We hear a lot about the importance of sleep in our overall health, and it is 100% true, but shaving the corners of our sleep can be a tempting way to squeeze in everything we have to do in life. Often referred to as burning the candle at both ends, even though we know, particularly as we get older, we are going to feel the aftereffects, it is a very common thing to do.
Current guidelines recommend that adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Some figures indicate that the national average in the UK is more like 6- 6.5. Lack of sleep or “short sleeping” has been indicated as a risk factor in a very wide variety of conditions from obesity to depression to heart disease. Fundamentally, poor sleep negatively impacts the body’s biochemistry, which in turn is likely to have a less than optimal impact across every biochemical process in the body. In short, we are depriving ourselves of one of the most democratically available natural supports for good health.
One of the reasons a lack of sleep is so detrimental is that when we sleep, whilst we are in an altered state of consciousness, unaware of anything that is going on, a lot is actually happening in our bodies and brains. Sleep scientist and researcher Dr Matthew Walker explains in detail in his seminal work Why We Sleep, about the stages of sleep and what happens (as far as we know – and there’s a lot we don’t know) at each stage.
Sleep seems to be a time when the body is purged and detoxified, and the brain in particular seems to depend upon good sleep to clear through toxic substances, bi-products of natural functions in the brain, that are always accumulating during our waking life. The bottom line is if we scrimp on sleep and skip stages, we can’t make them up and we risk impairing our brain function, and perhaps most worryingly this may lead to permanent impairment over time in the form of, for example, mild cognitive impairment, increased stroke risk or dementia.
Of course, there are plenty of lifestyle and nutritional strategies that can support good sleep and help us to avoid that foggy tired feeling throughout the day. Here are a few tips for your better sleep and brain health:
You may want to have a look at this great article on sleep hygiene for more: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-sleep-hygiene-5085887
As with all things, making changes happens gradually and may take time. Be patient. Hopefully we’ll all be sleeping like babies in no time and feeling the benefit.
Thanks for reading and until next time…..
Infographic credit: Verywell / Laura Porter