Sleep has such a massive impact on how we function - from our mood, to our energy levels and our general wellbeing. Yet so many of us in the modern world suffer with insomnia, interrupted sleep or simply not enough. We're told from a young age that the magic number is 8 hours, however sleep experts have now discovered that it really depends on the individual.
The best way to work with your body? Be aware of your sleep cycle. Our bodies have a 90-minute sleep cycle, which is why it's so much harder to wake up if your alarm goes off half way through. The snooze button is actually your enemy as it confuses your brain and body and in turn causes you to feel sluggish when you roll over and go back to sleep. As soon as you start to drift off again your body releases hormones which may trick your body into falling into a deep sleep. So really you should be waking up after 6, 7.5 or else 9 hours' sleep and resisting the snooze button.
What happens to our body when we sleep?
Your body uses this time to recover from the environmental stresses of the day, the process of cellular renewal kick starts repairs and is said to peak around 2am -hence the term 'beauty sleep'. We all know how we look if we don't get enough!
Our sympathetic nervous system chills, blood pressure falls, muscles relax. And although you may think that the brain isn't working much during this time, it is actually processing the day's information and storing your long-term memories. These are just two of many important examples of why sleep is integral to our wellbeing.
The effects of a good night's sleep start the moment you wake up.
Factors that affect our sleep:
Eating enough nutrients and plant based foods will ease digestion and help you drift off. Keep an eye on your timings. Eating at least 3 hours before bedtime allows your body time to digest so you're not uncomfortable.
Burning energy though exercise relieves stress and releases endorphins, tiring you out in the best way possible before you head to bed. But don't exercise right before bedtime, as it wakes your body up. Light stretching or yoga is a good option for unwinding and controlling your breathing before you pop on your pyjamas.
Blue light from our phones, computers and television screens is actually one of the main factors in keeping you awake at night, which is why scrolling in bed really isn't a good idea! This light suppresses our production of melatonin, which affects everything from hormone production, to vision and is even linked to depression. Try to cut down on screen time 3 hours before bedtime and use an alarm clock instead of your phone.
- Time and routine
Your body loves routine. Heading to bed and waking up at the same time every day means that your body starts to know and anticipate its waking hours.
- Mental wellbeing
If you're stressed or suffering with anxiety, this ruins your sleep. Take time to wind down and don't rush yourself or feel guilty if you can't drop off straight away. Meditate, relax, or take up yoga to try and clear your mind of the day's events.
- Body temperature
Although having a nice warm bath before bed is a great way to wind down, give your body chance to cool down before you get into bed. Too hot and you'll find it harder to get to sleep.
So take care of your body, take the time to get your sleep patterns settled and see how much it affects your life. Sweet dreams!