Good quality sleep is an important factor when maintaining long term health and function. Sleep impacts our metabolic health, weight, mental health and so much more.
So what exactly is ‘good sleep’ and what can we do to improve it?
Firstly, it’s important to identify whether you are getting enough good quality sleep. Consider these points:
Is your mind foggy?
Do you get sick a lot?
Are you feeling unhappy for no particular reason?
Do your workouts feel too hard?
Are you getting injured more often?
Are you struggling with your weight?
Are you generally feeling demotivated?
If you answered yes to these questions, you may benefit from a sleep overhaul.
The amount of sleep required per night is very dependent on the individual however on average, adults should aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night, with 6-10 hours also being acceptable depending on the individual.
Sleep quality is just as important as how long you sleep. Good sleep quality is indicated by the ability to fall asleep within 30 minutes or less and waking up no more than once a night.
Here are our top 5 tips on developing good sleep habits:
Avoid caffeine at least 4-5 hours prior to going to bed. Caffeine acts as a stimulant and can make it difficult to fall asleep and may also cause you to sleep lightly. Caffeine can also be a bladder irritant, meaning you need to urinate more frequently which may cause you to wake in the night.
Keep your sleep and wake times regular, even on the weekends. This helps to keep your internal body clock build a strong sleep / wake cycle, allowing you to fall asleep better and wake more naturally. In the morning, try to start your day in the sunlight as this will naturally increase cortisol levels to help you wake and feel alert.
Minimise sleep disruptions. It is important to create a calm and peaceful space before going to bed. This includes avoiding screen time, loud noises and stressful situations. Screen light reduces the amount of melatonin released into the bloodstream, which is the hormone responsible for inducing sleep. Stressful situations spike cortisol which helps you to become alert and awake.
Exercise regularly. Regular exercise contributes to a better nights sleep in many ways. It is a natural stress reliever, resulting in a more rested mind. It helps to increase the time spent in a deep sleep to help your body repair and build following exercise. It also increases daily energy expenditure, leaving you tired by the end of the day and ready for sleep.
Create a good sleeping environment. Try to create a dark and quiet room that you feel comfortable in. This will help to induce calming and sleep hormones to help you get to sleep. Artificial light and noises such as a dog barking, television or traffic will leave you feeling alert making it more difficult to fall asleep.
If you feel these tips aren’t helping to improve sleep quality it is important to discuss this issue with your treating General Practitioner for additional advice and medical assistance.