In the 1950’s we were sleeping for 8 hours per night. Nowadays, most people get an average of 6.5 hours with some of us only achieving around 5 hours per night. Obesity has also been on the rise over recent years. Coincidence? I’m afraid not.
Why do we need sleep?
We spend 36% of our lives asleep. That’s 32 years if we live to the age of 90. So why don’t we think about the importance of sleep? The common perception is that sleep is a waste of time. Thomas Edison once said, “sleep is a total waste of time and a heritage from our cave days”. We aren’t doing anything whilst we sleep, so what’s the point? How wrong could we be…
Some areas of our brain are actually more active during the sleep state than during the awake state. It is only when we allow our bodies to rest that our brain can work to process what has happened during the day prior. The three key areas our brain works on during sleep are:
- Energy conservation
- Brain function and memory consolidation
As well as aiding our mental health and general mood, sleep boosts our immune system and helps to prevent serious medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It also helps us to maintain a healthy weight.
What happens when we don’t get enough sleep?
When we sleep for 5 hours or less, our brains crave stimulants in the form of carbohydrates and sugar, leading to a 50% increase in the likelihood of obesity. People who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to overeat during the day and can take on as much as 385 extra calories every single day. You might think the people who are awake for longer do more exercise to burn off these extra calories, but you would be wrong.
Naturally, our body clock synchronises with the 24 clock of the Earth’s rotation, adjusting to light and dark. When our body clock is disturbed, our metabolism is affected due to the changes in hormones ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and leptin (that tells our brain when we are full). Our bodies go in to survival mode, hanging on to what resources we have and slowing down metabolism. Couple this with the increase in cortisol (the stress hormone) which causes an increased appetite, and we have a recipe for disaster.
When we’re tired and hungry we look for easy options when it comes to meal times, often opting for an indulgent sugar and carbohydrate loaded treat rather than a healthy balanced meal. Since we can’t process sugars as easily when we are sleep deprived due to the mitochondria in our cells that digest fuel shutting down, the sugar from our unhealthy snack then stays in our blood and leads to high blood sugar which can result in type 2 diabetes.
So, when we’re tired, we eat more, eat poorly and can’t process what we eat sufficiently. I bet you didn’t think a healthy diet and weight loss regime could come in the form of sleep!
How can we sleep better?
If you struggle to get a good night’s sleep, here’s a few tips to help you achieve that well deserved slumber:
1. Go to bed at the same time every night. Even at weekends if possible. Sticking to this routine will train your body to wake naturally at the right time, without the need for the alarm, which according to Circadian Neuroscientist Russell Foster, “stops the single most important behavioural experience we have - sleep.”
2. Keep your bedroom slightly cool (between 18-21 degrees is best) and dark. If you wake up during the night, do not turn on the main light as it will fool your body in to thinking it is the morning and make it difficult for you to get back to sleep.
3. Reduce light before bed. This includes turning off any electronic devices 30 minutes before you get in to bed. The blue light they emit has the same effect as turning the light on in the night. Prepare yourself for sleep so you can drift off in to a peaceful slumber.
4. Eat well, drink well. Don’t have any caffeine after lunch (around 2pm) to give your body time to process it. Don’t eat a big meal just before bed, but make sure you do eat 3 balanced meals per day. Reduce your alcohol intake - 2 glasses of wine have the same effect as losing 2 hours of sleep.
5. Make sure you can get comfortable. A good mattress is central to a good sleep. Finding the right mattress for both you and your partner however can be a nightmare. You like soft, they like firm, but who has to make the compromise on their sleep? The answer is neither of you. The Tweak Mattress is a unique couples mattress that allows both of you to bespoke your side of the bed to your own preference.
Start your journey to a better night’s sleep with a Tweak Mattress and sleep your way to a happier, healthier you.
Sleep is God... Go worship. (Jim Butcher)