Get a good night’s worth and you feel refreshed and ready to take on the world. Have a bad one and it’s all you can do just get through the day.
Unfortunately, however, according to Dreams 2016 UK Sleep Survey*, 63.1 per cent of people are happy with the amount of sleep they are getting, with only 8 per cent saying that they wake up feeling refreshed.
Sleep plays a vital role in our physical and mental health. Our bodies are like machines, they can work throughout the day continuously but, at some point, they need to ‘reboot’.
When your body is asleep it begins to heal damaged cells, boost your immune system, recover from the day’s activities and, finally, recharge your heart and cardiovascular system.
Research has shown that sleep deprivation can have a long-term effect on our health; both physical and mental. In fact, diabetes itself can increase the risk of sleep disorders and, on the flip side, not getting enough sleep can lead to diabetes!
A good night’s rest is vital for our hormones to regulate several the body’s processes, for example, appetite, weight control and the immune system.
So why is it that we’re not getting enough “shut eye” and what can we do to rebalance the sleep scales?
According to Dr Michael Mosely, there are many factors that are contributing to our poor sleep and resulting in more and more people staring at the ceiling instead of the backs of their eyelids each night.
• Increases in blue light
It’s no secret that we’ve seen a significant increase in the amount of ‘screen time’ we subject ourselves to everyday. From computers to TV, and tablets to our trusty smart phones, we spend less time in natural light and more time around blue light.
Our eyes have special receptors for bluish light which helps set our body clocks. Unfortunately, all this ‘screen time’ can make it more difficult for us to get to sleep.
To help this, you can adjust your screens to a yellower (‘warmer’) colour balance, ensure your bedroom is dark and try to expose yourself to bright daylight in the morning and middle of the day to help set your body clock.
• Don’t drink late
Alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, but one of the chemicals produced when your body breaks down alcohol prevents your brain from going into REM sleep. This means that your brain will be trying to catch up on missed REM sleep at the end of the night; which can result in fitful sleep and memorable dreams. So, if you enjoy a regular evening tipple and are struggling to sleep, stay off the alcohol for a few days and give your body time to catch up on the rest it needs.
• Get active
It makes sense that the more you exercise, the more you will need to sleep; it’s tiring after all! And, whilst it is good news that we seem to be getting more active as a nation and physical exercise can help you sleep, try to avoid doing your workout just before you climb under the sheets. Give yourself to wind down and relax first.
• Avoid caffeine
It’s an obvious one, but caffeine can stop you feeling sleepy, because of the way it blocks the receptors in the brain for the chemical adenosine. This chemical usually builds up during the day, signalling when it’s time to go to sleep. Unfortunately, as a nation we do love a good cuppa, but if you have a habit of sipping a cup of tea of coffee late in the evening and are struggling to nod off, or stay asleep, why not swap it for a caffeine free or non-caffeinated alternative?
• Keep to a routine
As tempting as it is to have a lie-in and stay up late at weekends to recover from the week’s work schedule, it will only serve to disrupt your body clock. We all have the tendency to kick start our weekends with a late night and morning lie in; it’s part of the weekend ritual. However, it could be playing havoc with your body clock. Try to stick to the same sleep routine if you can. Whilst it may feel like a treat to stay asleep a little longer, you will find it more difficult to get your body back into a sleep routine the following week.
So, if you’ve been struggling to get your required 7 hours a night and are feeling less than alert each day, look at your regular habits to see whether any small adjustments could make an important difference…
*To read the full Dreams Sleep Survey visit: http://www.dreams.co.uk/sleep-matters-club/sleep-survey-uk-2016/#survey-1