The Power of sleep

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Have you been struggling to sleep recently?
If so, you aren’t alone.

Lockdown has disrupted sleep patterns, causing many people restless nights and disturbed sleep. As such, we weren’t all that surprised to see some new data published by Premier Inn, finding that more and more people are encountering sleep issues. The hotel chain has found that people in the UK type into Google ‘I can’t sleep’ over 6,000 times a month and similarly asks the search platform ‘How to sleep better’ over 5,000 times a month.

This new research from Premier Inn studied British people’s sleeping search trends and online queries to reveal where in the UK sleeps best, and likewise which region has the least trouble nodding off. We’ll let you take a look at the study here, but it seems that if you’re in York, then you’re in luck as they seem to sleep the best, whilst those in Bristol and Manchester are having the most trouble dropping off.

But is sleep really all that it’s cracked up to be? And how much do we all need to be healthy? Here we take a look at the science of sleep in a little more detail…

In short, sleep is an absolutely vital function. It allows your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up. So, if you’re struggling to wake in the morning and have to reach for a coffee daily, then the likelihood is that you may need more – or indeed – a better quality sleep. Without sleep, your brain cannot function properly.

In fact, lack of sleep has been shown to reduce performance and cognitive functioning, increase blood pressure and the production of stress hormones, cause weight gain and increase the risk of many diseases too. In addition to this, a lack of sleep has also been found to increase the risk of accidents and road related deaths and increase mental health conditions too.

Most adults need around eight hours of good quality sleep per night. Yet it’s thought that around three quarters of British adults don’t get nearly enough sleep with many sleeping less than seven hours sleep a night.

In our opinion, the first step in getting a better night’s sleep is to start making sleep a priority. Ultimately it is not a just commodity that we can merely trade for something more exciting. Neither is it a luxury or something that it would be nice to have more of. Rather, it is an essential and fundamental function that all humans need.

So, switch off that Netflix series, put down the laptop, stop strolling your social feeds and dedicate some more time to one of life’s most important priorities; sleep.

Here is our eight-point checklist to help you sleep better

  • Create and stick to a sleep schedule. Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time each day can help to programme your body to sleep better. Human beings thrive on routine and your sleep routine is no different.
  • Set goals and move towards them. Exercise is fantastic to help you sleep, but not when done late in the day. Try not to exercise for the last two to three hours before bed, as it can have a stimulating effect on the body and mean you struggle to drift off. You could however do some gentle yoga, stretches or partake in some mindfulness just before bed to help switch your mind off but make sure it is not too strenuous.
  • Be smart about what you eat and drink. Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol as these have all been shown to impair sleep quality and can all have a stimulating effect on the body. If you do wish to drink caffeine, try to have it before lunch only. Likewise aim to avoid big meals at night and cut back on sugary foods and refined carbohydrates. If you need a snack before bed something protein rich like a banana or a handful of nuts and plain yoghurt are perfect.
  • Know your strengths and use them. Try to limit the time you spend in your bedroom doing activities other than sleeping. Try to avoid non-specific sleep activities such
    as watching TV or working in the bedroom. This helps to maintain a strong, learned association between the bed and sleep. Whatever you do make sure you don’t get into bed and start scrolling social media, this will undo all your hard work around eating well and sticking routines.
  • Avoid naps after 3pm. Power naps can help to momentarily improve concentration, but if taken after 3pm they can be detrimental to your normal sleep routine. If you do take a nap, take one early and keep it short.
  • Keep your room cool. The temperature of our bedroom is often an under-appreciated factor in determining the ease in which we’ll fall asleep. Aim to have a bedroom temperature of a little over 18°C. Make sure your duvet or blankets don’t make you overheat and aim to wear pyjamas that are light weight and don’t make you sweat.
  • Remove all electronic devices. We sleep better and for longer when in complete darkness so consider blackout blinds and switch off all electronic devices. Even the backlight from a clock radio can have a detrimental effect on your sleep. Make sure you also avoid using any electronic devices in bed too; these can stimulate us. They can also inhibit melatonin release, a hormone that helps to facilitate the transition to sleep.
  • Finally, if you can’t sleep, get up. Tossing and turning or constantly checking the time will only exacerbate your stress levels. So rather than worrying about it, get up and do something that you find relaxing (such as reading in a dimly lit room) until you feel sleepy again. Then go back to bed

 

When it comes to sleeping, or lack of it, don’t suffer in silence. Not getting enough sleep can be really hard, not to mention incredibly stressful. Try to speak to someone about it or, if restless nights are becoming a regular occurrence, get in touch with your GP. This will rule out the risk of other health conditions preventing you from sleeping too.

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