Well it’s no secret that a good night’s sleep is essential for good health,….but did you know missing just one hour of sleep can have a negative affect on your immune system according to a recent study? I remember back in my years at Uni sleep debt was a given, due to lots of partying and a few hours of study thrown in amongst it. Ahhhh those were the days, when I thought I could get away with it, and probably did for the most part. Now in my forties my body is less forgiving. If I lose any sleep at all I take days to recover.
Research suggests that a loss of sleep, even a small amount can cause cellular damage to the body’s immune fighting cells, reducing the ability to fight infection. Add to that the other downsides of sleep loss, including reduced productivity, increased blood pressure, mood disturbances, increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes there is good reason to avoid losing sleep at all costs.
So how much sleep do you really need? It really depends on a number of factors, including your age, lifestyle and health status. However, I did stumble across a reputable website that lists recommendations for the sleep requirements for different age groups. Follow this link to find out. http://www.sleep.org.au/professional-resources/sleep-documents/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need Given that I fall into the 18-64 year age category, I think the recommended 7 to 9 hours is a good match for me. I would say I’m at the upper end of that range, requiring at least 9 hours to feel like I’m functioning at my best. Ultimately it’s trial and error to work out what works best for you. As I often say the body is the most sophisticated biofeedback system. You just need to tune in and listen to what it’s telling you. It knows how much sleep you need to function well.
Over the years I’ve read a lot of research on what it takes to give yourself the best chance of getting a good night sleep. Here’s my top five tips based on what has worked well for me.
- Establish a good sleep pattern. The goal is to go to bed at the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning. I find this works really well. Of course there are times when I can’t stick with it, but I do my best to keep to a plan because I feel so much better when I do.
- Turn off all electronics. In fact I try not to have any electronics in my room. Although my husband uses an electronic alarm clock so I don’t quite achieve this. I do this because artificial light from electronic screens can interrupt with sleep patterns and the ability to fall asleep. Electromagnetic radiation is also disruptive to sleep and general health.
- Avoid eating within two hours of going to bed, especially anything that is considered a stimulant e.g. caffeine. This is easier said than done as it’s no secret I love chocolate.
- Do some kind of relaxation activity as part of your pre-sleep routine. I usually do meditation or listen to an audio relaxation sequence Sometimes I’m so relaxed I fall asleep before I complete these activities.
- A cool dark room is best – even in winter. If the body overheats then sleep can be disrupted.