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Let’s take a look at just how vital sleep is – and how to get more of it

Good quality sleep is a key part of maintaining both a healthy body and mind. It’s not just light sleepers or insomniacs who should be looking after their sleep – many of us may not be getting enough hours every night. While you may be getting by on less than you need, over time this isn’t good for you. Let’s take a look at why.

Why is sleep so important for my health?

Ongoing sleep deficiency has been linked to serious illnesses, such as heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke. Sleep is also involved in the repair of blood vessels and the heart, as well as growth and development in younger people. 

Prolonged poor sleep also increases the risk of obesity due to its negative effect on the hormones that regulate our feelings of hunger and fullness. Sleep also makes sure the immune system functions as it should. If you’re running low on sleep, you may be run down and more prone to common infections and illnesses.

Why is sleep so key for mental well-being?

Sleep isn’t only key for our bodies, but also our mental fitness. If you sleep less at night, you’re less productive during the daytime. You may be drowsy, irritable and slower to respond – which can be dangerous in certain situations, such as driving. 

Losing out on sleep consistently means you may have difficulty making decisions and learning new skills. Not only this, but sleep deficiency is linked to poor control of our emotions, so you may be quick to anger or become upset if you’re low on sleep.

Over time, all of this can contribute to more serious mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.

How many hours should I be getting?

Everyone has a different sleeping pattern. That said, adults should be aiming for between 7 and 9 hours every night. If you’re getting by on less, there may be long-term effects. One in three of us suffer from poor sleep. That’s not the way it should be!

What can I do to get better quality sleep?

One simple word: routine. 

A more technical term for this is “sleep hygiene” which refers to planning and sticking to good habits when it comes to bed. Some good sleep hygiene tips include:

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time, even on days off
  • Don’t use your phone or laptop in bed 
  • Avoid caffeine, such as coffee or cola, in the afternoon 
  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark, quiet and comfortable
  • Limit fluid intake before bed to avoid waking for the bathroom 
  • Cut down on alcohol consumption, especially in the hours before bed

Sweet dreams!

For more information and tips on maximising your healthy lifestyle, click here.