Sleep yourself healthy.

Sleep yourself healthy.

Like many people with the start of new year and thinking of the ‘new me’

I struggled to think of a New Year’s resolution. Rather than give something up like chocolate I have decided to add something to my life – sleep!

The importance of sleep is often underestimated and unappreciated.

Sleep is one of the key ingredients to good health. Like food and water humans cannot live without sleep. This is because there is a strong relationship between sleep and physical and mental health and not getting enough sleep has a profound impact on our ability to function.

While we sleep our bodies go through a sleep-wake cycle. A typical sleep-wake cycle lasts 90 minutes which involves four phases of sleep including awake & resting, light, deep and REM sleep. All phases of a sleep-wake cycle are required, however, the two most important are deep sleep and REM. Deep sleep is where our body releases hormones to repair and build the body and REM sleep is where our system reboots our mental hard drive. Many lifestyle choices negatively influence our sleep-wake cycle and impact deep sleep and REM. Here are six areas that can improve the sleep-wake cycle and include the steps I have taken to meet my New Years resolution:

  1. Create an ideal sleep environment – Get rid of distractions in the bedroom such as noises, bright lights or warm temperatures. It is recommended that your bedroom is cool, dark and quiet.
  1. Stick to a sleep schedule – Try to go to bed each evening at the same time and limit the difference in the sleep schedule on weeknights and weekends. Being consistent reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
  1. Go to bed earlier – Start the evening time routine of turning off the TV, locking up the house and brushing your teeth 30-60 minutes earlier as this will help you get to sleep sooner.
  1. Avoid caffeine (and alcohol) in the afternoon and evenings – Caffeine and alcohol can rob you of deep sleep and REM sleep, keeping you in the lighter stages of sleep. Worryingly, the effects of caffeine can take as long as 8 hours to leave your system.
  1. Leave technology out of the bedroom– Devices with self-luminous electronic displays suppress the sleep hormone (melatonin), making it harder to fall asleep.
  1. Have 60 minutes of gadget-free time before bed – Rather than helping you relax, gadgets stimulate the brain with cognitive exercises and leads to additional information processing. This tricks your brain into thinking that it needs to stay awake rather than switch off.

Along with nutrition and exercise, good sleep is one of the pillars of health. To be the best you, you need to prioritise sleep and give your mind and body a chance to unwind and reset for the next day. It will also help you to recover quickly if you are adding in exercise to the “new you” routine!