, sleep paralysis and sleep apnea can disrupt your natural sleeping pattern and circadian rhythm, and in some extreme cases cause anxiety and stress around getting enough sleep.
Although we don’t recommend self-diagnoses, if you struggle with your sleep, it can be useful to keep a sleep diary or use an app to give you valuable insight into your sleep. The data gathered can then be shared with your GP if you feel as though it is something that needs addressing.
Here are some top tips for getting better sleep:
Have a nighttime routine: Whether it’s 30 minutes or 1 hour, create a nighttime routine that doesn’t involve technology or anything strenuous such as exercise or even cleaning the house. Aim for your nighttime routine to be as calm as possible. This could be reading a book and running a bath, or listening to your favourite music and drinking herbal tea. Although this can fall into the realm of “self-care” - make sure that your routine is regular and not just a one-off when you’ve had a bad night's sleep.
Reduce technology usage: Blue light can cause us to have disrupted sleep, and unfortunately, blue light is present in most pieces of technology that we use - from our television to our mobile phones. Reducing technology consumption in general (but particularly in the evenings) can do wonders for our ability to relax before bed.
Prioritise sleep: This sounds very obvious, but sleep is one of the first things we end up sacrificing - whether that’s to spend extra hours at work or go out with friends. If you start prioritising sleep over these other things, you should see a substantial change in your relationship with it.