Sleep is one of the most underrated aspects of health and fitness. You cannot be healthy without sleep, yet it is a completely free and one of nature's best medicines. Sleep is the golden chain that binds health and our bodies together. - Thomas Dekker
Almost every day, I am reminded just how important sleep is - on TV documentaries and the news, on social media, in magazines, and by other people - clients, friends, family: Nick, I always feel so much better after a good night's sleep... And it's so true, with 7-8 hours of good sleep behind you, even the toughest challenges seem more manageable.
So why, it seems, is everyone so tired nowadays?
In the 1900s people slept for 2-3 hours more per night, on average, than today. That builds to a staggering 730 extra hours per year. Today’s fast paced society has placed sleep just too low down in each twenty-four hour period. We would rather watch TV late, surf the net, stay out socialising, and then expect the body to function at full capacity, day in day out, without adequate rest and recovery. Ultimately we are robbing ourselves of crucial repair time for the body and mind and this leads to dysfunction.
Matthew Walker - Sleep Scientist and author of 'Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams' says: “First, we electriﬁed the night; light is a profound degrader of our sleep. Second, there is the issue of work: not only the porous borders between when you start and ﬁnish, but longer commuter times, too. No one wants to give up time with their family or entertainment, so they give up sleep instead".
A recent survey of 8,250 British adults conducted by the National Centre for Social Research and analysed by Oxford Economics (source: The Times Newspaper) has revealed that quality of sleep has by far the strongest association with well-being among elements of our lifestyle that we can control. Spicing up our sex lives, chatting to neighbours, going for a walk, eating with family and looking up school and university friends are linked to happiness — but sleeping well outweighs them all, the study says.
Here are some more stats (ref: Guardian Newspaper, Sept 2017) that will really make you want to go to bed early:
An adult sleeping only 6.75 hours a night would be predicted to live only to their early 60s without medical intervention
If you drive a car when you have had less than ﬁve hours’ sleep, you are 4.3 times more likely to be involved in a crash. If you drive having had four hours sleep, you are 11.5 times more likely to be involved in an accident
The time taken to reach physical exhaustion by athletes who obtain anything less than eight hours of sleep, and especially less than six hours, drops by 10-30%
There are now more than 100 diagnosed sleep disorders, of which insomnia is the most common.
12 Practical Tips to help Top Up your Sleep Bank:
Get outside in the sunshine 15-30 mins every day with no sunscreen, no sunglasses. Let the sunshine flush over your body and eyes. This stimulates the pineal gland, a small endocrine gland in the brain, to produce melatonin (the bodies natural sleep hormone).
Dim the lights in the evening - try light switch dimmers, natural beeswax candles (non-scented) and salt lamps. The Salt Lamp Company is a dedicated brand importing unique Himalayan Salt Lamps and products, Australian owned and located at Mundoolun in Brisbane. Himalayan Salt Lamps produce and release negatively charged ions into the atmosphere, instantly negating the harmful effects of the positively charged ions (generated by electrical equipment) saturating our living / working spaces.
Unplug all electronics in the bedroom – no TVs, phones, tablets, use your watch as an alarm… and blackout the windows – make your bedroom a ‘cave’ of calm and relaxation. Open the window and make it as dark as possible.
Wear amber sunglasses (a.k.a. 'blue blockers') in the evening around the house and in front of the TV and computer, to block out the blue light... although there is no real substitute for just avoiding bright lights at night.
Choose the twilight mode on your smart phone or just get flux on your PC. This is a great tool that makes the colour of your computer's display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.
Take a hot shower/ bath just before bed time (but avoid nasty scented soaps); the hot water aids sleep not because it makes you warm, but because your dilated blood vessels radiate inner heat, and your core body temperature drops. To successfully initiate sleep, your core temperature needs to drop about 1C. Try adding Epsom salts in the bath. When dissolved in warm water, the magnesium in Epsom salts is absorbed through the skin to help replenish magnesium levels in the body. Magnesium helps promote a feeling of calm and relaxation.
Thinking about redecorating the bedroom? Choose non-toxic paint. Traditional household paint contains toxic chemicals called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that are released into the air for years after application. VOCs have been linked to many health conditions including breathing difficulties, dizziness, headaches, fatigue, blurred vision and even cancer.
Does what we eat make a difference? Try to reduce your intake of caffeine/ sugar/ alcohol after lunchtime; and in general avoid 'processed foods' as the they will disrupt sleep by sending your blood sugar levels into a roller-coaster. Drink plenty of water (0.033 x your bodyweight in kgs).
Avoid emotional/stressful conversations late in the evening, as this can increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol (known as sympathetic dominance or 'flight or fight'). This will inhibit the production of melatonin and seratonin, which together help the body at night to relax, repair and recover.
Write down 3 things in a notepad last thing at night that have made you smile/happy that day. This will set off positive emotions inside your head, increase seratonin levels and help you drift off to that happy place :) I have been doing this most nights for over 10 years, and it makes a massive difference for me.
Choose a progressive alarm clock, that wakes you up with the 'sounds of nature' - like the early morning sun's rays softly kissing your face!
Go camping to 'reset' your circadian clock. No phones/tablets/devices allowed!
Reference: CHEK Institute
One more point worth noting is that our bodies and the planet we live on, both work optimally with daily 'circadian' rhythms (as much as possible).
- the planet (moon cycles, sea tides, seasons)
- your body (bowel habits, food intake and sleep/ wake-up times).
Neither copes well with constant changes ultimately leading to breakdown, dysfunction and dis-ease.
What time should we ideally go to bed then?
It's better to go to bed earlier and get up earlier, as the body does a great of healing between 10pm and 2am, stimulating growth and repair of your cells to help re-energise for the new day ahead :)
One more sleep quote (my favourite!) before I head off for a hot shower, 5 mins on the foam roller and some well deserved ZZZZZs.
Sleep is my drug, my bed is my dealer, and my alarm clock is the police - Anon
10 Things You Can Try Today:
1. Aim to be in bed by latest 10.30 each night.
2. Minimise exposure to bright lights 2 hours before bed - try using candles/ low watt bulbs.
3. Sleep in total darkness.
4. No caffeine/ sugar/ alcohol after lunchtime.
5. No 'processed foods' - will disrupt sleep cycle.
6. Drink plenty of water :)
7. Exercise - daily foam roller/ breathing exercises before bed.
8. Unplug all electrical appliances in bedroom (or move to opposite side of room). N0 TV in bed!
9. Keep notebook by bed for positive thoughts at bedtime :)
10. Epsom salts bath (for magnesium) - also try a zinc supplement too.
For your own personal sleep assessment and daily Healthy Habits checklist, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0434990572.