Sleep your way to greater Success in Life!
Ben Franklin once said ‘Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise’. Such words of wisdom!
And yet in modern life many people are skimping and simply not getting enough quality sleep to support their health and wellbeing. In my work as a medical doctor, I often see people who are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis.
I’m often asked why is sleep so important ?
The truth is we do now appreciate the critical importance of quality sleep for rest, renewal and recharge.
The brain detoxes itself at night whereby brain cells called neurons shrink by 60% and csf (the fluid that bathes the brain) cleans the brain of toxins ; its like squeezing a sponge and clearing brain circuits all while you sleep soundly.
And what’s more, sleep encodes learning.
Sleep is also important for optimal hormonal balance. Lack of sleep throws your natural body clock out of sync, impacting on your risk of many health conditions from obesity to anxiety. For example, hormones called ghrelin and leptin that regulate your appetite are affected by inadequate sleep.
As a result you end up overeating and your brain simply won’t know when you’ve had enough.
Sleeping doesn’t sound like the kind of activity that helps you manage your weight, but not getting enough shuteye is linked with eating too much.
Lack of sleep turns your brain towards flight/fight mode increasing levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline resulting in negative stress – with mood swings, impaired focus and reduced willpower.
Lack of sleep can become a real health hazard as those who fall into the sleep-deprived category are more likely to suffer from many chronic diseases from diabetes and depression to coronary heart disease and cancer. Of course that doesn’t even begin to consider the impact on quality of life.
A sleep cycle is 90 minutes long (from dozing through to deep sleep).
Most adults need about five sleep cycles a night (seven and a half hours) And you may need even more in times of stress and upheaval.
Seven Strategies for Sounder Sleep
1.Defend the hour or two before you go to sleep. Develop a relaxing routine that gives you a chance to unwind. Perhaps a warm bath, listen to quiet music or do some gentle yoga to relax the mind and body. Some find that reading or a cup of chamomile tea does the trick.
2. Stick to a Sleep Schedule and keep regular hours. Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time each night will programme your body to sleep better. Your body is meant to operate on schedule, and when you vary your sleeping and waking times, it throws your internal body clock out of whack.
3.Your bedroom should ideally be dark, quiet, and cool to create a restful sleeping environment. Make sure that your bed is comfortable with a good quality mattress.
4. Keep TV and mobile technology out of your bedroom. And avoid it for at least an hour before bed. The blue light from mobile technology can effect the pineal gland in the brain which disrupts production of a hormone called melatonin which is necessary for proper sleep. As a result the body’s brain is kept ‘on’, while your internal clock and sleep quality are disrupted.
5. Exercise is the greatest pill of all; a terrific way to unwind and relieve some of the tension built up over the day. It is wise to avoid exercising late at night though, as all the lovely endorphins might keep you awake!
6.Reduce caffeine intake
Stimulants such as caffeine in tea or co ee interfere with the process of falling asleep, and they prevent deep sleep. While I love to savour and enjoy a cup of really good coffee, I suggest avoiding caffeine in the 2nd half of the day. And if you have difficulty sleeping, cutting it out altogether can be very helpful as some people are extremely sensitive to the stimulant effects of caffeine. The effects of caffeine can last a long time so the chances of it affecting sleep are significant.
Too much food or alcohol, especially late at night, can interrupt your sleep patterns. Alcohol may help you to fall asleep initially, but it will disrupt your sleep later on in the night, so that you feel extra tired the following morning.
Finally I want to mention the health benefits of napping, a tradition so common in countries like Spain and increasingly popular in modern living.
And with good reason too as a short nap can be a tremendous way to recharge during your day.
The key word here is ‘short’ (up 20 minutes) so that you remain in stage 1 sleep. If it’s longer than 20 minutes long, you may experience a sense of brain inertia (brain fog) for a while when you wake up.
The best time for your nap is anytime between 1 and 4 pm ; .any later than this may be counter productive and start to impact on your nights sleep.
Remember if you’re exhausted all day from lack of sleep, this will have negatively impacted on your mood, energy and decision making! Think quality not quantity !
Sounder sleep can improve your physical health, increase your productivity, enhance your emotional vitality and overall wellbeing.