Why is sleep so important?
Biologically/physically and mentally, our bodies need sleep. Anyone who has not had enough sleep (hangover, parenting, up all night working, anxiety, depression, psychosis) may have experienced the following:
Symptoms of lack of sleep –
- Loss of appetite.
- Desperate hunger.
- Head ache.
- Fuzzy head.
- Unable to think clearly.
- Body aches.
- Low mood.
- Anxiety in certain situations.
- Physical illness.
Why does sleep affect people physically?
Our bodies need to physically regenerate. Body cells repair while we sleep. Muscles restore and our brain revives.
What happens mentally during sleep?
It can be complex, but in line with the above ‘symptoms’ of lack of sleep, mentally you may –
- Not feel as ‘strong’ as normal.
- Feel more likely to give up/in to something you might have tried hard at before.
- Not have the brain capacity to undertake things that make you feel better.
Some sleep facts –
Most adults should sleep for 8-10 hours a day.
No adult sleeps without breaks of some description. Our sleep cycles are 90 minutes long, so those ‘I need a drink/toilet’ moments will likely happen in intervals when you are more ‘wakeable’.
Teenagers sleep more. Recent research shows they need later waking times.
Babies sleep a lot.
Older people sleep less.
A common sleep problem I see in teenagers –
‘Reversed sleeping’, young people who have become nocturnal, sleeping in the day (maybe to block difficult things out) and awake at night. I would say most young people I see struggle with lack of good sleep and my advice to them is to find a good ‘sleep hygiene’ routine.
Good sleep hygiene –
- No caffeine after 2/3pm. Including fizzy drinks
- Homework/work to be done 2 hours before bed.
- Evening meal not just before bed. Evening meal to be nutritious!
- Minimise junk (sugar) after dinner.
- Screen time down time. No screen in bed.
- Relaxation smells/comforts in bed
- Bath/shower before bed if struggling
- Mindful body scan
- If you have a long list of worries, write them down to deal with the next day.
- Pick 1 or 2 a day to implement and increase once you’ve figured out what is most helpful.
Everyone has a different way of managing sleep. At Christmas with a bazillion things to do, prioritising sleep will help you manage this time of year. Maybe with a clearer head and more moments of rest, your stress levels will be reduced.