In his best-selling book “Why Sleep Matters”, sleep expert Matthew Walker shares a bold wake-up call: we’re in the midst of a “catastrophic sleep loss epidemic”.
In our pursuit to squeeze more out of life by sacrificing sleep, we are achieving the exact opposite. Getting enough sleep is no longer a priority. The science on sleep deprivation is clear: not only does it shorten our lifespans, but it also has numerous measurable negative consequences on our physical and mental health.
Some of the consequences of sleep deprivation can become immediately apparent after a single night of poor sleep. Have you noticed that you tend to get sick more often during periods of time when you are getting poor sleep?
That’s because just one night of poor sleep can supress your immune system and make your body more vulnerable to infections.
Increased appetite due to acutely de-regulated metabolic hormones can also lead to weight gain over time. Furthermore, sleep deprivation negatively impacts mood and makes individuals more prone to anger, impatience and irritability. Unsurprisingly, productivity is significantly decreased, as is motivation and creativity.
Sleep deprivation can also increase the risk of heart attack and stroke and has been linked to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
By now you hopefully appreciate the importance of sleep. A healthy sleeping pattern is vital for our overall physical and mental health.
To that end, the most important action you can take towards improving your sleep is to make it a priority to get more of it.
Though sleep requirements vary on an individual basis, a good place to start is by aiming to consistently sleep eight hours per night.
Creating a sleep routine is important. This means aiming to go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. You’ll find that a solid routine will not only help you fall asleep much faster, but it also does wonders for improving the quality of your sleep, and helps you spring out of bed in the morning feeling refreshed and alert.
Cutting down on screen time before bed is also a great strategy to improve your sleep. The blue light emitted from screens suppresses the body’s production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for inducing sleep. As a result, this not only makes it much harder to fall asleep but also decreases the overall quality of your sleep.
You can also use software that blocks the blue light emission from your screen. Most smartphones have this functionality already built-in, so make use of it.
Another important factor to take into consideration is the consumption of caffeine. In a previous blog, we outlined the health benefits of regular, moderate coffee consumption. However, like most things in life, too much of a good thing can be bad. In this case, too late of a good thing can be bad.
Caffeine has a half-life of roughly 5 hours in the human body, meaning that if you have a coffee at 2 pm containing 150mg of caffeine, at midnight, roughly 37mg of caffeine will still be active in your system, impairing your body’s ability to sleep. If you’re trying to optimise your sleep, a good rule of thumb is to limit your coffee consumption to mornings.
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