Estimated 8-minute read

We all know how important sleep is – it can help us feel energetic, rested, and ready for the day ahead. The main difficulty when it comes to a good night’s sleep is what we can do to make that happen. Sometimes, it can feel like however long you are sleep for, or whenever you try and fall asleep - you find it tricky to get into a good routine or wake up feeling tired.

Seeing as it is World Sleep Day - in this blog, we will be going through what it is that makes sleep so important; and sharing some tips on how to make sure you get the best night’s sleep you can.

Why is sleep so important?

Sleep is essential to our ability to function. When we are asleep, it gives our body and mind the opportunity to refresh and recharge – enabling us to feel awake and be at our best for the following day.

Here are just some of the reasons why sleep is so key for us:

  • Poor quality sleep can lead to weight gain through poor appetite regulation[1] – it has been shown that people who have shorter amounts of sleep can experience a reduction in the levels of a hormone called leptin. The lower our levels of leptin, the greater our appetite!

 

  • Low quality sleep is linked to depression – research has shown that up to 90% of people who are experiencing depression are also having trouble with their sleep[2]. Also, people who suffer from sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and insomnia report higher rates of depression than people without sleep issues[3].

 

  • Sleep reduces levels of inflammation and can help us stave off diseases – sleep plays an important role in reducing inflammation and it is thought that reduced amounts of sleep can lead to increased disease activity[4]. In contrast, regular sleep can boost our auto-immune response to illnesses. Just one extra hour of sleep can make you much less likely to catch a cold![5]

 

  • Good sleep can improve your cognitive functioning – this one should be obvious! If you are getting enough good quality sleep, you are likely to exhibit improved concentration, creativity, problem-solving and memory[6]. It has also been shown that sleep deprivation can lead to some areas of brain function becoming equivalent to that of an individual who is intoxicated![7]

 Good night's sleep and who knows?... 

In short, sleep is massively important and has impacts on many different areas of our lives. We’ve only touched lightly on some of ways that sleep can impact our everyday lives. It is often thought that not getting enough sleep can only really lead to you feeling tired the following day, but it can make very impactful physical and biological changes to our bodies – both in the short and long term.

 

What can I do to improve my sleep?

We know what you are thinking – “Okay, great. I know now loads more about why sleep is important for me… Although, I am still unsure of how to improve my sleep!”

Well, here are some quickfire tips to help you get your best night’s sleep in ages:

  • Increase bright natural light exposure – spending time outside during the daytime can help maintain your body’s circadian rhythm which helps your body wind down when it is time to go to sleep. In fact, while you are out enjoying the sunshine, you could…

 

  • Exercise! – whenever you exercise, your body releases a hormone called melatonin. This wakes you up during and immediately after exercise, but as the levels fall throughout the day; you will become tired. Consider getting your exercise done in the morning or afternoon if you can!

 

  • Reduce screen times in the evenings – another thing you should try and avoid late in the evenings is screen time. Our devices create blue light which stimulates our brain making it harder to fall asleep – try reading a book or doing a sudoku?

 We've all been there... 

  • No caffeine or alcohol in the late evenings – this one shouldn’t be too much of a surprise! Caffeine will wake you up, and alcohol inhibits your ability to get high quality sleep. Although coffee is great for waking you up, if you are going to partake in caffeine or alcohol, try to avoid them too late in the evening!

 

  • Try and build a strong routine – if you can build a strong routine of waking up and going to sleep at the same time, you will naturally start to feel tired at around the same time each evening. This can really help your body to unwind and make sleeping a breeze!

 

  • Make your bedroom comfortable and cool – speaking of breeze, one of the best way to help your body know it is time to go to sleep is to make sure your bedroom is cooler than other rooms in your home. It has been shown that temperature can have more of an impact on sleep than external noise![8]

  • Don’t eat too late in the evening – large, carbohydrate heavy meals can impact the release of melatonin leading to poor sleep if consumed too late in the evening. Our advice here would be to try and eat your main meal in the evening at least 3 hours before you go to sleep. After that, sugary foods will wake you up and effect your sleep.

 

  • Try listening to an audiobook or podcast quietly as you drift off – this is one that we would highly recommend! Listening to something as we fall asleep can be really beneficial – it can help to relax us and help us naturally off to sleep. Why not try an app like Headspace? Or listen to the My Sporting Minds Podcast?

 

  • Try not to drink too many fluids, too late – it is recommended that you don’t drink too many fluids within an hour of going to bed. It is important to stay hydrated during the day, but drinking too late in the evening can cause you to wake up during the night and be a little unsettled.

 

Sleep can sometimes seem like a complicated puzzle to solve, and while a lot goes into making sure we get a good night’s sleep – it doesn’t have to be too tricky. The important thing is that you find a routine that works for you and make little changes to see what works for you. Hopefully some of the tips discussed today will be of some help in you having a peaceful and restful night’s sleep – giving you more energy to be active and exercise during the day!

 

References

[1] - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC535701/

[2] - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16259539/

[3] - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25128225/

[4]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3995194/

[5]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19139325/

[6] - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15824327/

[7] - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10984335/

[8] - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1811316/