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Going a single day without enough sleep can make you feel cranky and out of sorts. But did you know sleep plays a major role in your performance, eating habits and overall health? It does. When there’s pressure from work or relationships, sleep is often the first part of our life to suffer. But taking steps to make sure you sleep well can have benefits for your body and mind.
Experts recommend that adults sleep at least 7 or more hours every day. But it’s not just the amount of sleep that matters, the quality matters too. What counts as good quality? Sleep with little or no interruptions which leaves you feeling rested and energized.
Here’s more about the benefits of sleeping well…and in case it’s difficult for you, tips to do just that.
The effects of good sleep on your health
Good sleep has numerous benefits for your health, while poor sleep can have unwanted effects. And vice versa, too. So outside of the general crankiness and fatigue, how does sleep affect the rest of your life? It can have knock-on effects on diet, appetite, energy, and athletic performance.
During sleep, your body regulates your hormones. Hormones regulate all your body functions including appetite, fullness and hunger. The hormone that makes you feel full is called leptin, and the one that makes you feel hungry is ghrelin. Without good enough sleep, these hormones get out of balance. Your ghrelin levels increase and leptin levels decrease. This imbalance means you tend to feel hungry, rather than full.
And you can imagine what that does. Yep, bad sleep can trigger overeating and weight gain. In fact, research shows that people who didn’t sleep enough had a higher risk of being obese or overweight. So it’s best to climb into bed early rather than watching one extra episode of your favorite Netflix show.
Energy levels, stamina, and performance
It’s no secret that poor sleep can make you feel tired or lazy. But poor sleep can also affect your workouts and make you less likely to complete them. If you’ve ever skipped the gym or done 20 minutes of walking instead of an hour-long jog, you’ll know what we mean. It’s ok to do this sometimes after occasional bad sleep of course.
But if it’s happening regularly, you might have a problem. It’s also a bit of a vicious circle. Research shows that exercise and sleep affect each other. When you sleep well, you have better workouts, and you are likely to stick to them. And when you have better workouts, you are more likely to sleep well. So if you end up not working out regularly because of bad sleep, you might find it more difficult to…umm…sleep. Talk about a catch-22!
Sleep also improves your speed, accuracy, and ability to respond to new challenges or cues. So you’ll want to have had good shut eye for your first attempt at a new sport or activity.
Moods, emotions and mental health
Good sleep is critical for your mental health. Poor sleep increases your risk of mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Also, poor sleep makes it easier for you to react negatively to any stressful situations. And it also reduces positive emotions—you feel grumpy, cranky and out of sorts. You might feel down in the dumps or generally more frustrated and anxious.
Good sleep does the opposite. Recent research shows that improving your sleep leads to better mental health. A large analysis of data on sleep and mental health showed that improved sleep quality reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. It also reduced symptoms of psychosis and made people feel less stressed.
And the more sleep improvements people made, the greater the benefits were. You know how you feel after a night of great sleep, when you wake yup energized, relaxed, and ready to face the day? You want that as regularly as possible!
Tips for sleeping long and well
If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, here are some sleep hygiene tips which might improve the quality of those forty winks.
Create a bedtime routine
While some people simply fall asleep the minute they shut their eyes, having a routine can help if you are having difficulty sleeping. You can start by setting a bedtime alarm about an hour before when you want to go to sleep. Set it so you can sleep for at least 7–8 hours.
Next, you can create a set of things you do to unwind and relax. This could include a warm bath, a small cup of warm milk, a light massage, facials, meditation, or reading. You’ll also want to turn off your TV and phone to avoid the blue light and to stop you scrolling endlessly in bed. The idea? Getting into bed feeling calm, relaxed, and ready to quietly drift off.
Create the right environment
It’s easier to sleep well when you are in a supportive environment. According to science, you will sleep better in a cool, dark, comfortable room. That’s why nice hotels always have the aircon on and blockout curtains. If you can invest in good quality curtains and a way to keep your room quiet, do so.
It’s a good idea to keep electronics like the television, smartphones, and laptop away from your sleeping area. You may find you sleep better with soft music or soothing noises – a fan or white noise machine can work wonders here.
Limit food and drinks at night
You might feel like a carbohydrate-heavy meal helps you sleep, but the carb crash isn’t actually the solution to lasting good sleep. Large meals or drinks at night can interfere with your sleep. Drinks containing caffeine and alcohol can stimulate your brain and make it hard to sleep.
Excessive amounts of water before bedtime can interrupt your sleep for bathroom breaks. Watery foods like soups and salty foods can also make you more likely to wake up to pee. Try to stop drinking an hour or two before bed, if possible.
Exercise and get exposed to light in the daytime.
Exercise has been linked to better sleep. Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. Getting enough exercise can help you sleep better at night. Plus, exercise has positive effects on mental health – and improved mental health can also help you sleep better.
Daylight and bright light during the day helps your body set its natural clock. When you get enough daylight during the day and stay in a dark room at bedtime, that reminds your body that it’s bedtime. And your body releases the hormones that help you sleep. So make sure you’re getting some of that sunshine whenever you can.
Do what you need to do for good sleep
Good sleep is an important part of wellness and a cost free way to show yourself some self-care. It soothes, restores and rejuvenates. Quality sleep helps you manage your appetite, improves your performance, protects your mental health, and supports all round wellbeing. But yet, so many of us still struggle with falling and staying asleep each night.
To improve your sleep quality, it can help to have a routine, create the right environment and avoid food and drinks that can wake you up at night. But when nothing seems to work, it might be worth seeing your doctor to discuss whether there are any underlying causes of your poor sleep. Investing in good sleep is an investment in your overall wellbeing.