Importance of Sleep and Simple Steps to Help You Sleep Better
In busy stressful lives the importance of sleep is often overlooked. When the truth is that the busier one is the higher the need for a good night’s sleep. Good sleep is how the body recovers from physical and mental stress. Most of us must have experienced the zombie effect on us followed by a bad night.
I have always laid great importance on my and my daughter’s sleep. If I don’t sleep well I know it would be a bad day for everyone around. Also, I know that I tend to be less effective in my work when I am feeling sleepy. I have often experienced headaches due to poor sleep spoiling my entire next day. So my body cries out for a good sleep and I prefer listening to it.
My daughter wakes up for school at 5.15 am. If I make her sleep on time the previous night I find her waking up much more easily. Weekends tend to disrupt the routine and so Mondays are generally tougher.
Importance of Sleep
Sleep is essential for overall health and well-being, and it plays a crucial role. The following points elaborate on the importance of sleep for our overall health.
a) Physical restoration: During sleep, the body is able to repair and rejuvenate itself, including tissue growth and repair, hormone regulation, and immune system function. I have experienced this with my daughter. When her sleep lags she tends to catch a cold much more easily.
b) Mental and emotional well-being: Sleep helps improve mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and enhance cognitive function, such as memory and concentration. I have personally experienced that I tend to be more active and less snappy when I have slept better.
c) Energy and metabolism: Sleep is crucial for regulating energy levels and metabolism, and for maintaining a healthy weight. Sleep is destressing, and stress can be a major hindrance to weight loss.
d) Disease prevention: Lack of sleep has been linked to an increased risk of chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
e) Performance and productivity: Adequate sleep helps improve reaction time, decision-making, and overall performance in both physical and mental tasks. And that is one reason it also impacts your mood.
Most of us need 7-8hours of sleep each night. Babies sleep much more and even small children need 9-10 hours of sleep for proper growth and development. A consistent sleep routine, a comfortable sleep environment, and healthy sleep habits can all contribute to better sleep and improved health.
How to sleep Better
So now that we know that we need to sleep well, an important question you may ask is how do we sleep well? Insomnia is a common problem now a days. For some people it gets acute and needs medical assistance. But following a good lifestyle can ensure that you get a good sleep each night.
Here are some tips that may help improve your sleep quality:
- Establish a consistent sleep routine: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This is really important. Like I mentioned earlier, waking up on Mondays become stressful for my daughter, this is perhaps true for all of us. The irate weekend routines instead of making up for lost sleep deprives us of a good sleep right at the start of a week. I know it sounds boring not to have a weekend bash. But a healthy lifestyle and good health are choices we make with every small and big thing we do.
- Create a sleep-conducive environment: Make sure your bedroom is quiet, cool, and dark. Use comfortable bedding and limit exposure to electronic screens before bedtime. Also use your bedroom only for the purpose of sleeping. Doing this you will see that everytime you come to bed your body will easily fall asleep. Creating similar environment, changing the lighting – all this will send signals to your brain that it is time to sleep.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake: Avoid consuming caffeine, especially in the afternoon and evening, and limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol intake also disturbs the quality of your sleep.
- Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity can improve sleep quality, but avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime. Keep a gap of around 2 hours between exercise and your sleep time. On days I do not complete my evening walk, I find it very difficult to sleep and find myself tossing and turning even after I get in the bed.
- Bedtime Routine: We generally have bedtime routines for small children, but it works wonderfully even for adults. A bedtime routine helps us get in the sleep mode. Engage in relaxation techniques, such as reading, meditation, or taking a warm bath, to help calm your mind and body before bed. There are also easy bedtime yoga routines that can help you unwind and sleep better.
- Limit afternoon naps: Long naps during the day can disrupt nighttime sleep, so limit naps to 20-30 minutes and keep them in the early afternoon. Sleeping too late in the day will surely disturb your night time sleep.
- Be mindful of what you eat and drink: Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods close to bedtime, and limit fluid intake to avoid having to use the bathroom during the night. Dinner should be light to digest as digestion can also disrupt sleep. A hot cup of milk just before sleeping is believed to help one sleep better and has been my go to especially on days I am feeling very tired.
- A warm water bath and foot massage just at bedtime helps me sleep better. This is one of my favourite bedtime routines.
Sometimes it could also be an underlying health condition that is causing you a disturbed sleep. If despite all efforts you are unable to sleep well, do consult a doctor.
Sleep and weight Loss
Sleeping well is also one of the key recommendations for weight loss. Stress we all know can lead to weight gain or difficulty in weight loss. Stress is released when we sleep. We get relaxed and rejuvenated post a good night’s sleep. So if you are having difficulties losing weight do watch your sleep patterns. Here are some points that highlight the importance of sleep for healthy weight loss:
- Hormonal regulation: Sleep deprivation disrupts the balance of hormones that regulate appetite, such as leptin and ghrelin, leading to increased hunger and cravings. I have personally experienced this that on days that I do not sleep well I tend to make unhealthy food choices. You will often see me talking about it in my fitness journal series that I am doing currently. You may read some here.
- Energy metabolism: Sleep is essential for regulating energy levels and metabolism, and insufficient sleep can impair the body’s ability to use insulin, leading to an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
- Physical activity: Lack of sleep can impact physical activity levels, reducing energy and motivation for exercise. Sleep helps you perform better during excercise and good sleep also leads to faster recovery.
- Cognitive function: Poor sleep can impair cognitive function and decision-making, leading to poor food choices and overeating. The imbalance of hormones further accentuate this problem.
- Stress levels: Lack of sleep can increase stress levels, which can lead to overeating and weight gain.
Adequate sleep, usually 7-9 hours per night, can help support weight loss by improving hormonal regulation, energy metabolism, physical activity, cognitive function, and reducing stress levels. Establishing good sleep habits, such as a consistent sleep routine and a sleep-conducive environment, can help improve sleep quality and support weight loss efforts.
Apart for weight loss, as we have seen sleep is essential to our overall wellbeing. If you are aiming at a holistic fitness approach, then having your sleep in check is an absolute must.
I hope this was helpful to you. Would love to hear from you about what helps you sleep better or any other sleep stories 🙂