Thursday, 12 October 2017

The Importance of Sleep [PLUS] Sleep Tips ft. Emma*.

My General Life | Let's talk sleep, why it's important and what you can be doing in order to get the best nights sleep possible...

Sleep. I'm sure many of us will hold our hands up right now and say we don't get enough of it. I know I don't a large proportion of the time. I think it's a culmination of modern life, constant pressures to be connected and this need to be killing it/bossing it/winning at life at all times.

Anyway, one of my goals for the 30 Days of Self Care that I ran in September was around making sleep more of a priority and trying to ensure that I not only got enough sleep, but that it was good quality sleep too. 

THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP

There's a plethora of research into sleep and the impact that poor sleep can have on our ability to function alongside on our overall health and wellbeing. Research shows that sleep deprivation negatively impacts cognitive functioning (ability to concentrate, problem solve etc), motor functioning and mood. It can also increase the experience of chronic pain, increase risk-taking behaviour and reduce the ability to self-regulate and control your emotions. As well as this, sleep deprivation can also increase the risk of developing chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and depression.

So what happens when we sleep that makes it so vital to our day to day functioning?

Well, considering we spend a third of our lives asleep, the reason why we sleep is still somewhat of a mystery in many ways. Some ideas of why we sleep are around restoration and repair, memory consolidation and an opportunity for complex problem solving and creativity. I found this TED Talk on sleep rather interesting as it discusses that sleep is an opportunity for the brain to clear out all of the waste products produced throughout the day.

I think sleep has almost become a bit of a dirty word in modern life. In many ways it's become a competition around who can function on the least sleep, almost like a badge of honour. This is a bit of a warped way of thinking considering how integral sleep is for positive overall wellbeing. 


So what can we do to promote sleep as an integral part of our daily life?


PRIORITISE IT

Phrases like "I'll sleep when I'm dead" are really not that helpful. Yes, we should be making the most of life, but personally I know I can't do that in the way that I want to unless I'm feeling good. And I'll tell you what definitely doesn't make me feel good. Lack of sleep. 

I really feel that if you want to take care of  your health and wellbeing AND live your best life then you need to be making sleep more of a priority. That's doesn't mean that you can't go out and have fun at night, but it's about being conscious of the impact this will have on your sleep, because that will ultimately have some form of impact in the days that follow, particularly if you're someone who consistently doesn't get enough sleep.

This might mean having to be really strict with yourself. You know when you go on those Netflix binges and just have to watch one more episode of Gilmore Girls (I'm pointing the finger at myself here, but I'm sure you can relate), that is the time to intervene. Gilmore Girls will still be there tomorrow, and think of how much more you'll enjoy it if you're feeling well rested, alert and rejuvenated. 


ESTABLISH A ROUTINE

Humans are creatures of habit and our bodies use our regular routines in order to go about every day bodily functions. For example, do you find that you wake up early even on your day off? That's because your body doesn't know it's your day of and it's in the habit of stirring at a particular time in order to start the day. The same goes with night time, if you consistently go to bed at the same time, your body starts to go with this and it causes you to slow down and feel more relaxed and tired around  your usual bedtime.

So how do you go about establishing a positive night time routine? Well the key is consistency. It might feel unnatural and a bit of an effort at first, but the wonderful thing about habits is that they soon become almost like second nature and require minimal effort on your part to go about them.

Your night time routine should include activities that promote good sleep, such as relaxation, spending time in a darker space, putting down Instagram, that kind of thing. Try to make it something that's achievable and allows you to engage in activities that you get some enjoyment out of too.


SWITCH YOUR HABITS

There's been lots of discussion and research around the impact of technology such as phones, tablets and laptops on our ability to drift off to sleep. It's thought that the light emitted by these devices reduces the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps control your sleep cycle. They also increase alertness, which let's be honest, isn't particularly productive when you want to be switching off.

As much as being on your phone or tablet can be a time filler (I'm hugely guilty of this, particularly at night), are there activities that you could choose to engage in that would be more helpful? For example reading a book (although be careful with eReaders that emit light as these can have similar effects to mobile devices), engaging in a relaxation technique, giving yourself a hand or foot massage, journalling or taking a warm bath or shower.

Another habit to switch might be swapping your evening cup of tea or coffee for a caffeine free alternative. Caffeine affects people differently and I'm sure there are people who can't drink tea or coffee past a certain time, and there are others who could drink an high caffeine energy drink and still sleep (I'm in the latter category personally). But in the interest of promoting good sleep and healthy habits, there's no harm in switching to a caffeine free hot drink as this can then become part of your sleep promoting routine - my favourite is Snore & Peace from Clipper Teas.


CREATE YOUR ENVIRONMENT

Do what you can within the limits of what you're able to control in order to create an environment that's conducive to sleep.  That could be about the physical aspects of your room, like your bed, alongside the sensory aspects of your room, such as lighting, noise and scents. For me, a productive sleep environment is about gentle lighting in the run up to bedtime, soft, cosy bedding, and a comfy mattress.


Emma* very kindly sent me one of their mattresses to try out and I have to say, it's completely changed my sleep environment for the better. The mattress itself  is made up of different layers of materials including cold foam, memory foam, pocket springs and Airgocell® foam, which all layer together to create an adaptable sleeping surface that offers comfort and support. Honestly, it's how I imagine sleeping on a cloud would feel like.

My General Life | Let's talk sleep, why it's important and what you can be doing in order to get the best nights sleep possible...
My General Life | Let's talk sleep, why it's important and what you can be doing in order to get the best nights sleep possible...


Since switching to the Emma mattress I've not once woken up with a sore back (something that happened on a regular basis previously) and although the mattress is soft, I can feel it supporting me in all the right places. The only real downside that I've found is that is that it's harder to get out of bed once I'm in it because I'm so damn comfortable. Coupled with my cosy duvet it makes for one seriously relaxing space to sleep.

The Emma mattress comes vacuum packed in a box that can be unwrapped and on your bed within just a few minutes. It was actually far easier getting my new Emma mattress in the house and on the bed than it was removing my old conventional mattress.

What's even better is that Emma offers you a 100 night trial of your mattress, and if after 100 nights you find that it's not for you, you can send it back free of charge for a full refund. For me, this is the best test too see if the mattress is going to help enhance your sleep environment. Because let's be honest, you can't really get a feel for how a mattress is going to impact your sleep whilst lying on it for 5 minutes in a brightly lit showroom. You need to be able to actually sleep on it, in your own space, surrounded by the other aspects of your bedroom environment in order to see if it's going to make a positive overall difference. 

Let's start a conversation:
I'd love to know of any of your favourite sleep related tips and tricks that help you to ensure you're getting the most out of your sleep. Why not leave them in the comments below or drop me a tweet @_hellojordan

*these products were very kindly sent to me for review and promotional purposes. All thoughts are my own.


Let's talk sleep, why it's important and what you can be doing in order to get the best nights sleep possible...

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jordan, great post.
    "I'll sleep when I'm dead" - my husband use to say that to me for years now he is beginning to understand the importance of sleep. It's key to help boost energy levels and provides so much more health benefits, so having a good mattress is really important. I'm looking at buying one myself not sure which brand yet. Too many to choose from...may consider this one. :-)

    Stay blessed and healthy lovely.xx

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