On World Sleep Day, March 17, people around the globe will take time to recognize how essential sleep is for their physical and mental wellbeing. With 1 in 7 people in the UK getting a dangerously low amount of sleep a night (under 5 hours), it’s clear that sleep does not come easily to everyone. We’ve therefore put together some tips and strategies that can help you get a more restful nights’ sleep, as well as looking at why, like getting your 5-a day fruit and veg, sleep is so good for you.
Healthy sleep is more than simple duration
Sleep is an integral part of life, yet its nature can be complex to comprehend. Sleep occurs in cycles, stages and patterns that vary from person to person – making it a process that’s hard to explain precisely why some people sleep better than others.
Getting enough sleep isn’t only about total hours of sleep. It’s also important to get good-quality sleep on a regular schedule so you feel rested when you wake up. For optimal sleep quality, you need the proper amount of time in each stage and cycle. This includes deep sleep, stages three and four, when your body repairs itself. At this stage, your brain releases growth hormones and other chemicals to repair organs and muscles. Additionally, it boosts your immunity while giving you energy for the day ahead. Without enough proper i.e. deep sleep, your body is not having the chance to repair itself and you’ll likely wake up in the morning feeling flat and unmotivated. It could affect your attention span, concentration, strategic thinking, assessment of risk and your reaction times. This is important if you have a big decision to make, are driving, or are operating heavy machinery, because sleep deprivation makes you more likely to make a mistake or have an accident. But getting plenty of sleep can help you to stay sharp and focused all day long.
So, how many hours of quality sleep do we need?
Most adults need 7 or more hours of good-quality sleep on a regular schedule each night. Kids need even more sleep than adults:
- Teenagers – 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night
- School-aged children – 9 to 12 hours of sleep each night
- Pre-schoolers – between 10 and 13 hours a day (including naps)
- Toddlers – between 11 and 14 hours a day (including naps)
- Babies – between 12 and 16 hours a day (including naps) – which we are guessing where the phrase ‘I slept like a baby comes from’ when describing a decent kip
- Newborns – between 14 and 17 hours a day
If you’re struggling to get the hours in, there are number of things you can try to do or incorporate into your routine which can help:
- Make your bedroom dark and cool, as these settings support natural temperature changes and hormonal shifts that lead up to sleep
- Disconnecting from electronic devices like mobile phones or laptops for at least half an hour before bed can help you drift off more quickly and deeply into sleep.
- Use earplugs if you are sound sensitive. SnugsZen custom fit sleep plugs are the comfiest option, even for side sleepers, and will ensure outside noise is reduced enough to allow you to nod off and get the deep sleep you deserve
- On the flipside, if you need noise to sleep, then listen to some gentle music or an audio book (like singing a lullaby to a baby, but adult version)
- Follow a sleep routine that helps regulate your body’s internal clock and go to bed at the same time every night
- From an employer’s perspective, you could look to incorporating good sleep strategy into your employee’s working day, to ensure optimal productivity and focus. These could include nap rooms or pods for workers to catch up on rest during mid-shift. Other initiatives include wellness and stress management workshops emphasizing the significance of maintaining a regular bedtime schedule, healthy eating habits and exercise regimens
Sleep is a pillar of human health
As we have touched on previously, sleep has a direct relationship to our physical health. Studies have linked insufficient or poor sleep with conditions like obesity, depression, diabetes, and heart disease. Whilst you may be in the land of nod, your body is still working hard. Without going into too much depth on the scientific processes which are going on, here are some of the important functions which are happening whilst you sleep.
During sleep, your body performs many important repair and maintenance processes. These include restoring hormone balance, eliminating waste products, and creating memories. At night, your body secretes cytokines that strengthen your immune system’s capacity for fighting infection. A chronic lack of sleep may leave you more susceptible to colds and other illnesses, so making sure you get enough rest is essential for staying healthy. Additionally, when you are ill, make sure you rest and take it easy to allow your body to focus its energy on fighting the illness and ensure you get better as quickly as possible.
If you sleep less than 7 hours a night, you are more at risk of developing obesity. This is because getting a good enough amount of sleep impacts on your hormones and motivation to exercise
- Hormones – For instance, sleep deprivation increases levels of ghrelin and decreases levels of leptin. Ghrelin is a hormone that makes us feel hungry while leptin makes us feel full. This may cause us to feel hungrier and overeat due to being tired
- If you’re not sleeping properly, your body will need more energy because it’s awake for longer. But you’re more likely to overeat and choose foods that are high in calories later in the day (who doesn’t grab a chocolate bar for a little sugar-energy boost?). Unfortunately, these foods impact on your waistline
Sleep involves several distinct cycles in your brain, each with its own effects. Deep sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep are important for memory consolidation and emotion processing. REM sleep helps you rest more deeply at night and allows for rapid eye movement dreams (REMs).Cutting off that cycle of sleep can impair your brain’s capacity to recognize and respond appropriately to emotional triggers, potentially leading to depression or anxiety disorders. In addition to these activities, your brain is hard at work reorganizing itself and creating connections essential for learning and memory formation.
So, it is clear that sleep plays a vital part to our health. When assessing your physical and mental state, make sure you factor in your sleep routine as a possible area for improvement. It can be ignored and overlooked when it shouldn’t. We are not saying you should sleep like a sloth (23 hours a day!), but make sure you get a good quality night’s sleep every night to reap the benefits.