Sleep is an element in life which is fundamental for success. Resting your body and allowing it to repair is crucial. Sleep provides an opportunity for biological processes to take place. The brain stores new information and gets rid of toxic waste. Nerve cells communicate and reorganise, which supports healthy brain function. The body repairs cells, restores energy, and releases molecules like hormones and proteins. These processes are critical for overall wellbeing and health. Without them our bodies just can’t function correctly.
When you have an interrupted, restless night, aswell as feeling lethargic the next day, these key bodily functions are not given time to restore:
- Sleep is a necessity for emotional health. During sleep, the brain activity increases in areas that regulate emotion, including the: amygdala, striatum, hippocampus, insula, and the medial prefrontal cortex. The amygdala is in charge of the fear response. It’s what controls your reaction when you face a perceived threat, like a stressful situation. When you get enough sleep, the amygdala can respond in a more adaptive way. But if you’re sleep deprived, the amygdala is more likely to overreact.
- Whilst sleeping the body restores itself. The idea is that sleep allows cells to repair and regrow. This is supported by many important processes that happen during sleep, including: muscle repair, protein synthesis, tissue growth, hormone release.
- When you sleep, the glymphatic system of the brain clears out waste from the central nervous system. This process removes toxic by-products from your brain. Sleep also allows your neurons to reorganise. Sleep affects many aspects of brain function, including: learning, memory, creativity, focus, and concentration.
If you struggle to get the sleep your body needs, here are a few ways to incorporate into your daily routine in order to help.
- How sleep will be affected is not something we consider during a meal. In one study, researchers tracked diet and sleep for a group of healthy adults over the course of five nights and found that indeed, food choices during the day did affect sleep. The researchers chose what the study participants ate for the first four days of the study, but not on the final day of the study. The data showed that eating less fibre, more saturated fat and more sugar throughout the day was linked with participants getting lighter, less restorative sleep, with more awakenings throughout the night.
- Setting yourself a relaxing routine to repeat every night will decrease the time it takes to fall asleep. Simple changes like turning your lamp on early and switching off the overhead strenuous lights. Some light meditation, perhaps deep breathing exercises, incorporated into a daily routine. Possibly even a warm mug of milk. Of course a key ingredient to a brilliant night’s sleep is to switch off your phone. The blue light a phone lets off stimulates a receptor to release the hormone that wakes you up each morning. By doing these small routines each night your body will being to learn that it’s time to get ready to rest and relax.
- Getting into the regular habit of having a set time where you ‘switch off’ will help your quality of sleep. Health coaches suggest 10pm – 6am is ideal, but obviously this won’t work for everyone’s lifestyles, moulding this as close as you can to your life would be beneficial. With everything, consistency is vital. Letting your body know when to expect sleep will help your body prepare itself for rest.