Sleep the elixir of life blog post by Sharon Shiels

Sleep is one of the most important pillars of health. The importance of sleep cannot be overstated. Scientific studies have shown that sleep is vital to ward off many illnesses and improve our life expectancy. The recommended 7-9 hours every night, can greatly improve your mental and physical health.

Neuroscientist Professor Matthew Walker has researched sleep extensively and his studies show that every physiological system in the body and every operation of the mind is greatly enhanced with sleep, but impaired if you do not get enough sleep.

Sleep deprivation can affect every aspect of our health:

MORE SLEEP will improve immunity, enhance memory and learning, increases longevity and makes you happier.

LESS SLEEP will result in higher risk of stroke, heart attack and diabetes, plus there is an increased risk of cancer and dementia.

Many top athletes know the power of sleep and take advantage of it to enhance their performance. Tennis player, Rodger Federer famously slept 12 hours a day, 10 hours at night, plus a 2-hour nap during the day! Not only does sleep improve performance and reduce risk of injury on the day, but it also aids recovery and tissue restitution. Performing at high level results in more inflammation in the body and sleep is fantastic at reducing chronic inflammation.

Sleep Tips

Establish a regular bedtime routine to help you unwind and prepare for bed. This is important if you find it difficult to fall asleep.

  • Have a set bedtime. Go to bed at same time every night and get up same time every morning – even at weekends!
  • Avoid using smartphones and electronic devices for about 1 hour before bedtime – the blue light from the screen may have a detrimental effect on sleep.
  • A warm bath always induces sleep as it helps your body reach a temperature that’s ideal for rest.
  • Keep your bedroom dark and cool, a temperature of between 18 and 24 degrees Celsius is ideal.
  • Writing a “to do” list for the next day can organise your thoughts and clear your mind of any distractions.
  • Avoid drinking too much coffee after lunchtime – the caffeine can stay elevated in your blood for 6-8 hours.
  • Alcohol in the evening can negatively affect your sleep and hormones.

If you find you wake up during the night and are unable to get back to sleep, then get up and go to a different room. Do something boring for at least 30 minutes, get a drink or read the paper and then go back to bed, (even if you don’t feel sleepy). You will find you will drop off to sleep.

Prioritise sleep for your physical and mental health.

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References

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

NHS website