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Why do we sleep?

Sweet, sweet sleep, where art thou?

Today you woke up feeling refreshed, re-energised and ready for the day.

Did you?

The truth of the matter is, a deep and restful sleep is a blessing, even a luxury, for a large percentage of humans. Loss of sleep has been declared an epidemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) within industrialised nations.

Our busy minds and busy lives just don’t allow for it in the way our brains and bodies require.

What’s more, is that you may think you’ve adequately ‘hit the hay’, but whether or not you’ve reached the deeper phases of sleep is another thing altogether.

Did you know a big chunk of your body’s healing and regeneration is done whilst you are in the deep phases of sleep? Sleep influences your body’s ability to repair and grow tissue, bone, and muscle, as well as strengthen your immune system.

When you are awake, these vital processes keep your energy consistently high, your mind and cognition clear, and your internal systems functioning well, such as your blood sugar levels and hormone balance.

Consider then how these processes will be affected by poorer quality sleep, be that either “light” sleep or just not enough. There is an increased risk of:

  • A weaker immune system,
  • High blood pressure
  • Desire to eat more due to hormone imbalances, and
  • Most major psychiatric conditions including depression and anxiety, and emotional irrationality.

So are you getting your recommended 7-8 hours of deep, uninterrupted sleep every night? If your answer is no and you have lost control of your sleep rhythm, the good news is that you can reclaim it–with some habit-breaking discipline.

Avoid phones, alcohol and eating before bed.

The blue light emitted by your screens creates a disturbance in melatonin production (a hormone critical for sleep) and makes your brain think it’s still daytime.

Ideally, you would catch a couple of hours before bed without looking at screens; however, this isn’t always possible, so a great substitute for this is wearing blue light glasses. 

They’ll block out some of the blue light allowing your brain and body to cycle naturally into sleep when the time comes.

Alcoholic nightcaps may help you fall asleep initially. But the body will then begin a process of detoxification which will keep your sleep light and disrupted throughout the night. 

Likewise, eating before you sleep kickstarts the digestive system, which is the equivalent of starting an engine and leaving it running over night.

A hot bath and mind-clearing practices prepare your body and mind for restful sleep.

The brain will adopt habit-forming behaviours, which can be either in your favour or not.

If you are drinking alcohol at night, the brain may think that this is worthwhile since it seems to do the trick in the initial stages of sleep, but this effect is short-lived across the night. Try switching to a hot bath before bed instead. 

If you spend time scrolling on your phone, try reading a book or journaling what is on your mind. This will help clear space in your head and help prepare you for rest.

“I will sleep when I’m dead”

A statement I have heard often throughout my life.

Why push yourself so much during your life? Nature has perfect rhythms, and since your body is not separate from nature, it’s a beneficial rule of thumb to adopt the pace of nature. Nature has a 24-hour circadian rhythm, and so do you.

Further to all of the above, scientists are discovering that you consolidate all that you learnt during the day whilst you sleep, helping you process and memorise.

Sleep is truly multidimensional and essential for your health. It’s time to prioritise this vital part of your day.

Tacy Wright

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