Published July 18, 2020
Quality sleep that nourishes and refreshes us is something that is so crucial, yet evades so many of us. We all know that feeling of tiredness after a late night, but the effects of a chronic lack of sleep can have far reaching consequences.
Here, we take a look at why sleep is so important and how we can help ensure we’re getting enough.
Why sleep is crucial for our health and wellbeing
When we sleep, our bodies are not just relaxing and recuperating, they’re going through a system of repair, especially within the brain. During sleep, the brain sorts through all the memories that we’ve accumulated during the day, and files them according to how important they are.
So without enough sleep, our body and brain are unable to go through this crucial repair phase. But not only that, those of us who don’t sleep due to stress, anxiety, insomnia, money worries, a new baby or any other reason, are more likely to suffer chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Not getting our seven to eight hours of sleep a night can also mean that our mental health suffers. As does our ability to learn, focus, concentrate, make decisions and reason with others (we become tetchy and arguments ensue, that we really didn’t mean to happen, meaning that our relationships with lovers, loved ones, friends and colleagues also suffer).
Another consequence of being tired all the time is an increased risk of suffering an accident as we sleepily make our way through life.
A chronic lack of sleep also makes us change our behaviour. Feeling tired often means that we make less healthy dietary choices. Usually, this means comfort food, or carb heavy foods that are generally processed and high in saturated fat, salt and sugar.
It also means that we’re more likely to reach for the caffeine to keep us going, which if drank to excess can have the unfortunate side-effect of keeping us awake at night too.
Feeling tired can also make us lean towards our other coping mechanisms, such as smoking, drinking to excess or taking recreational drugs.
Tips for getting enough sleep
Getting plenty of decent quality sleep is rooted in the theory of ‘good sleep hygiene’. This means trying to adhere to the following:
- Having a bedroom that is cool, dark, quiet and free from clutter
- Using ear plugs if you live on a noisy road or in a busy area
- Adopting a regular bedtime routine including winding down with a relaxing pastime, book or television programme in the hour before bedtime and having a calming, warm, caffeine free drink such as camomile tea
- Avoiding all caffeinated drinks past lunchtime
- Avoiding alcohol in the hour before bed
- Going to bed at roughly the same time each night, even at weekends
- Avoiding using your mobile phone, tablet or laptop in the hour before bed – this is due to the ability of the blue light emitted by these devices to trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime
- Avoiding rigorous exercise in the hour before bed
- Not having a large meal in the two to three hours before bed
- Writing down any thoughts that are bothering you that might keep you awake – this way you’re not burying them but you’re also not taking them to sleep with you, you’re putting them to one side, as much as possible, for the next day
Written by Hannah De Gruchy
Health, Wellness & Environmental Writer | Human Biology BSc (Hons)
I have an extensive knowledge of diet, health and wellbeing topics and consistently produce high quality, fully researched content for blogs, features and articles.
I’ve always loved to write, and after spending the first ten years of my career laboratory based, embarked on a career change in 2009 by joining an innovative and first to market online doctor. I was responsible for managing all online and printed content including articles, product descriptions and marketing materials, and now have extensive knowledge of what it takes to write engaging, imaginative pieces.
In 2013 I had a major role in setting up https://www.emmbie.com and have had overall responsibility for all content (including the blog and product descriptions), social media and printed materials. Emmbie is an online health, diet, fitness and lifestyle company selling natural, organic, vegan health food supplements.
I also have experience in proofreading and editing content written by doctors, making sure it reads well as a non-doctor and am fully versed in being consistent with editorial guidelines.
I’m motivated and well organised for freelance working, my desk shares a space with a running machine, which often comes in handy when I’m told by my watch I’ve been sitting down too long or need some inspiration away from the screen!
I try to live a simple life, always conscious of my impact on the environment and have recently taken a keen interest in Buddhism. I choose natural beauty and household products and eat local, organic produce when I can. Staying true to both my way of life and my scientific background, I have a passion for writing on these subjects that is evident in my work.