In stressful times, it can sometimes be difficult to get the rest you need. Whether you find yourself waking up frequently or simply feeling too anxious to sleep, it’s common to find ourselves struggling to switch off. Many people will experience bouts of insomnia – defined as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep – at some point in our lives, with around 30% of adults experiencing sleep disruption.
There’s a reason why inadequate rest can leave us feeling so drained – sleep is vital to the healthy functioning of the body and brain, up there with diet and exercise as an important part of anyone’s self-care routine.
Healthy sleep, healthy brain
Getting enough sleep is crucial for optimum mental performance. Research has shown that sleep has a big impact on concentration, productivity and cognition, allowing us to get through the tasks and challenges each day brings.
There’s a reason that parents of newborns often describe themselves as being in a zombie-like state – sleep deprivation can seriously impair our memory, recall and ability to focus, making even simple tasks feel like a minefield.
Keeping you fighting fit
Have you ever found yourself craving junk food after a poor night’s sleep? Medical studies suggest that there’s a link between sleep quality and calorie consumption, with shorter sleep patterns affecting the hormones that regulate our appetites.
What’s more, many athletes and fitness enthusiasts find that optimal performance goes hand in hand with sleep. Some experts recommend that athletes aim for as much as 10 hours sleep a night. This is due to the healing that the body undergoes during sleep, as well as the better coordination, improved mental function and higher levels and energy we experienced when we’re well-rested.
Tackling poor sleep
Having a set bedtime and wake time that you stick too – yes, even at weekends! – will help signal to your body that it’s time to rest. Try introducing a relaxing bedtime routine, such as taking a warm bath, enjoying a milky drink or doing some gentle stretching. Put away your phone and laptop, and give your brain chance to switch off.
If you’re experiencing poor sleep, use it as an opportunity to look at your lifestyle. Rich foods, too much caffeine and alcohol can impair our sleep quality; there’s a reason why a hangover is often accompanied by extreme tiredness! Getting into a regular exercise routine can also help your sleep quality, and is a great way to relieve stress.