The other night was hot, sticky and full of mosquitoes. Those annoying %*&^ers kept me awake half the night. Critter v Woman (and electric fly swat) was a euphoric battle until almost dawn. The early morning alarm did not feel great.
I was knackered, and it wasn’t due to the body count I had inflicted. I missed out on sleep. Good quality sleep. Which, it struck me, just like good health, we only notice when we don’t have it.
Sleep is a bit mysterious isn’t it? When all is well, we go to bed when we’re tired, drift off immediately and awaken feeling refreshed and rejuvenated like we just slept in the arms of an angel. But when its not - its like existing in our own private hell of dark, duvet-rolling, heavy-sighing aloneness!
Part of that middle-of-the-night-pain, is the knowing of what’s coming the next day. Tired, grumpy, with endless daylight hours yawning before us and every task a huge effort. We know we aren't on top of our game, and we can trust our body on that assessment; the research shows we definitely aren't!
The evidence is clear - lack of sleep equals higher risk for illness and accidents, more likely to feel stressed and irritable, to have mood and relationship problems, a poor performing brain, poor work performance, and weight gain.
So exactly what happens when we are asleep? Well just about every critical body activity you can think of! Our internal organs rest and recover, tissues repair, muscles grow, memories consolidate, and the hormone leptin that regulates appetite control and metabolism is released (i.e. no leptin means a stronger appetite and more cravings the next day leading us to overeat!). Its safe to say that sleep quality is as important as diet and exercise for our well-being.
When we have a good night’s sleep we have more energy and are more likely to make better food and lifestyle choices. For instance, cooking instead of takeaway, exercise instead of couch. Our immune system is strengthened, we feel more alert focused and creative, it improves our mood and increases our sex drive.
So I think we all agree we want it. So how do we ensure we get it?
If you are one of the 30% of people who report sleep troubles, then there are some things to consider.
The main one is how are we ‘shutting’ ourselves down at night? In the ‘olden days’ when Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were still in nappies, we couldn’t pay our bills, catch up on work and emails, order our brother’s birthday present, obsess over Facebook or act on any other random thought that might pop into our head at 11pm. In the olden days, before 24/7 access to the world, we would jot a thought down on a piece of paper and look into it tomorrow. In the olden days we wouldn’t watch a thriller in bed at 10pm. It got dark, and we all went to bed at 9pm because there was nothing else to do.
Modern life means we tend not to get winding down time. And our bodies aren’t used to it. Even though we are intellectual mental beings, it helps to remember that we are also still physical beings. Our body moves to the rhythms of the world in which we live. They need the message and the time to wind down. Artificial lighting, flickering of screens and our rampant thought processes don’t do this. So if you can’t sleep, try making a conscious choice to slow down as bedtime approaches.
Other things to consider if you’re struggling with sleep are:
If you notice that you are having problems sleeping, try keeping a journal noting what things do and don’t work, and see if you can identify any patterns.
Sleep is crucial for your health and well-being. Wouldn’t it be great to just bound out of bed, focused and ready for your day? Addressing your sleep can help make that a reality. If you need some help working out what’s affecting your sleep then make a health consultation with me today.
I'd love to hear your favourite mysterious sleep-making tips, comment below!
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Health coach, Mindfulness teacher, Mother, Bee Pollen consumer. "You want health? Well, health costs, and right here is where you start paying in sweat" (tee hee - actually its really rather pleasurable and fun!)