I’ve been meaning to write about sleep for a long time and I’ve been prompted to finally write this blog because Friday 15th March is World Sleep Day. Now, don’t get excited, this does not mean that you can call your boss and say that you will be spending the whole day in bed asleep! World Sleep Day is an annual event where sleep is celebrated and awareness drawn to problems we can face with our sleep and how to overcome them.
According to a Google search, we spend on average 26 years of our lives asleep and an additional 7 years trying to get to sleep. That’s a lot of time – so, why is sleep so important?!
Research has shown that when we are asleep our brains are busy processing all the information we have taken in during the day, consolidating that information and forming memories. Our bodies are also busy repairing any cell damage, growing muscles and generally rejuvenating ready for the next day. The amount of sleep we need varies throughout our lives but adults typically need somewhere between 7 to 9 hours – I’m definitely a 9 hour person!
Our usual sleep patterns can be affected by all kinds of things such as jet lag, pain or illness, a new baby in the house or shift work. It can also be affected by our emotional wellbeing. Problems with sleep are a recognised symptom of depression and anxiety disorders. You may find that no matter how much rest you get you feel continually tired and so are tempted to lie in and/or have a nap during the day. You may also find it really difficult to fall asleep as your mind is whirling round and round and you simply can’t relax. Difficulties sleeping only add to our low mood and anxiety levels as we find it difficult to concentrate, can’t do the things we usually do, feel more irritable, and generally feel like we’re wading through treacle.
If you are struggling with depression or anxiety take a look at your sleep habits and consider if there are some simple changes you could make as this could make a big difference to how you feel. Here are my top tips to sleep well …
- Keep to a regular time for going to bed and getting up – it’s important to stick to this no matter how much sleep you have had. This can be difficult at first but over time you’ll find it ‘trains you brain’ to know when to sleep.
- Exercise regularly during the day – but not too close to bedtime.
- Schedule in at least 1 hour of wind down time before going to bed – you can’t expect to go from 100mph to 0mph so take some time to relax, put away any work tasks, watch TV or read, take a warm bath and perhaps practise some mindfulness techniques.
- Avoid caffeine, smoking or drinking alcohol close to bedtime.
- Make your bedroom a ‘Sleep Sanctuary’ – tidy up, check the lighting and temperature is right, check that your bed and any clothing you might wear is comfortable. If you find yourself easily disturbed then try wearing ear plugs, and a sleep mask.
- Ban screens of any kind from your bedroom – your brain and body need to know that it’s time to rest – not time for scrolling through social media feeds or catching up on the latest Netflix release.
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