Sleep your way to better health

When it comes to taking care of your health and wellbeing, you already know that eating your five-a-day, avoiding processed foods, drinking water and exercising regularly go a long way to keeping you in good health. But, if you find yourself feeling run-down, struggling to focus, feeling irritable or binging on unhealthy food, you may want to look at your sleep patterns.

Published in Essex Director magazine, Spring | Summer 2022
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Business Psychology: Sleep

Sleep is important because many psychological and physiological processes occur during the night such as:

  • The rest and recovery of internal organs, tissue repair, muscle growth and protein synthesis.
  • The release of hormones that help to regulate and control your appetite, stress, growth, metabolism and other bodily functions.
  • The consolidation of memories which allows for the creation and storage of new memories which is essential to learning.

The direct connection between sleep and health inevitably helps to improve your quality of life. As well as improving your mood, the benefits of quality sleep are many, and while it may be more difficult to scientifically prove that quality sleep improves health, the negative effects of sleep deprivation are widely documented, and include:

  • Weight gain.
  • Increased risk of chronic disease.
  • Increased risk of accidents and injuries.
  • Decline in cognitive functions.
  • Increased anxiety and trouble keeping your emotions in check.

So how much sleep do you need?

The number of hours vary, depending on the individual and their age, but the general guide for adults is to aim for seven to nine hours every night. However, it’s important to remember, whilst many of us consider activities such as sports or watching TV as rest, we should understand that they aren’t. Fortunately, there are things we can do that will give ourselves the rest we need to function.

What steps can we take to improve the quality of our sleep?

Nutrition

What and when you eat affects your body’s natural ability to both energise and rest. By eating a variety of foods, we help to ensure that we are getting the nutrients we need to maintain our energy levels throughout the day. It is better to consume your largest meal in the middle of the day and a lighter meal in the evening as this takes full advantage of our body’s natural night-time repair process.

Environment

A good night’s sleep is helped by a peaceful bedroom. You could paint your walls a calming colour, use an aromatherapy diffuser, or even invest in a new mattress. There are also several easy and low-cost ways to ensure that your bedroom is conducive to deep sleep. For example clearing out the clutter and removing electronics such as phones and TVs, as these emit ‘blue light’ which affects your body’s production of melatonin.

Daily rhythms

Our bodies take cues from our actions. What we eat, when we eat, what we do and when we do it, are all part of an intricate system of signals that our brain uses to regulate all it needs to do for us to thrive and survive. Honouring these rhythms is vital to our wellbeing. Going to bed and waking up at a similar time each day can help the body get into a healthy rhythm. So, train the mind to prepare for sleep by creating a bedtime routine. Also, reduce ‘busy brain’ at night, by putting a journal and pen near your bed. Then if you think of something, jot it down, knowing that it’s safe to forget about it until morning.

Often the missing link to a healthy lifestyle may just be a good night’s sleep, so taking steps towards improving your sleep is essential for optimal health.

Sweet dreams!

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