My Staples of Lifestyle Maintenance: Sleep

Thursday, 13 February 2020

I know, 'lifestyle maintenance' sounds a little boring and you might be sat there thinking 'what the heck is that' but let me explain.

Until you take a step back and take inventory of your health, you might not realise that it's determined by a combination of really important factors that keep us ticking over and functioning as we should be. You are most likely more aware of lifestyle illnesses and diseases such as diabetes (type 2), obesity and heart diseases and I truly believe that as important as it is to look into the cure, care and medicine behind these illnesses it's also incredibly important to look at how we can prevent them.

One way we can begin to prevent lifestyle diseases is by looking after ourselves a little better and that's where 'lifestyle maintenance' comes into it. If our houses get messy, we tidy and clean them. If our car breaks down, we get it serviced and fixed. Why don't we treat our bodies and minds with the same respect?

There are many factors that contribute to our overall health but I thought I'd share with you over the course of four different posts, the factors that I think are crucial in maintaining our health - this is based on knowledge I've gained through my studies into health & nutrition and also gathered from a wide range of experts who have looked closely into what helps us live our lives to the fullest.

Today's post focuses on sleep.


It's strange how maybe 3 or 4 years ago I wouldn't have even considered sleep to be crucial in my day-to-day health and simply functioning as a human being but it doesn't take much investigating to realise it's actually probably one of the most important things we can do for our mental and physical well-being.

So how much sleep do we need? 
It's advised that adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night in order to function well during the day. It's a bit of a myth that as we age we need less sleep as even adults 65 years old or older need 7 as a minimum. Children need a little more, sometimes 10-11 hours a night.

What type of 'sleep' is there?
This might seem like an odd question to answer but there are actually four stages of sleep we go through during our visit to the land of nod;

Non Rapid Eye Movement- or NREM - sleep is divided into three parts; 1, 2 and 3 with each part becoming gradually 'deeper' into sleep. Parts 1 and 2 are the stages where we're most easily woken (unless you're my boyfriend who could most likely sleep through World War III if it came about).
Part 3 of NREM is the deeper stage of sleep which we're more difficult to rouse from and if we are awoken from this stage of sleep we might feel quite dazed and disorientated.

Why is NREM sleep important?
We need to go through each stage of NREM sleep to wake up feeling well rested the next morning & each stage usually lasts for around an hour/hour and a half. If you wake up one morning feeling tired and not with it then it's most likely because on of your NREm

The final stage of sleep is Rapid Eye Movement - or REM- sleep. This is the closest stage to being awake and it's called 'Rapid Eye Movement' sleep because your eyes do literally that, they move rapidly under your eyelids, darting from side to side. During this stage of sleep is also when you have dreams as your pulse quickens and your brain activity increases.

Why is REM sleep important?
REM sleep is the stage of sleep where our brains are most stimulated especially in areas of the brain that work on making and retaining memories and learning new things.

How can I sleep better?
You might assume that it's what you do right before bed that means you have a well-rested night's sleep but actually there's lots you can do even from the moment you wake up that can lead to a better night's sleep.

Keep a regular schedule - Keep the peace with your body and try to stick to regular hours of sleeping/waking. It might seem a bit like you've reverted back to childhood by setting a 'bedtime' but going to sleep and waking up at the same time most days will really help.

Get some natural light - Getting some daylight as soon as possible in the morning can really help reset our internal body clocks (or circadian rhythm as it's sometimes called)

Quit The Caffeine:  The Sleep Council advises that you should try to avoid caffeine 8 hours before bed but personally I try to not have any caffeine (so that's a matcha latte for me) before 2pm. If it's gone 2pm then no matcha for me!

Get Moving: Try to indulge in some gentle exercise during the day, exercise promotes the quality and quantity of your sleep and even if it's just walking around your office block or taking the dog for a walk it can help us sleep better.

Put down the phone: Evidence has shown that using our phones and other electronic devices before bedtime can keep us awake due to the blue light they emit. They also stimulate our brains a little too much during the time when we should be trying to wind them down before we sleep so have a break from your phone an hour or two before bed. Have a bath, read a book, stay away from Instagram!

Avoid the temptation of a night cap: If we can't sleep there are times we might turn to a cheeky alcoholic beverage to send us off to sleep but despite being a sedative this can do us more bad than good. It might get us off to sleep okay but our sleep will be disrupted and we can end up feeling unrefreshed in the morning.

Give your bedroom a calm-makeover: Basically, ensure the room you sleep is set to a cool temperature, make sure it's dark and keep it a quiet space. If you don't have them then try to invest is some blackout blinds to help keep the light out, these are especially handy in the summer months when it can come flooding through curtains uninvited!

Get rid of rude alarm clocks: I searched high and low through the alarm clock settings on my iPhone before resorting to downloading a new tune from the iTunes store for my alarm and now I don't dread the noise so much in the morning. Keep phone and alarm clock lights off and turn off the television before you sleep. Before we moved in together, my boyfriend would fall asleep to the television and I have no idea how he did it!

Top Tip: Something that has changed my attitude to sleep is keeping the bedroom peaceful and calm. When I worked from home I'd be tempted to have breakfast in bed and log onto my laptop, have conference calls etc but keeping the room strictly for relaxing and sleeping has really helped me to associate the bedroom with unwinding and calm. 

Credits: The Sleep Council

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