Sleep is fundamental to our lives, in fact, we will spend nearly three years on this planet just sleeping! Given its necessity, it is obviously important for our health and wellbeing, yet in the 21st Century, we are all getting less sleep than ever due to the nature of our increasingly busy lives. We are often up at the crack of dawn and then fill our days working before barely managing to cook an evening meal and then crashing on the sofa. Distractions are everywhere from video games to social media to meeting our friends in the pub, and yet we are surprised that we feel so tired. Here we are going to try and unpick the facts and explain why sleep is so important and how you can improve it.
Concentration and Productivity
It is no secret that when we wake up having had a good night’s sleep, we feel ready and raring to go, but the opposite is also true; after a testing night under the duvet, we can wake up unmotivated and angry with the world. The reason for this is that sleep plays a huge part in brain function, we need sleep to help with our concentration, cognition, and productivity. There have even been studies that have shown that a lack of sleep can lead to the same drop in performance levels as alcohol intoxication would, whereas tests have shown that getting a good amount of sleep can improve cognition and skill levels. So, if you want to be at your peak every day, ensure you get a good night’s sleep.
To improve Mental Health
It has been well documented that people complaining about mental health issues such as depression also have trouble sleeping at night, indeed a lack of sleep has even been linked with an increased risk of suicide. The reasons behind this are unclear, but if we are constantly tired then we are likely to be in a bad mood, and a bit ratty with our friends and family and this can lead to us never seeing the positives in anything which is the start of a downward spiral of depression and illness. By increasing the amount of sleep you get, and more importantly, the quality of your sleep, you will wake up in a better frame of mind.
To Help Lose Weight
In medical circles, it is well known that those that sleep less tend to weigh more than those who sleep 8 hours a night. For children, sleep is even more important as the risk of obesity is 89% higher in those that don’t get adequate sleep. So, by ensuring your child sleeps well, not only are you cutting their risk of obesity, but you will be improving their productivity and mental health at the same time, so let those kids lie in!
It sounds incredibly obvious that you should be comfortable when you go to sleep, but it would shock you the number of people who try to get to sleep in absolutely the wrong conditions. Your mattress is paramount as you don’t want to be tossing and turning all night, so seek out reviews of the latest products to make your sleep more blissful. Curtains are also key, as we need our sleeping space to be as dark as possible, and for goodness sake, stop looking at your mobile before you sleep as the blue background light will wake you up, and you’ll have problems trying to nod off.
We all love an evening drink, and the infamous phrases ‘one for the road’ or ‘fancy a nightcap’ are often heard at the end of the day, but actually having a late-night drink is one of the worst things you can do for your sleep. Alcohol is a stimulant, so while it may help you to nod off in the short term, you will likely wake up many times during the night, depriving your body of the deep sleep that it needs to replenish itself.
As we have learned, sleep is fundamental for our health, but also easy to control if you avoid a few no-nos around bedtime. The less sleep we have, the less productive we will be, and especially for children, the risk of obesity increases. Lack of sleep is also a detriment to our mental health, so the more of it we get, the better frame of mind we will be in. To improve your sleep, it is important to be as comfortable as possible and to avoid distractions like natural and unnatural light. Combine this with avoiding alcohol before bed, and you will sleep like a baby, and you’ll wake up feeling as bright as a button.