Sleep is the lynch pin of our health. It is the cheapest and easiest way in which we can improve our health, yet for some of us, it is also one of the hardest areas to achieve the optimum amount recommended.
Sleep is essential for our optimum health and lack of sleep can cause a myriad of problems, increasing our risk of disease, stress, affecting mood and inflammation.
We have all experienced that feeling of not being so alert when we are tired.
To understand more about sleep I highly recommend reading Matthew Walker´s book “Why we sleep” . He is the director of the Centre for Human Sleep Science
"Human beings are the only species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent gain," Walker says. "Many people walk through their lives in an under slept state, not realizing it." He points out that lack of sleep — defined as six hours or fewer — can have serious consequences. Sleep deficiency is associated with problems in concentration, memory and the immune system, and may even shorten life span.
"Every disease that is killing us in developed nations has causal and significant links to a lack of sleep," he says. "So that classic maxim that you may [have] heard that you can sleep when you're dead, it's actually mortally unwise advice from a very serious standpoint."
I really believe that the best way to be “fit to love your life” is to get the basics right, as I often say it is not about fancy quick fixes, but rather ensure the fundamentals are in place. Sleep should be the easiest fundamental to achieve, after all it doesn't cost anything and it is not like we have to go and run a marathon or do exercise we do not like.
But yet as we got older we tend to fight sleep - we stay up late watching TV, having a drink, or scrolling through social media, and then before we know it we have no hope of getting our 7-8 hours of sleep and often not even managing 6 hours before the alarm goes off. We then think we can sleep in at the weekends to make up for it, but unfortunately it does not work that way. The damage caused by lost sleep is done when it happens.
For some of us sleep is super easy and once we do get to bed , staying asleep and not waking up early or in the night. But for others trying to get to sleep or stay asleep can be a real struggle. Unfortunately it can be one of those things that the more we think about it, the more anxious we get about it and then any chance we have of sleeping goes out of the window, As someone who has struggled with sleep problems I completely understand how hard this can be and how frustrating it is when others around us can happily sleep contentedly for their 8 hours - or even sleep soundly on a plane …how does anyone do that !
For those who struggle with sleep, having a good routine is crucial to help to find that elusive 7or 8 hours. It is generally not one step by itself that can help, but a combination of many it is definitely a case of the more of these that you tick , then greater the chance of a good nights sleep.
As a general rule to get the best night sleep you should
Only drink caffeine in the morning.
Go to bed around the same time every day (including weekends)
Getting out in daylight in the morning can help to reinforce the circadian rhythm, which is our body´s sleep wake cycle.
Sleep in a dark room, and reduce the light in the evening, to signal to our body it is time to rest and to produce melatonin which helps us sleep.
Avoid screens, TV and bright lights before bed
Exercise helps our circadian rhythm, but not intensive exercise late in the evening.
Alcohol whilst it may help you to initially fall asleep, will cause interrupted sleep patterns.
Not going to bed hungry or with a full stomach.
Other ways that can help wind down after the day, include doing some meditation, gentle breathing exercises to slow your breath down, or some gentle yoga poses to allow the body and mind to slow down,
The better our routine is, the better the sleep with become, and the greater positive impact it will have on your health.