GOOD QUALITY SLEEP
One of the most common questions our patients ask us is “What’s the best position to sleep in?”
While there are definitively better positions to sleep in than others, what’s most important is that you get enough good quality sleep.
Artificial light, blue screens, constant entertainment and our hectic lifestyles means that we are sleeping far less than our predecessors and often sleep is seen as being of little importance compared to the need to get things done or squeeze in that last episode on Netflix! Yet, whilst technology, fashions and lifestyle has changed – our bodies need for good quality sleep has not. No matter what else changes, our bodies need sleep to keep us functioning at our highest level.
While we sleep, our bodies repair themselves, preserve memories and clean out the brain for the next day. In spite of this – over a third of us report having less sleep than we feel we would need and continually report feeling tired or poorly rested the next day.
The consequences of chronic sleep deprivation cannot be overstated. Whilst having a shorter or restless sleep one night can result in you feeling groggy the next day, chronic lack of good quality sleep can have severe effects on your long term health. These include:
- high blood pressure
- increased risk of heart attack and stroke
- increased risk of diabetes
- Decreased daytime performance and alertness – studies suggest by as much as 32% in chronically sleep deprived subjects.
- Memory and cognitive impairment
- Increased risk at work and injury and driving – as much as twice the risk of accident in chronically sleep deprived subjects.
- Chronic migraines and headaches
So really the most important first step is to make sure we are getting enough sleep and of good quality. Below are some tips on how to achieve this.
- Keep a consistent routine. Get up and go to bed as close to the same time every day of the week as possible. A regular wake time helps to set your body’s natural clock (circadian rhythm, one of the main ways our bodies regulate sleep). In addition to sleep, stick to a regular schedule for meals, exercise, and other activities. Getting used to your bodies rhythm is important.
- Get morning light. Get up, get out of bed, and get some light. Light is the main controller of the natural body clock, and regular exposure to light in the morning helps to set the body’s clock each day.
- Exercise during the day helps improve your sleep quality at night, reduces stress, and improves mood.
- Avoid caffeine late in the day.
- Cell phones, tablets, and all electronic devices make it harder for your brain to turn off, and the light (even dim light) from devices may delay the release of the hormone melatonin, interfering with your body clock. If you need something to watch to help you unwind, watching something that you find relaxing on TV from far away and outside the bedroom is likely okay for a limited time. You can also curl up with a book or listen to music.
- Minimize alcohol intake. While alcohol can help people fall asleep, it leads to more sleep problems at night.
- Reduce stress. The evening and bedtime hours are also a good time to perform some relaxation techniques, such as slow breathing and meditation.
- Create a comfortable sleep environment, a place that is cool, dark, and quiet.
If you find you are struggling with getting enough good quality sleep or are consistently waking up tired, this may be a sign that you have a clinical sleep problem, such as insomnia disorder or sleep apnea. If you are doing all the right things, and still have trouble falling or staying asleep, why not give us a call – we may be able to help! Book in for a consultation with expert health and medical advice.