Sleep your way to better health.

With the clocks gone back an hour, it’s a timely reminder of the importance of quality sleep for rest, renewal and recharge. Ben Franklin once said ‘Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise’. Such words of wisdom! And yet in modern life many people are simply not getting enough quality sleep to support their health and wellbeing. Most adults need about seven and a half hours (teenagers need more) . You may need even more in times of stress and upheaval.

The brain detoxes itself at night whereby brain cells called neurons shrink by 60% and csf (the fluid that bathes the brain) cleans the brain of toxins ; its like squeezing a sponge and clearing brain circuits all while you sleep soundly. Being sleep-deprived increases your odds of many chronic health conditions from diabetes and depression to coronary heart disease and even dementia. Lack of sleep turns your brain towards flight/fight mode, resulting in negative stress – with mood swings, impaired focus and reduced willpower. Your natural body clock is thrown out of sync which impacts levels of hormones called ghrelin and leptin that regulate your appetite. As a result you tend to overeat, crave carb rich calories and your brain simply won’t know when you’ve had enough.

If you are having trouble sleeping it may be a sign that your mental health is suffering. Talk to your doctor especially if you feel low or anxious. If you are a snorer, consider sleep apnoea syndrome which is increasingly common.Remember blue light from mobile technology disrupts production of a hormone called melatonin which is necessary for proper sleep. As a result the body’s brain is kept ‘on’, while your internal clock and sleep quality are disrupted. Best to have a wind down time which includes avoiding mobile technology for at least an ninety minutes before bed.

Exercise is the greatest pill of all; a terrific way to unwind and relieve some of the tension built up over the day. Best to avoid exercising late at night though, as all the lovely endorphins might keep you awake!

Too much food or alcohol, especially late at night, can interrupt your sleep patterns. Alcohol may help you to fall asleep initially, but it will freeze your brain at a lighter stage of sleep so that you feel extra tired the following morning. Some people are extremely sensitive to the stimulant effects of caffeine in tea or coffee interfere with the process of falling asleep, and they prevent deep sleep. Consider avoiding caffeine in the 2nd half of the day especially if you have difficulty sleeping.

Remember sounder sleep can improve your physical health, increase your productivity, enhance your emotional vitality and overall wellbeing. So Prioritise your sleep!