Whilst the importance of sleep is slowly becoming more recognised, many people still have a “you can sleep when you’re dead” attitude leaving them feeling drained, fatigued and not performing at their best at work, or in the gym. It’s important that we understand that good quality sleep is just as important for our health as training and good nutrition.
Why Is Sleep So Important?
Everyday we “turn ourselves off” and recharge our batteries so to speak. Without sleep we would die! Sleep is important for more reasons that we know, here are some:
- When we sleep, we repair cell damage and promote healthy brain development
- Lack of sleep is a risk factor for many diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, stroke, cancer and Alzheimers
- It improves cognitive performance and productivity
- It can improve athletic/physical performance
- Good sleepers tend to eat fewer calories, and find it easier to maintain desired body composition
- Social and emotions interactions will be affected by sleep quality, lack of sleep can affect personal relationships
- Poor sleep duration and quality is linked to depression
- Quality sleep will improve immune function
Improve your Sleep Hygiene
Coming up with what’s called a sleep routine, or having good “sleep hygiene” could really help. Some tips include:
- For optimal circadian rhythms, aim to get 7-9 hours sleep between 9pm and 6am.
- Don’t get too hot, regulate room temperature to around 18-20 degrees
- Avoid napping in day, if you have trouble sleeping at night
- Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol, especially if struggling with sleep
- Avoid backlight devices/blue light (computers, I-pads, phones etc) 30-60 mins before bed
- Use low lighting/amber lighting in your home in the evening
- Have a relaxing bedtime ritual, have a bath, do some breathing, meditation, read a book
- Check your room for light pollution and noise, consider ear plugs, eye shades or curtains
- Avoid using your bed for anything other than sleep and sex
- Avoid eating, especially big or spicy meals within the 2-3 hours before bed
- Try calming sleep/meditation apps
- Use of essential oils such as lavender
- Don’t lie in bed awake, rather get up and do a relaxing activity that might promote sleep
Whilst a bedtime routine is key to good sleep for most, what we eat can also impact the quality of our sleep. A diet high in processed foods can cause blood sugar and sleep disturbances, so a whole foods diet is a good start. Choosing foods that are rich in Magnesium can also help as Magnesium can help us to relax and promotes good quality sleep. Magnesium rich foods include dark leafy greens, seeds, nuts, broccoli, legumes, dairy products and unprocessed grains.
Take home message
Sleep is just as important to our health as exercise and good nutrition. Developing a sleep routine, or practicing good “sleep hygiene” can really help to improve not only the duration but the quality of our sleep. Better quality sleep equals improved performance at work and play!