The Science of Sleep

Sleep is something that many of us take for granted, yet for those of us who have problems that might lead to poor natural sleep patterns, life can be unbearably difficult. Not just during the night but affecting every aspect of our daily routine.
Why sleep is so important
Sleep is important for several reasons, many of which we might not expect. It helps our productivity and alertness but also our mood and social interactions. It also helps us to look and feel good as well as performing at our best.

Physically sleep promotes a healthier immune system, can reduce inflammation and surprisingly is also linked to weight loss. Studies show that people who sleep less than the recommended 6-9 hours each night are more likely to eat a highly calorific diet, become obese and put themselves at greater risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

There are also links between sleep deprivation and lowered libido and fertility levels in both men and women.

There are mental benefits to healthy sleep too. Long term lack of sleep is directly linked to problems such as anxiety and depression. Sleep allows our sleeping brains to process feelings and emotions and promotes a positive mindset and emotional resilience.

Factors that might cause us to lose sleep
Sleep is just as important to us as a balanced diet and physical exercise. There are a number of factors that can cause sleep deprivation.

• Medical conditions such as anxiety or depression, chronic pain and diabetes
• Disorders such as sleep apnoea, insomnia, narcolepsy and RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome)
• Environmental issues such as light or noise levels and room temperatures

Things we can do to promote healthy sleep
Perhaps one of the most important factors in getting a good night’s sleep is a regular bedtime routine. This will help your mind and body to relax and prepare for healthy natural rest. There are no set patterns to this routine, it’s simply a process of finding out what works best for you.

Most of us need around 6-9 hours of sleep every night. Timing your routine is important in order to wake the following day feeling your best. It is also important for your brain and internal body clock to grow accustomed to your evening routine.

Waking at a similar time every day is helpful, even though it might be tempting to stay in bed later after a particularly late night or poor night’s sleep.

Reading and listening to the radio can both be helpful in clearing the mental clutter from our minds before sleep. It is important however to set aside our gadgets and mobile devices as the bright light their screens emit can have a really negative impact, keeping us awake long after we would prefer to be asleep.

Other proven strategies might include writing a list of things to do for the following day, relaxation sounds on a bedroom smart speaker or a warm bath to bring your body temperature to a level that is perfect for rest.

Keeping a sleep diary can also prove useful to discover unknown factors in our lifestyles that might have an impact on our sleep patterns. Should we need to visit a GP or sleep expert it’s quite likely that they’ll ask us to keep one.

If you are affected by issues related to persistent sleep problems, consider making an appointment to see your GP for a chat and advice.