Along with healthy eating and physical activity, sleep is one of the main pillars of good health. If we don’t get enough sleep our bodies and our minds are negatively affected. Sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture, and those of us who have ever lived with a new baby have experienced how difficult it is to function when you are always tired.
How does lack of sleep impact on our bodies? An article written by Joel Leech on Healthline last year suggests:
Short sleep duration is associated with a drastically increased risk of weight gain and obesity, in both children and adults.
Poor sleep affects hormones that regulate appetite. Those who get adequate sleep tend to eat fewer calories than those who don't.
Good sleep can maximize problem-solving skills and enhance memory. Poor sleep has been shown to impair brain function.
Longer sleep has been shown to improve many aspects of athletic and physical performance.
Sleeping less than 7–8 hours per night is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Sleep deprivation can cause prediabetes in healthy adults in as little as six days. Many studies show a strong link between short sleep duration and type 2 diabetes.
Poor sleeping patterns are strongly linked to depression, particularly for those with a sleeping disorder.
Getting at least eight hours of sleep can improve your immune function and help fight the common cold.
Sleep affects your body's inflammatory responses. Poor sleep is strongly linked to inflammatory bowel diseases and can increase your risk of disease recurrence.
Sleep deprivation may reduce your social skills and ability to recognize people’s emotional expressions.
So, what can you do to improve your night’s sleep? If you are having trouble getting or staying asleep, or you are often tired, here are some techniques to try:
1. Keep screens out of the bedroom - maybe read a book instead.
2. Cut down your screen time - including staying screen-free for the hour leading up to bedtime.
3. Write down tasks for the following day and if you are in bed and remember something to add – get up and do so.
4. Develop a pre-sleep routine - discover what works for you and stick with it.
5. Manage your stress levels throughout the day - sometimes easier said than done, but too much stress can keep you awake at night.
6. Take up calming activities - such as meditation, mindfulness, reading, or Yoga.
7. Know where to find help and support – the health navigator website is a great place to start, but there are plenty of other resources to be found online. If lack of sleep is impacting on your daily life – see your doctor.
8. There are plenty of things we don't understand about sleep, and our sleep patterns may change with age. But one thing you can be sure of is that we all need it!
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