This week we march into March, which is National Bed Month.
That doesn’t mean that you have a free pass to stay in bed for the whole month! But it does give us a good opportunity to talk about the importance of sleep.
Sleep is a big part of our lives – we spend approximately one third of our day asleep.
Sleep plays a vital role in our health and wellbeing. Without good quality sleep we cannot function properly and are at increased risk of:
- Obesity – sleep affects hormones in the body, raising the levels ghrelin (which makes us feel hungry). When you’re tired, you feel hungrier and are more likely to overeat.
- Diabetes – lack of sleep can affect your levels of insulin and cause blood sugar to rise. This gives you a greater risk of developing diabetes.
- Heart disease and stroke – Healthy Howard’s research reveals that sleep deprivation causes disruptions in blood pressure, inflammation and underlying health conditions.
- Growth problems – deep sleep triggers the hormones that control growth in children and which boost muscle mass/tissue repair in adults.
- Illness – an ongoing sleep deficiency can change the way your immune system responds.
- Fertility problems – trouble sleeping may reduce the secretion of reproductive hormones.
Poor sleep doesn’t just affect us physically, it also has an effect on our mental health.
Without a good night’s sleep we cannot function or learn properly. Our reactions are slower and we make more mistakes, with potentially dangerous consequences.
Lack of sleep has been linked to depression, low libido, reckless behaviour and suicide.
Even losing an hour of sleep a night can have a huge impact on our physical and mental health.
Most adults need around eight hours of good quality sleep to function well. Babies need up to 17 hours a day, young children 11 hours, which drops to nine hours a night for teenagers.
A good way to get better sleep is to create a bedtime routine and stick to it!
Start getting ready for bed an hour before you need to be asleep and stick to regular bedtimes.
Switch off phones, tablets and screens as the light they emit disrupts sleep and we can be tempted to look at them late into the night.
It’s a good idea to take TVs, laptops, phones and any other forms of stimulation out of the bedroom.
A warm (not hot) bath or shower before bed can help you to relax.
Make sure your room is tidy, your bed is comfy and clean and the house is the correct temperature (between 18 and 21 degrees C).
Some people find breathing exercises, light yoga stretches or meditation just before bed can calm them down.
If your mind races, make to-do lists to clear your mind, or you could read a book or listen to music (quietly).
Noise and light can wake you up – thick curtains, an eye mask or ear plugs help.
Cut down on caffeine and nicotine – these are both stimulants. Too much food and alcohol will also cause you to wake in the night.
Even with lifestyle changes, some people still have trouble sleeping.
Keep a sleep diary. It may pinpoint habits or activities that are contributing to your sleeplessness.
Your GP can prescribe sleeping tablets for short-term sleeplessness, however they may refer you to a sleep specialist if your condition continues.
For more information on National Bed Month please visit – http://www.sleepcouncil.org.uk/31-days-of-snoozing-for-national-bed-month/
Dr Alexandra Phelan is a working NHS GP and Online Doctor with Pharmacy2U. For more information go to www.Pharmacy2U.co.uk.