How many times do we make excuses as to why we don’t get enough time to sleep? How often do we watch that extra Netflix episode or scroll on our phones late into the evening? We all do it; we have all had those mornings and days where we are craving sugary foods or feeling irritable after not getting enough sleep. So how can you prioritise your sleep?
Why should we sleep?
During the 1970s and 1980s, researchers started exploring and expanding the field of sleep. Sleep is the single most effective thing we can do each day to reset the health of our brain and body. Sleep has been referred to as ‘medicine’ as it has a powerful and transformative impact on every area of our life. These areas include mental wellbeing, weight, ability to perform at our best, skin, immunity, and our physical fitness.
What happens when we don’t get enough sleep?
When we fall short of sleep, it can take a serious toll on our daytime energy, productivity, emotional balance, and even our weight. Yet many of us regularly toss and turn at night, struggling to get the sleep we need.
Research has shown that 2 out of 3 adults in all developed nations fail to get the recommended 7 to 8 hours of nightly sleep. This can make us seriously grouchy, and a nation of people who all ‘got out on the wrong side of the bed’. As one wise person said, “Without enough sleep, we all become tall two-year-olds”. That phrase “getting out of the wrong side of the bed” makes light of our lack of sleep…. but if you’re chronically sleep-deprived, or if the quality of your sleep each night is poor, you might show certain symptoms such as…
- Having trouble getting up in the morning
- Struggling to focus
- Irritability, depression, or anxiety
- Feeling sleepy during the day or needing to schedule daytime naps
- Sleeping much longer or later on unstructured days
Many of us will be familiar with the feeling of being moodier, having a shorter fuse or feeling tired and emotional when we’re lacking enough sleep. This is because sleep is essential for emotional regulation – brain scans of sleep-deprived people show an increase of activity in regions of the brain that generate reactivity and impulse, and a decrease in activity in regions that control rational decision making.
Lack of sleep also has a huge impact on the ability to perform, research has shown that if we’ve been sleep deprived for more than 17 hours it has the same impact on our decision making as having alcohol in our system. We wouldn’t turn up to work having had a couple of pints and yet it is perfectly normal to turn up sleep deprived!!
This sleep deprivation can lead us to make behavioural choices that make us sleep even worse the next night. That 4 pm double espresso to help ‘get us through the afternoon’? Tempting at the time, but not when we get into bed later feeling wired.
Top Tips to Sleep Better
Similar to any health change we make in our lives, we need to make sure we make time, we practice the habit daily and we discipline ourselves for a period of time. If you typically have poor quality sleep, you need to make sure these tips are taken on board and practised. These tips include….
(1) Move your Body
Make sure you move! If you want to sleep better try to do some physical activities, you can cycle, stretch, dance, or just go for a nice walk. If you don’t get time during the day, take a short relaxing walk after dinner to help you digest your food and wind down. Make it an enjoyable experience and play some music or a podcast.
(2) Get your Vitamin D
Find some time during the day, whether that is walking to get a coffee, taking a short mid-morning walk or switching to a run outside rather at the gym. Even just 5-minutes of sunshine will help you get some Vitamin D. Did you know that Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” plays a direct and indirect role in helping you fall asleep? We produce Vitamin D when we are out in the sunshine (even when its cloudy out we absorb some Vitamin D) or you can also take it as a vitamin supplement. Research has shown that Vitamin D is involved in the production of melatonin, the hormone which is involved in the regulation of our sleep.
(3) Detach from your Phone
How many hours do you spend on an electrical device? A report has shown that the average British person spends 34 years of their life on a screen. Research has shown that using phones at bedtime increases individuals’ risk of having poorer quality sleep. Additionally, keeping a mobile to a pillow has been associated with poor sleep quality. So, remove your electrical devices at least 30-minutes before bedtime and place phones (and all other electrical devices) outside the bedroom. If you use it as your alarm clock, great, this means you will have to get out of the bed to switch your phone off. You might have a greater chance of not zoning your alarm. Win, win. Keep a bed beside your bedside or a notebook where you can write your thoughts down and drift seamlessly into the night.
(4) Prepare for Tomorrow
Write a to-do list before bed. Focusing on what you need to do tomorrow allows your brain to switch off. Capturing your thoughts allows you to tell that brain, ‘I’ve got this!’. It gives your brain permission to switch off as it often leaves us feeling more prepared and ready for tomorrow, putting those worries to bed.
Prioritise your sleep every day, this will increase your physical and mental wellbeing. We understand the modern working demands, however, don’t see sleep as losing out, see it as winning. Reframe sleep as time to decompress, time to drift into a safe and wonderful dream land. Your work and performance will benefit from your dedication and discipline around your sleeping routine. On the VISTA App, we have a range of sleep educational programmes designed by experts to support our users to get a great night’s sleep. Go check out the VISTA App to find out more. Sweet Dreams!