Why is sleep so important?
Here at rho we love a good night’s sleep but it was only when we read ‘Why we sleep’ by Matthew Walker that it really sunk in how massive an impact prioritising sleep can have on our lives. Matthew is a sleep researcher and the book has sold over a million copies worldwide.
Let’s start with the basics, most adults need between seven and nine hours sleep each night. There is no way of catching up and paying off our ‘sleep debt’ at the weekends, we need more than seven hours every single night to ensure we are not having a permanent negative impact on our health. Getting the right amount and quality of sleep we need is one the biggest ways we can increase our health and wellbeing.
So here’s the scary part - lack of sleep is linked to all kinds of serious physical health problems including heart attacks, strokes and Alzheimers. Not getting enough sleep negatively impacts our mental health too, leading to more negative and irrational emotional responses. Without sleep our cognitive functions are seriously impaired, a lack of sleep makes it much more difficult to lay down new memories in the brain, meaning the concept of an all nighter doesn’t add up! Studies have also shown that we look healthier and more attractive after a proper night’s sleep!
So… what can we do to help us get more sleep?
1. Make sleep a priority – often sleep is the part of the day that gets shortened in favour of more TV or screen time, or that early morning workout. Once you understand the science behind why we need sleep (thanks to Matthew Walker!) it makes it easier to say no to things that might lead to us getting less than seven hours sleep a night.
2. Cut the caffeine – did you know caffeine’s duration of action is half after six hours and a quarter after twelve hours? Meaning that if you have a coffee at 12pm it has the same effect as having a quarter of a cup of coffee right before bed at midnight! Not the best idea for a quality night’s sleep!
3. Screen time - no screens for at least the last hour before bedtime! The blue light dramatically decreases our bodies production of melatonin which our bodies need in order for us to sleep.
4. Dim the lights – try and reduce the brightness of the lighting around you in the run up to bedtime. Turn down dimmer switches by fifty per cent, use lamps, fairy lights and candles so your body knows to get ready for sleep.
5. One of our favourites: diffusing some lavender oil before bed. Make it into a night time ritual so that you associate that gorgeous lavender smell with relaxation and sleep.
6. For parents when sleep loss is just unavoidable – Matthew’s advice is to try and have really strong sleep routines for your children to maximise the likelihood of being able to get more sleep for you too! Keeping toys out of the bedroom, warm baths before bed and calming activities like reading a book or doing a puzzle one hour before bed are on his list of recommendations.