The Importance Of Good Sleep For Your Overall Wellbeing
Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together – Thomas Dekker
Many people don’t realise it, but sleep is just as important for your general health as regular exercise, proper hydration and a healthy diet.
Without a good night’s sleep, even the best diet and most varied exercise regime won’t have a full effect on the body – sleep is part of the essential fuel we all need to get through each day in a productive manner.
So what are the actual benefits of a good night’s sleep – and how can you ensure you’re sleeping properly?
The best way to explain the benefits of a good night’s sleep is to examine what happens when your body isn’t getting enough sleep.
What happens if you don’t get enough sleep?
In the short term, not getting enough sleep can immediately increase your stress levels for the following day. If you’re sleep deprived, even simple tasks can result in increased blood pressure and feelings of anxiety, whereas if you’ve had a good night’s sleep the night before, you’ll be better equipped to complete the tasks with ease.
Getting too little sleep can also affect your mood. This one might seem fairly obvious to those who struggle with getting enough sleep – you can start the day very irritable, and even the smallest annoyances can become huge issues if you are sleep-deprived. You’ll also find it harder to concentrate, which can not only impact your performance at work, but also your safety – if you operate machinery or if you’re driving as part of your job, for example.
Over the long-term, lack of sleep can cause even more serious side-effects. If you’re getting less than six hours sleep per night, you’re putting yourself at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, which is a real problem for Singaporeans in particular. Around 12% of the population suffers from pre-diabetes, and the International Diabetes Federation recently revealed that Singapore has the second-highest proportion of diabetics in the world.
If you’re not getting enough sleep, you might overeat, causing obesity. Studies have shown that the brains of sleep-deprived adults are less able to distinguish between high-calorie and low-calorie foods than the brains of adults getting enough sleep. You might also make poor nutritional decisions, eating extremely sugary foods in an effort to feel more ‘awake’.
Too little sleep can also cause high blood pressure over the long-term, which can lead to an array of cardiovascular issues. Fifteen studies conducted across the world showed that those who sleep for less than the recommended time each night are at higher risk of developing heart disease or suffering from a stroke. Immune function is also weakened, which means you’ll be less able to fight off illness, and vaccinations will have less of an impact.
Of course, sleep deprivation also has an impact on mental health. Did you know that those who don’t get enough sleep each night are ten times more likely to develop major depression?
How can you make sure you’re getting enough sleep?
A study carried out in 2014 showed that Singapore is one of the worst cities in the world when it comes to getting enough sleep. The average Singaporean gets just six hours and thirty-two minutes of sleep per day (not as bad as Tokyo, where people sleep for less than six hours per night on average).
As a society, we all need to be doing more to address the lack of sleep we’re getting. Here are some top tips to ensure you’re getting the recommended eight hours of sleep per night.
Create a schedule and stick to it
Setting yourself a ‘bedtime’ may seem juvenile, but it can help to regulate your body clock and ensure you sleep through the night. Think about what time you need to be awake to get to work each day, then count eight hours backwards for your new bedtime.
Have a bedtime ritual
In the hour before you’re due to get in bed, come up with a number of relaxing activities which tell your body that it’s time to start winding down. Try not to do anything that stimulates stress or excitement – watching a scary movie or laughing at a hilarious sitcom will keep your body awake for longer. Yoga and meditation are helpful.
However tired you might feel, don’t curl up for a nap in the afternoon – it will throw your entire body clock out of whack and could end up keeping you awake for half the night. If you’re feeling drowsy during the day, try to shake it off – go for a brisk walk, prepare a healthy, energy-filled snack or start a new activity to distract yourself.
Make sure your bedroom is conducive to good sleep
Make sure it’s the right temperature to sleep – it should be quite cool so that you don’t get too hot when wrapped up in the bed sheets. It should also be quiet and, most importantly, dark. Total darkness while sleeping allows your body to produce the vital hormone, melatonin. If the slightest amount of sleep gets through your curtains, it can halt the production of this hormone. If your alarm clock or phone has a light display, place something in front of it while you sleep, and invest in some black-out curtains to make sure your room is suitable for sleeping.
Exercise – but not directly before bedtime
Light exercise during the day can help you get to sleep when you need to, but try not to do anything strenuous right before it’s time to go to bed. Exercise can trigger the release of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can keep you awake unnecessarily.
So now you know the secret of good sleep for your overall health and wellbeing. Simply follow these tips and you’ll enjoy increased focus, less risk of obesity, better mental health and a multitude of other benefits.
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