When we are sleeping, our bodies are working hard to repair, restore and rejuvenate to prepare us both mentally and physically for the next day. A good sleep doesn’t only allow our bodies to heal, but our brains too. Whilst we are sleeping, our brains are working to store memories from the day as well as create new ideas.
One in three of us suffer from a lack of sleep and we often blame stress and work (or work-related stress!) but the reason for our poor sleep is more likely due to our bad sleeping habits. If we don’t get enough sleep we feel tired and grumpy the next day. For the odd night that won’t have any major effects, but a pro-longed period of poor sleep can be detrimental to our health. Higher blood pressure, increased risk of diabetes and worsened symptoms linked to other chronic illnesses such as Fibromyalgia and Arthritis are all common in people who can not get a good night’s sleep.
Sleep deprivation can lead to deficits in cognitive functioning such as memory and decision making, and some studies even show a link between poor sleep and Alzheimer’s. Depression and anxiety can also be attributed to inadequate sleep. A solid night’s sleep helps to de-stress and when we wake up feeling refreshed we generally perform better.
Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post states, “We are living in a golden age of sleep science - revealing all the ways in which sleep and dreams play a vital role in our decision making, emotional intelligence, cognitive function, productivity and creativity. Ultimately, science has proved that sleep is the ultimate performance enhancer. So, it’s clear that if we’re going to truly thrive, we must begin with sleep, the gateway through which a life of well-being must travel.”
Factors affecting our well-being, include alcohol intake, caffeine consumption and poor diet as well as using electronic devices close to bedtime and even our night time routine. Fortunately, these are all things that can be tweaked and improved on.
There’s many other factors that affect our well-being, and our sleep, including (for women) menopause and night cramps.
During menopause many women experience hot flushes that, when nocturnal, can disrupt sleep. Because the sleep disturbance is related to changes in body temperature it is important to have a cool temperature in your bedroom; to have light, cotton, bed linen and it is advisable to avoid anything that raises body temperature before bed.
Night cramps are where the calf muscles, or occasionally the muscles in the feet, suddenly contract during the night causing pain, which disturbs sleep. As cramps have been linked with various dietary deficiencies including vitamin B, magnesium, calcium and potassium, eating a balanced diet can help prevent them from occurring. Cramps have also been linked to the use of diuretics and some other medications, dehydration, diabetes and hormonal fluctuations. Gently stretching or massaging the calf muscles before bedtime can help.
You may wish to take the TweakSleep challenge to look at ways to improve your sleep.