A guide to sleeping better at night
A good night’s sleep is just as important as a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Updated: Thursday 15 April 2021
A good night’s sleep is just as important as a healthy diet and regular exercise. When you fall short on sleep it can heavily impact the amount of energy you have the next day, your mood and it can even impact your weight.
The national sleep foundation recommends that adults should aim to get around 7-8 hours of sleep. This might vary slightly for each individual but not sleeping enough or sleeping too much can have negative effects on our health.
Causes of poor sleep
Even if you try make the effort to sleep early, there may be a number of reasons why you aren’t getting the recommended hours of sleep. Some possible causes behind this include:
- Anxiety and stress
- Using electronics before bed
- Artificial light
- Late night snacking
The impact of poor sleep
- Weakened immune system – your body won’t produce as many cytokines to fight off infections. This means it will take longer to recover from an illness and increase your risk of developing chronic illnesses too.
- Increased risk of developing chronic diseases – these include cardiovascular diseases and respiratory diseases.
- Lack of alertness – Research shows that even just missing 1.5 hours of sleep can have a big impact on you. Cognition, concentration, productivity and performance is heavily impacted with poor sleep.
- Memory impairment – Poor sleep will impact your memory, how you process information and think.
- Mood – sleep deprivation can increase negative moods such as frustration, anger and irritability. It can even increase the risk of depression and anxiety.
Better habits, better sleep
Sleeping allows your body to heal damaged cells, boost your immune system, allows us to recover from daily activities and recharge the heart and cardiovascular for the next day. In order to get better sleep at night, its important you get in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, also known as your circadian rhythm. Limiting the causes of poor sleep can get you on track for better sleep and overall better health, and it starts with a few habitual changes.
- Exercise regularly
A number of studies has suggested that regular exercise has been shown to improve sleep, especially for those with chronic insomnia. Moderate aerobic exercises increase the amount of deep sleep we get which allows our bodies and brain to rejuvenate. It can help decompress the mind and improve our mood.
- Limit alcohol intake
Although alcohol can help people to fall asleep quicker and engage in more deep sleep, it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep occurs 90 minutes after we fall asleep and it is the stage of sleep that we dream. Disruptions in REM sleep will lead to poor concentration and daytime drowsiness.
- Don’t use electronics before bed
The light on ours phone or tablet will expose you to the blue and white light which prevents melatonin from being released which will prevent a good quality of sleep. Aim to stop using any technology 30 minutes before you plan to go to sleep.
- Don’t nap regularly
Short power naps are beneficial to our health, but regularly taking long naps or irregular napping can negatively affect your sleep at night. Sleeping in the day will confuse our internal clock which means you are more likely to stay up at night.
- Sleep and wake at consistent timings
Our body’s circadian rhythm aligns itself with the sunrise and sunset. By sleeping and waking up at the same time every day, it can help with long term sleep quality, help with insomnia and reduce sleep deprivation.