Not getting a good night’s sleep is a problem many of us have and often continue to ignore. As March is National Bed Month, we wanted to share the importance of getting the best rest you can each night and provide some tips and advice for successful slumber.
According to the NHS, one in 3 of us across the UK suffer from poor sleep, whether this is due to stress, work, lifestyle or our own personal choice.
Sleep is an important part of our health, and without enough of it, we’re not only at risk of being tired and grumpy, but causing serious damage to our physical wellbeing and putting ourselves at risk of serious medical conditions, such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Regular poor sleep can also shorten life expectancy.
What’s more, if you’re currently feeling more tired and sluggish that usual, you could be suffering from spring asthenia. This is usually defined as a constant state of exhaustion and fatigue caused by the changing season and associated with excess sunlight. Along with fatigue, asthenia can also be accompanied by feelings of sadness and, in some cases, mild depression.
It’s therefore important that you’re making a conscious effort to regularly get the best night’s sleep you can. So in support of National Bed Month this March, we wanted to share some tips and advice to help you get the good night’s sleep you deserve.
What is officially classed as a “good night’s sleep”?
As we sleep, our bodies rest and repair, replenishing stores, making preparations for the upcoming day, and putting to rest the memories and experiences from the day before. To do this successfully, we are recommended to sleep for a certain amount of time depending on how old we are. For most adults, its recommended that 8 hours of good-quality sleep a night is needed.
In our recommended hours of sleep, our body needs to go through four stages to successfully rest: NREM, NREM1, NREM2 and NREM3.
The first phase is a light state of sleep, and each phase sinks the body in to a deeper relaxed state until it is harder to awaken and we have dreams. Each sleep cycle lasts around one and a half hours and are vital to feel fully rested, so it’s very important to give your body enough time to see through each stage.
Why is a good night's sleep important?
According to the NHS, a good night’s sleep is important to our physical and mental wellbeing for several reasons:
1. Sleep can help prevent weight gain
Many believe that the more you are awake, the more calories you will burn, but this is incorrect. Those who sleep for less than the recommended 8 hours a day are more likely to gain weight and run a higher risk of becoming obese as they produce less of the hormone that makes you feel full (leptin), and more of the hunger-stimulating hormone (ghrelin).
2. Sleep can prevent diabetes
When you miss out on a deep sleep on a regular basis, it can change the way your body processes glucose, and if glucose isn’t processed, your body in turn can’t produce energy.
The glucose will also remain in your blood until there is too much, increasing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
3. Sleep wards off heart disease
Long-standing sleep deprivation seems to be associated with increased heart rate, an increase in blood pressure and higher levels of certain chemicals linked with inflammation, which may put extra strain on your heart.
4. Sleep can boost your immune system
While your body is resting, it produces and releases a protein called cytokine which fights infection. If you skimp on sleep your body will have a reduced defensive barrier, making you more susceptible to illnesses, such as the flu.
5. Sleep can improve mental wellbeing
Quoting from the mental health charity, Mind, "Poor sleep leads to worrying. Worrying leads to poor sleep. Worrying about sleep is like your mind trying to fight itself. That's a horrible place to be."
Not getting enough sleep skews our ability to regulate our emotions and can be one of the first signs of distress, whilst common mental health problems like anxiety and depression can often underpin sleep problems.
Getting good-quality, regular sleep is therefore important for our mind as well as our body.
Tips for getting a good night’s sleep
Getting the right bed
As we spend roughly one-third of our lives in bed, it's crucial we have one that is right for us. However, it’s not only finding the suitable style and function of a bed that is important, but also the right mattress.
A mattress is a huge factor in our ability to sleep well, yet many people overlook its importance and keep using a mattress that fails to provide enough support and comfort.
Sleep Foundation have produced this article on how to choose the right mattress.