When we think of staying fit and healthy, we're often inclined to think about exercise, nutrition or stress management. Of course all of these are important, and they're all things we can actively work on during the day to improve our health and wellbeing. But what about at night?
Sleep and how we prepare for it should also be a major focus - after all we spend roughly a third of our lives sleeping. Unfortunately, the 24-hour nature of modern life is interfering with our sleep patterns. We're also now sleeping less than we did in the past, and the quality of our sleep is decreasing too. All of which can have some seriously adverse effects on our weight, our health and our lives.1
Sleep can be a silent culprit, and one which is often overlooked. Out of sight, out of mind, as the saying goes. So perhaps now more than ever, with screens in the bedroom and email at our fingertips day and night, we need to acknowledge the part that sleep plays in our everyday health and wellbeing.
Dr David C Batman, international occupational health advisor, says good sleep is essential for cognitive and physical performance, learning and memory, protects the immune system, enhances mood and has restorative powers. Research also suggests a relationship to weight gain and aging, with sleep duration an important regulator of body weight and metabolism.2
At the other end of the spectrum, the effects of poor sleep habits are significant. Sleep deprivation impairs our judgement, reaction time and general awareness. And when it comes to your job, it can result in absenteeism, tardiness, reduced productivity and increased healthcare costs. As for the safety issue, studies show that hand-eye coordination when sleep deprived is as bad or worse than when you're intoxicated.
It can be easy to ignore the main reasons for a lack of sleep, especially if we put it down to external factors or simply as part of our routine. Dr Batman outlines a few common sleep stealers as:
So what can we do to get a better night's sleep? If you're having sleep problems or feeling consistently tired, there are many simple techniques to try:
Disclaimer - Information provided here is general in nature and should not be seen as a substitute for professional medical advice. Ongoing concerns about sleep or other medical conditions should be discussed with your doctor.