Time to Hit the Hay

Sleep is one of the most vital elements of good health for all people, it’s up there with water and nutrient rich foods! Unfortunately, due to increasingly busy lives and the lack of hours in the day people seem more willing than ever to give up their precious recovery time to do other things, whether it be work or just staying up late.

Of course we have all heard that the average adult needs 7-8 hours sleep every night, and that means EVERY night! Some people need more if they are naturally fatigued or lead really busy lives. Sleep is so vital as it is a solid piece of time in which your body recovers, heals and digests what you have eaten as well as time for your brain to slow down and take in all that it has seen, heard, smelt and learnt today. Without adequate sleep your body becomes run-down, your immune system is lowered, you’re more likely to put on weight, at greater risk of stress, depression, diabetes, heart disease and even cancer, just to name a few. This is compelling evidence for maintaining your sleep in on Sundays.

That being said, sleeping for extended periods of time every so often is not the answer to sleep deprivation. The only answer is consistent and regular sleeping patterns and habits. Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake around the same time each morning, even on weekends, so that your body clock can set and keep a rhythm. You will notice that once you start getting regular sleep, you will feel more awake, more focussed and will have more energy and concentration. So how do you establish good sleeping habits?

For many people, including me, falling asleep easily and staying asleep during the night is a huge challenge. Although sleeping pills are somewhat reliable, there are many questions being raised over the possible side effects of these brain altering chemicals. Also, it’s not practical or good for you to rely on pills over extended periods of time. Many factors affect sleep including alertness, light, temperature, diet and stress. Firstly, your room ideally should be not too warm and completely dark, that means not light creeping in from under the door or from electronic gadgets. Speaking of technology, TURN IT OFF! Try to limit your contact with bright screens and technology for about an hour before you plan to go to bed and when you do get into bed make sure everything is turned off, then it won’t beep or light up and disturb your peaceful slumber. Secondly, try to establish some kind of pre-bed routine in which you calm your body and nervous system down. This means no stimulating activities, such as watching television or exercising. If you suffer from wild, out of control thoughts that prevent you from sleeping, try meditating before bed or just as you fall asleep, having a warm glass of milk or chamomile tea, as all these things help to calm the nervous system and help stimulate the production of sleep hormones. There is also a number of herbal remedies available for troubled sleepers, or you can visit your local naturopath or practitioner for more advice. Finally, diet and exercise plays a part in the quality of sleep. Exercise will give you a better nights sleep as it burns up extra calories and energy left over from the day. When it comes to diet, avoiding sugar, caffeine and artificial stimulants would be my number one tip. If you have ever gone completely sugar free for a period of time you will see how fantastically you sleep and then as soon as you have some sugar you’re left on such a high that sleep seems impossible and difficult again. So cut down on sugar, skip desserts packed with it, don’t have late night espressos etc etc. Also, in terms of preparing your body for sleep, don’t eat anything, especially a big meal too close to bed time as this reactivates your entire digestive system which will mean your body is busy digesting when it should be resting.

That being said, it’s now my bed time! Good night and I hope you all punch some Z’s tonight :)

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