5 Steps to Better Sleep
Everybody knows that sleep is important to function well but we still hear people boast about only needing 4 hours of sleep per night. What is the consequence of this sleep debt and what is happening physiologically when we sleep?
According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, when we sleep, a number of physiological changes in both the body and the mind happen which prepare us for its next period of wakefulness.
Contrary to what you may think, the brain doesn’t rest while you sleep. It’s carrying out memory consolidation – sorting what to keep and what not to keep. The brain encodes and solidifies memories and transfers them to long term storage. A bit like your computer hard drive.
Healing is another process that happens while we sleep. Growth hormone is needed for healing and this is produced at its highest level at night. Because our bodies are ‘at rest’, we are free to spend our energy reserves on these important healing processes.
Our immune cells are also busy in high numbers at night – making sleep even more important for long term health.
And a really fascinating piece of information is that our brains shrink in size while we sleep to facilitate detoxification - this frees up to space between our cells so that toxins can be flushed out.
Impacts of not enough sleep
If you are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis, then science tells us your immune and endocrine system will suffer. Your blood sugar will be dysregulated and this can lead to obesity, mood disorders and cardiovascular problems.
In the short term, performance suffers. Athletic, work… You’re more likely to eat more.
So what can we do to enhance or preferably optimise our sleep? Back to my 5 tips…….
- Make sure your room is dark. Tape over LED lights or remove these items from your room. Invest in some black out curtains.
- Create a calm environment. Decorate your room in a way that feels relaxing to you.
- Make sure your room is the perfect temperature. Not too hot and not too cold. According to sleep studies, 18 degrees C or 65 degrees F seems to be best.
- Part with all electronics 1-2 hours before you go to bed. The blue light associated with computer devices suppresses melatonin production . We need this for good sleep.
- Maintain a consistent bedtime. This is important for the maintenance of our circadian rhythms. This goes for weekdays and weekends.