Bit of a change of pace, but I wanted to talk about sleep this week. We’re all aware of the importance of good nutrition, regular exercise, staying hydrated, managing stress and spending time with loved ones, but good old sleep sometimes gets ignored.
Firstly, I’m writing this in an extremely sleep-deprived state thanks to my daughter’s new molars. The irony is not lost on me.
But it also is important to note, every time I talk about sleep, I hear all the reasons why people can’t get enough sleep, and how it’s never their fault. I am not talking about the times you had to work late, or you had to pull an all nightery to get that assignment due, or your kids caught the plague. I’m talking about the times you watched “just one more” episode of TV until 1 am or sat scrolling on Instagram until the early morning. It’s true, sometimes life will get in the way. But I’m also betting the majority of your weeknights are under your control. So focus on those ones!
Why should I care anyway?
The list of long-term benefits that you’ll experience from regularly getting a good night’s sleep is huge. Reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cognitive decline, muscle loss, fat gain, Alzheimer’s and dementia are just some of the benefits you’ll be setting up for your future self. Short term benefits include increased concentration, decision making and energy levels, as well as a reduction in appetite.
If you’re still not convinced, let me appeal to your shallow side. In a recent study, two groups of subjects were placed on the same diet with the goal of weight loss. The only difference between the groups was that one group slept for approximately 8 hours a night, whilst the other slept for 5 hours a night for two weeks. At the end of this period, they’d both lost the same weight. BUT here’s the thing. The large majority of weight loss by the sleep restricted group was muscle, whilst the longer sleep group last a far greater portion of fat. So unless your long term goals include losing muscle, it might be time to have another look at our sleep routine.
I’m sold, how do I do it?
The thing is, a lot of us suck at it, and that’s largely due to how we’re structuring our day.
1. Improve your sleep hygiene. This means having low light in the bedroom, removing screens from our lives for the last 30 minutes before going to bed and making sure the room is dark and cool when sleeping
2. Limit caffeine consumption within 8 hours of going to bed. Caffeine has a long half-life, which means that 3 pm coffee could very easily be affecting your ability to get to sleep
3. Get some sunlight before lunchtime. This is a hugely overlooked thing for many people. Sunlight in the morning helps regulate our sleep/wake hormones, letting our body know “it’s morning”, so come night time, it’s ready to wind down. Sunlight has the added benefit of boosting your Vitamin D, which is great for your bone health, immune system and mental health!
4. Have a warm shower an hour before bed, to help regulate your body temperature
Finally, remember that it will take some adjusting. You can do all of those things on that list and still not sleep like a baby but, like all good things, it takes time. Consistently sticking to that routine will allow your body to adapt to your new approach and before you know it you’ll be a world-class sleeper!