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On March 16, it’s World Sleep Day!  It’s an annual event aiming to increase awareness of the importance of sleep using collaborative efforts of sleep professionals all over the world. Not sure about you but I struggle to get the so-called ‘8 hours’ needed every night’. Between getting the household chores done, working and allocating time to my fitness and health, I am lucky to get 6 hours at the best of times. Kudos to all the super mums out there running off an oily rag every day.

 

According to research results by the Sleep Health Foundation, 33 to 45 percent of adults sleep either poorly or not long enough most nights, leaving them to face the new day with fatigue, irritability and other side effects of sleep deprivation.

 

The work, published in the international Sleep Health Journal, shows alarmingly high rates of internet use just before bed, particularly among women, with one in five people admitting they’ve nodded off while driving.

 

Safety concerns aside, many other essential benefits are being linked to enough sleep that is gaining attention. These include a role in weight maintenance, mood, productivity and physical performance.

 

The top 10 reasons for not getting adequate sleep as reported by the Sleep Health Foundation are:

  1. Taking sleep for granted – not valuing the benefits
  2. Caffeine, alcohol or sleeping tablets
  3. Shift work
  4. Jetlag
  5. Eating and drinking late
  6. Failing to wind down before bed
  7. Stress
  8. Sleeping disorders
  9. Medical or pregnancy issues
  10. Side effects of drugs

 

When we sleep we recover. Our body goes through a lot of strain and damage throughout the day and our diet, it’s in our sleep that we utilise the pool of nutrients we have taken in throughout the day and start to regenerate and repair to prepare us for the next day that awaits. If we don’t get enough sleep, we interrupt this repair process, and we wake without fully recovering.  

 

Sleep occurs in a cyclic fashion of 1.5hr blocks. For every 1.5hr cycle, we go from light sleep to deep sleep back to light sleep again. Waking midway through one of these cycles makes us feel like we are sleepwalking, with heavy eyes and feeling even more tired than when we first put our head on the pillow. Waking in the lighter sleep phase is better tolerated and makes us able to get out of bed more easily, not easy.

 

Darkness is essential to sleep, and the sun plays a vital role in regulating our circadian rhythm – the body’s cyclic routine controlled by hormones. Melatonin is the hormone produced in the brain’s pineal gland that helps control our sleep patterns. It’s often known as the “sleep hormone” or the “darkness hormone”. Melatonin influences sleep by sending a signal to the brain that it is time for rest. This signal helps initiate the body’s physiological preparations for sleep—muscles begin to relax, feelings of drowsiness increase, body temperature drops.

 

Melatonin levels naturally rise during the early evening as darkness falls and continue to climb throughout most of the night, before peaking at approximately 3 a.m. Levels of melatonin then fall during the early morning and remain low during much of the day. Evening light exposure inhibits the naturally timed rise of melatonin, which delays the onset of the body’s transition to sleep and sleeps itself.

 

Here are some tips for getting more and better quality sleep:

  1. Get room ready – want to retire to a sleeping area that is welcoming
  2. Get mind ready – switch off from screens and dim the lights an hour or 2 before bedtime
  3. Exercise – tire yourself out, so you want to sleep
  4. Practice meditation or relaxation exercises if you suffer from stress
  5. Eat well and with plenty of time before your bedtime to avoid heartburn and or indigestion through the night.
  6. Aim for 6-7 hours a night and make the time to relax before heading to bed. It can make the difference between healthy habits the next day setting yourself up to achieve great things for 2018!

 

 

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