The benefits of a good night’s sleep
Critic’s recently lambasted New York Mayor Bill de Blasio for saying the main lesson he's taken away from the pandemic is 'the importance of sleep’ – but was he onto something? It’s not new news that sleep is vital to our health - A good night’s sleep can help to support our immune system, boost mood, balance blood sugar levels, reduce anxiety and much, much more.
However, over the past few decades, both sleep quality and quantity has declined. University researchers have also found that lockdown is making things worse – add to that other factors like caffeine, over-working and stress, and it’s not surprising that a peaceful night’s sleep remains a dream for many of us.
Got a problem with your laptop? Try turning it off and on again. Human beings really aren’t that different. But if we know this, then why are so many of us still having trouble getting to sleep – and staying asleep?
Let’s look at what you can do to combat this so you can wake up feeling ready to take on the world.
Sweet dreams are made of this….
Turn off the light
We’re sure you’ve heard this before but turning your screens off at least half an hour before you go to bed can do wonders for shut eye. Dim your office lights if you need to be working close to bedtime and kill any unhealthy fluorescent lights. Even five minutes of white light from a screen shuts off your melatonin production for four hours and can wreck the quality of your sleep, so it’s best to avoid screens in the evening entirely.
Exercise earlier (if you can)
Although exercise is one of the best, most widely-recommended remedies to beat insomnia, it’s often recommended that you don’t exercise for at least three hours before going to bed - unless you count restorative yoga breathing exercises or mediation as exercise. Exercise by nature is energising and raises your cortisol levels, which can interfere with sleep. The endorphins that are produced when exercising can also have a similar effect, so always give yourself time to wind down before you hit the hay.
Avoid the after dinner espresso
Caffeine is a stimulant which can make you more productive, alert and help you perform better – but always try and avoid drinking caffeinated drinks after 2pm - this will allow enough time for the caffeine to leave your system before sleep.
Coffee also increases your cortisol levels, so avoid caffeine if you’re feeling particularly stressed, as this will encourage your levels to increase further, leaving you tossing and turning all night.
An NGX DNA test can also help you discover how sensitive you are to caffeine. By pinpointing DNA markers which reveal how your body breaks down caffeine, it can highlight whether limiting your coffee intake further could help you reach that illusive sweet slumber. [Link to DNA test]
Avoid the Second Wind
There is a window between 10:45 and 11p.m when you naturally get tired. This varies from person to person – and also changes according to the season. If you don’t go to sleep before then, you’ll get a cortisol-driven ‘second wind’ which could keep you awake for a further three hours!
Experts have also found that you’ll get better sleep when you go to bed before 11pm – in fact for every hour before midnight is the equivalent of two hours after, meaning you’ll wake up feeling more rested by going to bed earlier.
How much sleep do you need?
Although most experts recommend eight hours of sleep, by the time you add in work, social life, chores, family and training, eight hours can seem almost impossible – but by taking advantage of these tips, you should have the quality sleep and energy you need to make the most of each day without a yawn in sight.
Now where’s that alarm clock?