TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse …

Posted by Heather Doggett on 30 November 2018

……..with the exception of approximately two thirds of adults throughout all developed nations who do not attain the recommended average 8 hours of sleep per night.  In fact, the decimation of sleep is having such a catastrophic impact on our health, life expectancy, safety and productivity that sleep loss is now deemed the epidemic causing the greatest public health challenge in the twenty first century in developed nations.

THE IMPACT

Insufficient sleep, even short periods of poor sleep, can contribute to negative health:–

  • Profoundly disrupts blood sugar levels; increased risk of diabetes
  • Increases the likelihood of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure
  • Contributes to all major psychiatric conditions including anxiety and depression
  • Reduces male and female reproductivity
  • It can devastate the immune system reducing our ability to fight infection and illness and more than doubling the risk of cancer
  • It can determine if you will develop Alzhiemer’s disease
  • Causes weight gain
  • Shortens the life span
  • Reduces productivity and our safety within the workplace
  • Costs most nations more than 2% of their GDP

HOW DOES SLEEP HELP US?

Within the brain, sleep enriches our ability to learn, memorize, make logical decisions and choices and supports our psychological health.  In the body, sleep re-stocks our immune system which in turn prevents infection, warding off all types of sickness and helps fight malignancy.  It rebalances the body’s metabolic state, regulates our appetite and lowers blood pressure.  Thousands of studies show that there is no biological function that does not benefit from a good night’s sleep.

TIPS FOR A HEALTHY SLEEP*

  • Stick to a sleep schedule – go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Sleeping later at weekends will not fully make up for a lack of sleep during the week
  • Set an alarm for bedtime to facilitate 8 hours potential sleep time
  • Exercise every day for at least 30 minutes but no later than 2–3 hours before bedtime
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine as both are stimulants. Caffeine can take 8 hours to wear off fully.
  • Avoid alcohol before bed. Heavy use prevents REM sleep – the deep, restorative sleep our bodies need.
  • Avoid large meals and beverages late at night – this can cause indigestion and nighttime waking to urinate.
  • Check any regular medicines that you take – some commonly prescribed medications can disrupt sleep patterns – talk to your Doctor or pharmacist if this may be the case.
  • Try not to take naps after 3pm. Naps can help make up for lost sleep but too late and they can impact on falling asleep at night.
  • Relax before bed. Use reading or listening to music as part of your bedtime ritual.
  • Take a hot bath before bed. The drop in body temperature after getting out of the bath can help you relax and slow down.
  • Ensure a dark, cool, gadget free bedroom. Get rid of anything in the bedroom that might distract you from sleep – TV, mobile phone, computer.
  • Do not clock watch – Turn any clock face out of view so you do not worry about the time whilst trying to fall asleep
  • Have the right sunlight exposure. Daylight is key to regulating our sleep patterns.  Get outside in natural light for at least 30 minutes each day.  If you have problems falling asleep, get an hour of exposure to morning sunlight and turn down the lights before bedtime.
  • Don’t lie in bed awake. If you are still awake for more than 20 minutes or starting to feel anxious or worried, get up and do some relaxing activity until you feel sleepy

*Taken from Tips for getting a Good Night’s Sleep, National Library of Medicine (US)

We all know who won’t visit if you are not asleep on Christmas Eve – what better reason could you want to start improving your sleep?

Wishing you all a very happy and healthy Christmas and New Year.