Even before the pandemic, many studies highlighted that 1 in 3 of us living in the UK were not getting the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Now, after such a challenging and stressful year, it’s likely that even more of us are struggling to get the right amount of hours in. Or at least get the restful, undisturbed sleep that our bodies need.
Despite the obvious worries and anxieties that we are all facing at present, there are still things you can do to improve your sleep routine. Just a few small steps can arm you with the best chances of creating the best possible sleep environment for your body.
So, here lies the question - why is sleep so important after all?
The Importance of Sleep
You probably know that feeling when you wake up to find yourself more tired and lethargic than when you went to bed. It’s no fun at all. Being sleep deprived is often described as feeling as if you’ve been ‘run over by a bus’. It can affect your mood, the way you interact with others and your motivation to carry out your daily tasks and responsibilities.
But not only does a lack of sleep alter your mood and your motivation, it can also have a much more serious effect on your physical health too. If you regularly get poor sleep each night, it can put you at a more serious risk of medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes. In short, not sleeping well can shorten your life expectancy.
Sleep boosts your immunity. When you sleep, your immune system releases important proteins, which help to fight off infection and inflammation. When you don’t get enough sleep, you may decrease the production of these important proteins. If you seem to always be catching a cold or the latest bug going around, then it could be down to lack of sleep interfering with your immune system.
How Your Current Lifestyle is Affecting Your Sleep
Stress, screens and working too late are all often blamed for disrupting sleep. Other factors include drinking alcohol too close to bedtime, eating the wrong foods and playing video games for long periods of time. The COVID-19 pandemic is also disrupting our sleep patterns further. The change in our daily routines, the lack of fresh air and exercise, and the added stress are all causing us havoc in between the sheets.
Many of us know all the right things to do in order to get better sleep. Less screen-time, more yoga, meditation and healthier eating included. However, it’s often hard to alter our current lifestyle habits when they have become so very established.
What Small Adjustments Can You Make to Improve Your Sleep?
Above everything, try to consider developing a nightly sleep routine. At least one hour before bed, you should have a period of calm and relaxation, which may include reading, a bath, some light yoga and meditation. Avoid bright lights and screens during this time and limit distractions by keeping your bedroom quiet and tidy.
Look at your sleep conditions. Is your mattress, bed linen and sleepwear suitable for keeping you cool and comfortable throughout the night? If not, it’s time to invest in new tools to improve your slumber. They will be well worth the investment over time.
Also, take a look at the food and drink that you consume close to bedtime. Limit alcohol, caffeine and large meals before bed – as they can all stop you from drifting off to sleep or wake you up after a couple of hours of being to sleep as their effects wear off. If you do feel yourself in need of a snack then keep it small, sugar-free and easily digestible so as to not disrupt sleep. Wholegrains, such cereal with non-dairy milk, some unsalted popcorn or a slice of toast and peanut butter would all be good options.