Sleep! For many, an elusive thing that is often not making a large enough appearance through the week, for others it comes easily … for most it is rarely prioritised and is put to one side for that extra half hour of Netflix, that late night phone call, or just bumbling about because of an active mind after a demanding day.
Many hours of study and research have gone into sleep – sleep quality, sleep length, the effects of sleep deprivation, this list goes on. Out of this, it is still very difficult to treat people with lasting sleep disturbances, however there are some clear guidelines about why we might want to begin re-prioritising our sleep health, and how we can help ourselves to get better quality sleep when our head hits the pillow.
Below are some interesting pointers to the why’s and how’s of sleep – you may be a tired new parent, or a late-working accountant who to some extent is not able to fully control the reasons they are not getting their regular rest hours. Even if this is you, or a near match, there is often small things that can help to make the most of what we can get. Remember, more important than the quantity of sleep in hours, is the quality of sleep – meaning what happens within us when we are sleeping.
5 things you may not know that sleep is important for
- Weight loss via fat loss (what?! Yes!)
- Recovery and repair
- Mental agility, focus and performance at work
- Emotional intelligence
- Long term health
5 tips to help your sleep quality
- Turn off your screens at least two hours before bed – this includes kindle on the tablet, games on the mobile phone, texts, internet browsing … the lot. Why? – the blue light from screens is the worst culprit for ruining a good restful sleep.
- Keep your bed as a sleep space, not a work space. – your osteopath will give you ‘the look’ anyway if you reveal that you have been doing all your assignments, reports, and admin on the laptop whilst sitting on your bed … not good for your spine, not good for your aching muscles, not good for your eyes, not good for your concentration … and not good for getting to sleep once you get back into bed to attempt some shut-eye. This includes watching television in bed.
- Get a routine rolling! – our bodies looove routine, we are a creature of cycles – hormonal cycles, blood pressure cycles, and yes, sleep-wake cycles. Having a regular routine before bed helps to align your physiological state with your wish to sleep. This can be as simple as a calming hot drink an hour before bed; a gentle movement routine if you are enjoying your yoga or other type of practise; reading (not on a screen!) for a set amount of time – the list really is endless of what you could incorporate into your (short or long) evening routine.
- Support your thinking-mind to switch off – the power of lists. Busy lives are aligned with busy minds, and thoughts of things to do and not to forget have a habit of fighting for attention and disturbing sleep. Try keeping a notebook next to your bed and, perhaps as part of rolling out an evening routine, try writing a list of things of things to set down out of your mind, with the comfort that having written them down in your list you will be able to come back to them at a more realistic time. Even if you wake up during the night and think of yet another pressing thing, writing this down can help you to get back to sleep. (meditation has also been shown to improve sleep quality, lower stress and improve cognition over time – it can help to reduce that ‘mental chatter’)
- Is what you eat helping or hindering you? – As a rule, independent of your chosen way to eat, certain foods will not help your sleep life. Caffeine disturbs your normal sleep cycle meaning that even if you think you sleep normal hours after that post-prandial coffee, you will not get the benefits of a full night’s sleep. Caffeine even six hours before sleep can make you lose up to an hour of sleep quality even if you are asleep. Have a caffeine curfew, I recommend stopping having caffeine at least eight hours before bed. Other things to think about are MSG, as well as getting enough of the ‘goodies’ such as potassium, magnesium, etc.
Look out on our City Osteopathy blog for more information coming about how to support healthy sleep, as well as lots of top information on many other interesting and worthwhile topics!