The key to a healthy mind and body
With the days shortening and the nights drawing in, it’s safe to say that a few extra hours under the duvet wouldn’t go amiss. But with the demands of modern life and our love of technology and screen time, fitting in those precious eight hours of sleep can be easier said than done.
Recent research from Aviva has revealed that a quarter (25%) of adults long for a better night’s sleep, and sleeping better is the fastest growing health ambition for adults in the UK. We’ve picked out a few key reasons which highlight the importance of sleep for your wellbeing, and compiled some top tips to help you on your way to a better night’s rest.
Why is sleep so important?
Sleep can aid memory
We’ve all felt that waking refreshed with a clear mind can aid our cognitive performance. Well, that’s because a good night’s sleep can actually help to improve our memories [i]. Although we’re unaware, whilst asleep our brains are still busy churning away. The connections between brain regions strengthen, allowing memories to be consolidated and solidified. This may be especially important to bear in mind if you’re learning a new skill, or have an important exam coming up.
Sleep can help improve mood and concentration
Feeling grumpy and frustrated can be a common sign we’re in need of some kip. This is no coincidence, as Neil Shah from The Stress Management Society informed us that “people deprived of sleep exhibit symptoms such as mood swings, lack of concentration and irritability.” Ensuring you get a good night’s sleep could help lift your mood – benefiting both yourself and others around you.
Sleep can help you stay in shape
It’s been found that sleep-deprived people have reduced levels of leptin (the chemical that makes you feel full) and increased levels of ghrelin (the hunger-stimulating hormone)[ii]. Saying no to that second portion of cake may therefore be even harder if you’re lacking a good night’s rest. Prioritising quality sleep, alongside a healthy diet and exercise regime could help you on your way to a healthy, more energised you.
Top tips to get a better night’s sleep
Feeling motivated to get a better night’s sleep? Here are few simple tips to help you on your way:
1. Get into a routine
Try to unwind each night before bed. Maybe have a hot bath or read a good book – whatever you choose, try to do the same each night. This will signal to your body that it’s time to relax and prepare for sleep.
2. Release those endorphins
We all know the benefits of exercise for our physical and mental health, and exercise can help you sleep better and feel more alert the next day[iii]. If possible, get out in the fresh air, take a walk in the park or even work out in your garden at home.
3. Practice mindfulness meditation
Meditating for a few minutes each day has been shown to help improve sleep[iv] . This isn’t your stereotypical meditation, as mindfulness guides you to focus on the movement of your breath and the present moment. This allows you to notice thoughts coming and going, without judging or interacting with them. It helps guide your body into a more relaxed state, and if practiced regularly, evoking this same response before sleep should become second nature.
4. Choose the right foods
Tryptophan is an amino acid used by the body to make the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin[v]. Opting for protein-rich foods which contain tryptophan before bedtime could therefore help you drift off with ease. Pumpkin seeds, nuts, chicken and turkey are all great choices to get your daily dose.
Hopefully these top tips prove useful next time you turn down for the night. However, if you’re still suffering from ongoing sleep issues, getting to their root-cause could help to eliminate them for good.
Photo Credit: By rachel CALAMUSA - It's time to sleep Uploaded by xiaphias, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26084586