Sleep is one of the most important factors for overall general health, but often one of the most underrated factors which contribute to our health. Sleep has a major influence on all of the body’s major physiological systems, it allows your body to perform vital metabolic processes and allows your body to recover. Sleep repairs the muscles and promotes muscle growth, whilst enabling your body to rest and recover.
Extended periods of too little sleep can impact your health by increase in inflammation, poorer cardiovascular health, as well as increase the risk for diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. It can also have a negative effect on mental health & can impact professional and social performance. So getting a good quality sleep will help you perform better in daily tasks, work, exercise and also make you a lot happier!
Sleep deprivation has been linked to more lean mass being lost when dieting rather than fat mass. It can also increase hunger, which in turn may lead to a gain in fat mass. It can also be associated with poorer cognitive output and affect your daily work life and productivity, which is never ideal.
There are certain things that can aid in improving the quality of your sleep such as;
Consistency – going to bed around the same time each night and waking up around the same time each morning. Having a consistent sleeping routine can help set your body clock and improve overall quality of sleep.
Physical activity – also improves the quality of sleep and reduces risk of developing sleep disorders. Including exercise into your lifestyle in any form, whether it be walking, running, weight training or yoga, exercise in general is said to help improve the quality of your sleep. And with a better sleep, you will generally have more energy & perform better in your workout which is also a bonus!
Creating a relaxing environment – before bed, dim the lights or switch on a lamp keeping bright light out and create and atmosphere so your body relaxes and is ready to sleep.
Establishing a bedtime ritual – have a routine you do every night before going to bed, to get your body ready to wind down and relax.
Switching off – switching off from work a few hours prior to going to bed can really help the mind focus on relaxing rather than stressing. Yes, I get that it’s not always the easy option but you need some down time too, try it and see the effect it will have on the quality of your sleep.
There are also specific things which may hinder your sleep quality such as light, noise, alcohol, heat and caffeine.
Reducing light before bed time can help your body in production of melatonin, which is the hormone produced which signals to your body that it’s time for sleep. Using night shift (on most phones / computers now) is a good way to reduce the blue light produced by the natural lighting on a phone or screen.
Noise can also effect the quality of your sleep, so minimising sounds if possible with a quiet bedroom is usually optimal for better sleep quality.
Heat also has an impact on your sleep, you may notice when you are in a warmer climate (me now lol) you find it harder to get to sleep and to have an uninterrupted sleep throughout the night. Therefore sleeping in a comfortable, cool room you are likely to get a better nights sleep.
Alcohol has a major effect on sleep quality, even if you feel you may fall asleep faster, although when it wears off throughout the night it may make you more likely to wake up.
And lastly caffeine can have an effect when getting to sleep and also on the quality, if consumed too late in the day. I have found that if I have a coffee later in the afternoon, I find it much harder to sleep that night so I try and keep coffee to before 2pm. (as much as I love it, I need my sleep)
There are so many benefits to having a good quality sleep, some of which are; more energy better cognitive function & lower risk to developing some diseases among many others.
So taking little steps to improve the quality of your sleep is a starting point and aiming for at least 7-8 hours per night and you will be feeling much better!