How To Sleep Better and Why It Affects Your Health

couple sleepingMost of us feel we aren’t getting enough sleep from time to time. For some, insomnia is a daily frustration.

Lack of sleep can affect your health and your mood, but by creating a restful space and creating a routine, it is possible to get more rest at night.

March is National Bed Month, so we’ve partnered with The Sleep Council to explain the importance of sleep to your health and share some tips on how to have your best sleep yet.

Why Do We Need Sleep?

During sleep, our bodies are busy repairing all the damage daily life causes, so we’re energised for the next day. Ensuring you get enough sleep is crucial for a number of the body’s functions and for a good quality of life.

Some of the effects of sleep deprivation are well known, such as being grumpy and struggling with concentration, but it can have serious consequences on your health, too. Getting good quality sleep helps in all sorts of ways.

It boosts immunity – while you sleep, your body produces antibodies to fight off foreign substances like bacteria and viruses.

It helps to keep you slim – having enough sleep helps to regulate levels of leptin, a hormone that makes you feel full, and ghrelin, an appetite stimulant. If you’re sleep deprived, your leptin levels fall while ghrelin levels rise, making you more likely to eat more than you should.

It improves your heart health – since you’re more likely to gain weight, you also have a higher risk of heart problems including high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Your body also repairs blood vessels and heart muscles during sleep.

It improves your mental wellbeing – chronic sleep debt can lead to long term mood disorders like depression and anxiety, plus hallucinations. It can also trigger mania in people with manic depression. You may also experience micro sleep, which is when you can fall asleep without realising it. This can be incredibly dangerous if driving and can lead to accidents.

How to Improve Your Sleep

  • Stress and the stimulation of computers, phones and TVs can all make it difficult for your mind to switch off, so it’s best to avoid electronic devices for a few hours before bed.
  • Make a conscious effort to relax before bed by having a bath, reading a book, listening to soothing music or meditating. The 4-7-8 breathing technique can be very effective.
  • Create a sleep schedule, by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. This helps to reinforce your body’s sleep cycle.
  • Going to bed on an overly full or empty stomach can cause discomfort and disrupt your sleep. Alcohol, caffeine and nicotine are all substances which can ruin the quality of your sleep, so it’s best to avoid them just before bed.
  • Most people sleep best in a dark, cool and quiet room, so adjust it with fans, black out curtains or earplugs to create the best environment. The mattress and pillow can also make a big difference. Everyone will have their own preference on softness, so it’s worth shopping around.

The Sleep Council

National Bed Month is an awareness campaign run by The Sleep Council throughout March. We asked Lisa Artis for some pointers on how to improve your sleep and in turn, your health.

Lisa Artis

“Sleep, regardless of age, is extremely important to a healthy lifestyle and should not be taken lightly. It’s a basic and fundamental human requirement and has restorative functions,” Lisa explained.

“Too many people focus on sleep quantity, but what’s important is that the sleep you get is of good quality. Make sure you regularly assess your sleep quality and comfort levels.

“The foundation of a good night’s sleep is a comfortable, supportive bed. It’s difficult to get deep, restful sleep on an old, uncomfortable bed. A bed with the correct support, comfort and space will ensure you wake less, move about less, are less disturbed by your partner and are less likely to wake up feeling tired or aching. An uncomfortable one can result in loss of nearly an hour’s sleep. Beds deteriorate gradually and if you’ve reached the point when you know yours is uncomfortable, you’ve already been compromising your sleep quality for some time.  We advise thinking about replacing the bed after about seven years.

“Make sure you use adequate bed clothes and pillows too. Use the right tog duvet for the time of year – it’s not uncommon to have a winter and summer duvet. A good pillow should hold your head in the correct alignment – that is, in the same relation to your shoulders and spine as if you were standing upright with the correct posture. One that is too soft will allow the head to flop, curving the neck. One that is too hard will give you a crick in the neck.

“Creating – and maintaining – the perfect sleep environment is an essential part of achieving the best possible quality sleep. A restful bedroom environment should be cool, quiet and dark, and free from distractions – that means removing computers, tablets, mobile phones and even TVs. Avoid screen time at least an hour before bed, as the blue light that emits from these devices messes around with your body’s circadian rhythms by suppressing the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.”

The London Sleep Centre

We asked Dr Irshaad Ebrahim, Medical Director of the Harley Street Sleep Centre  and also more recently the London Sleep Centre in Dubai to comment on the importance of Good Bed Health.

Dr Irshaad Ebrahim

“The importance of environmental factors such as the comfort of one’s bed, ventilation in the Bedroom, the comfort of bed clothes and environmental temperature are often overlooked – it is only after one has excluded an environmental cause for sleep symptoms that we look to a medical cause”

“If you develop symptoms such as Sleep Maintenance Difficulties, Morning Fatigue and a sense of unrefreshing sleep – look first to your sleep environment and optimise that. If after having optimised your environment your symptoms continue, then please seek assistance from your local sleep clinic” Said Dr Ebrahim

The London Sleep Centre  is a leader in the provision of diagnostic and treatment services for people with Sleep Disorders and related Medical and Psychological disorders. Our unique approach integrates a variety of models of care for people with sleep problems and disorders. We have expertise in the assessment and treatment of the full range of Sleep Disorders from Sleep-Related Breathing Disorders such as Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) through to Insomnia, Narcolepsy and sleep related problems of Pregnancy, Psychiatric and Medical conditions.

Dr Irshaad Ebrahim is the Medical Director of The London Sleep Centre (Founded in 2002).. His Clinical interests include the treatment of patients with Insomnia, Parasomnias (Behaviours in Sleep), Narcolepsy and Memory disorders.

Internationally, Dr Ebrahim is active in developing Sleep Medicine Services and Organizations and in 2011, co-founded The South African Society of Sleep Medicine. He has an international clinical practice in South Africa at The Constantia Sleep Centre and more recently in Dubai (United Arab Emirates).

Note: This articles does not represent an endorsement of The ID Band Co products by The London Sleep Centre.

Disclaimer:

The information in our blog articles is for personal use only and not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment plans. We are not medical health practitioners or mental health providers. If you’re worried about a potential medical condition, contact your GP or call an ambulance in an emergency situation

Note: This articles does not represent an endorsement of The ID Band Co products by The London Sleep Centre.

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