Ahhh sleep. The land of nod. The place where dreams come alive, your body rests and your mind resets from the stresses and strains of the day.
We all need it (we’ll tell you why it’s just so important later), but worryingly falling and staying asleep appears to be a fading skill.
In fact, 40% of people between the ages of 18-24 say they struggle to fall asleep quickly and 51% of individuals between 18 and 29 say they rarely get the recommended 8 hours.
What’s more concerning is that recent NHS data shows a record 1million Britons are reliant on prescribed sleeping pills, and 1 in 3 adults take over-the-counter sleep aids in a bid to drift off.
This is due to increased daily stress, a shift in how we use technology and lasting fallout from the chaos of lockdown, which contributed to a sharp rise in mental health problems like anxiety.
This creates a negative sleep loop – anxiety leads to an inability to sleep; a lack of sleep contributes to an increase in anxiety.
Furthermore, there’s been an increase in the number of people being diagnosed with sleep disorders since 2020, like Paradoxical Insomnia:
“Paradoxical insomnia is a type of insomnia in which a person appears to be sleeping well based on objective measures, but they do not perceive their sleep to be restful. Although people who have this condition may sleep through the night, they often wake up feeling unrefreshed, underestimate how long they have slept, and believe they were awake during periods when they were asleep. Also called sleep state misperception, paradoxical insomnia can be a frustrating and confusing experience.”
Source: The Sleep Foundation
It’s fair to say we’re amid a silent epidemic – and something must change… fast.
Why is sleep important?
“Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. The way you feel while you are awake depends in part on what happens while you are sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health.”
Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Essentially, sleep is a basic human need, like eating, staying hydrated and breathing. Without it, you wouldn’t survive – it’s as simple as that.
Not getting enough, can lead to things like:
• Mental Health Problems
• Increased risk of injury
• Loss of work productivity
• Impaired reaction times
• Inability to accurately perceive the emotions and reactions of others
• Low mood and short temper
Sleep deficiency is also linked to several chronic health concerns including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, depression, and diabetes. It’s a perfect storm.
What are the benefits of sleep?
OK, we’ve covered the negatives – but what about the health benefits of sleep? And trust us, there are many!
- Get sick less often
- Stay at a healthy weight
- Lower your risk for serious health problems, like diabetes and heart disease
- Reduce stress and improve your mood
- Think more clearly and do better at work
- Get along better with people
- Make good decisions and avoid injuries — for example, drowsy drivers cause thousands of car accidents every year
Source: My Health Finder
So, just how do we sleep better to get all those brill benefits?
Sound sleep health
If you’re tired of waking up fuzzy headed, cranky, wound up and, well, feeling like you need a nap, here are 5 things you can do today to better your sleep hygiene and reap all the rewards…
1. Sleep paradise
Your room should feel like your own personal sleep oasis. Cool, dark, quiet, comfy bedding and little clutter around you so that when you walk into your room it’s calming.
2. Get into a routine
Sleep hygiene is such a buzzword at the moment, but it has some weight behind it. Having a bedtime routine is key to sound sleep health. Set a bedtime and follow the same routine every night so your body naturally knows it’s time to sleep.
3. Destress your way
Yoga, journal, run a warm bath, practice mindfulness – however you like to destress, incorporate into your nightly routine to help curb anxiety, and relax your body and mind. And don’t forget to avoid caffeine later in the day and no screens for 30 minutes before lights out and allow your mind to wind down properly.
When you feel knackered because of poor sleep, the last thing you probably feel like doing is exercising. BUT, heading out for a walk, hitting the gym, or lacing up your run shoes can be great for headspace and reduce anxiety levels. Just be mindful to do it earlier in the day and work to your body’s limits if feeling particularly fatigued.
5. Wake up at the same time
Set an alarm and wake up at the same time each day – yes, even if you feel like you really need a lie in. Having a set bedtime and wakeup time does wonders for your circadian rhythm. When it’s in sync, consistent and restorative sleep won’t be far behind.
Fall asleep in 2 minutes… Yes really!
If you’ve done all the above and STILL struggle to fall asleep quickly, it’s time you gave Progressive Relaxation a shot.
AKA The Military Technique, it’s the trick military personnel use to fall asleep when on tour or not in a comfy bed.
Here fitness trainer Justin Agustin explains all…
Put it to bed
Sleep is one of those things we don’t pay much attention to unless we’re struggling with poor sleep quality. Then, all of a sudden, you realise just how deep that rabbit hole goes when trying to determine why your sleep is poor.
But, the facts are this…
There are loads of different reasons as to why you may be struggling to sleep. Common reasons include anxiety, age, stress, too much blue light before bedtime, not winding your brain down properly.
However, if you’ve tried everything and you still find it difficult to nod off, book an appointment with your GP to get to the root of your issues.
The benefits of sleep are worth the conversation.