Health Creation Centre: Wake up to the benefits of sleep
Do you think you got enough sleep this past week?
Can you recall the last time you woke up without an alarm clock feeling refreshed and not needing caffeine? If you answered no to either of those questions, don’t despair as you are not alone: two-thirds of adults in developed nations get less than eight hours of sleep at night. But for many people, the importance of a good night’s sleep is misunderstood. Let me shed some light on the reasons why we need a good shut eye.
Sleep is a puzzling behaviour from a biological view if we really stop to think about it. But the reality is, even those in the caveman days needed, and prioritised sleep. Every organ in the body benefits from sleep. In the brain it increases our ability to learn, memorise, make logical decisions and recalibrates our emotional circuits. Sleep can help before learning, to prepare the brain for initially making new memories and after learning to help cement those new memories and prevent forgetting. Staying up cramming until 3am before an exam is definitely not the way to gain a high distinction.
Lack of sleep can decrease your immunity and if you’re sick, sleep helps you to recover faster. If sleep deprived, the negative impact on the immune system can double the risk of cancer. Sleep deprivation also forms a key lifestyle factor in developing Alzheimers, diabetes, heart disease, strokes and obesity, and has been shown to contribute to all major psychiatric conditions.
For the athletes out there who need further convincing, less than six hours of sleep results in a 10-30 per cent decrease in the time until physical exhaustion and has been linked to impaired respiratory and metabolic function. There has also been a proven link to increased injury risk with poor sleep hygiene. On the flip side, post-performance sleep stimulates muscle repair, replenishes glycogen stores and enhances recovery.
What can we do to help ensure our sleep isn’t negatively affecting our health?
- Follow a regular sleep schedule. Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends or when you are traveling. Set an alarm to go to bed!
- Avoid napping in the late afternoon or evening, if you can. Naps may keep you awake at night
- Develop a bedtime routine. Take time to relax before bedtime each night. Some people read a book, listen to soothing music, or soak in a warm bath
- Try not to watch television or use your computer, cell phone, or tablet in the bedroom. The light from these devices may make it difficult for you to fall asleep. And alarming or unsettling shows or movies, like horror movies, may keep you awake
- Exercise at regular times each day but not within three hours of your bedtime
- Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime; they can keep you awake
- Stay away from caffeine late in the day. Caffeine (found in coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate) can keep you awake
- While a balanced diet and exercise is important for overall health, the evidence for effects of sleep deficit dwarf them.
So next time you are thinking of watching another Netflix episode rather than getting your regular eight hours’ sleep, think twice and prioritise your long term health by hitting the hay at a decent hour. For more information about sleeping ergonomics and benefits, please contact our team today.
The Health Creation Centre is at 74 The Avenue, Ocean Grove. Phone 5255 3411 or head to healthcreationcentre.com.au.