We can all agree that sleep is essential. But have you ever thought about why getting enough sleep is so important? Why does it matter if we get 6 hours or 8 hours? Why does it matter if we pull an all-nighter every weekend?
Let me share some sobering facts that helped shift my perspective on sleep and change my daily habits for good because once you understand the facts, it's hard to ignore sleep.
It's hard not to recognise that it is a primary pillar of good health, and it's time to retire the antiquated idea that we can sleep when we're dead.
Renowned Sleep scientist Matthew Walker, calls sleep the "greatest, most natural performance-enhancing drug".
Sleep is fundamental for physical health, mental well-being, and cognitive function. Here are a few key facts:
Sleep allows recovery and repair of the brain and body.
It rejuvenates energy, boosts immunity, and aids healing.
Eliminates brain toxins, regulates insulin and glucose.
Vital for every bodily function.
Long-term effects of sleep deprivation:
Weakens the immune system, and raises disease risks.
Increases heart disease, obesity, diabetes, dementia, and depression risks.
Sleep aids memory formation and retention.
Post-learning sleep cements new information in the brain's structure.
Sleep deprivation's effect on brain:
Sleep loss impairs the prefrontal cortex (aka the brain's CEO).
Emotional centres dominate without prefrontal control.
Emotional regulation suffers, leading to mood swings.
Now that we've shed some light on the importance of sleep let's talk about how to prioritise it. Let's talk about some simple habits you can adopt to improve your sleep quality once and for all.
Establish a consistent sleep schedule. Regular bedtime and wake-up times maintain your circadian rhythm. A routine reinforces your body's internal clock, promoting easier sleep and wake cycles.
Embrace darkness. Before bed, dim lights to encourage melatonin production, the sleep-regulating hormone. Try soothing lamps or candlelit showers for relaxation.
Enjoy a warm shower or bath. Reduce your brain's temperature by a few degrees for effective sleep. Hot water triggers cooling as you exit, aiding your core temperature drop.
Keep your room cool. Cooler temperatures facilitate sleep. Open windows for a chill breeze, or use a fan for comfort and white noise.
Darken your room. Block out external light with blinds or an eye mask. Deep sleep quality improves when light exposure is minimised during sleep cycles.
Cut screen time at night. Blue light suppresses melatonin production. Reduce screens before bed or use blue light filters. Eliminating devices from the bedroom helps too.
Morning sunlight exposure matters. Within an hour of waking, natural light sets your body clock. Daytime light reduces daytime melatonin, enhancing nighttime production for better sleep.
Craft a sleep haven. Declutter your sleep space from work reminders and distractions. Add sleep-inducing cues: eye mask, gentle lighting, calming scents, comfortable bedding, and blackout curtains.
So there you have eight practical habits you can adopt for a better night's sleep and 4 self-care products we can't live without.