Over the last decade, we have become more aware of the impact poor sleep has on our health. Both the quality and quantity of our sleep affects virtually every part of our waking hours.
With mindfulness around sleep a growing trend, we spoke to Dr Alex Bartle, of the Sleep Well Clinic, to give us some insights into some of the key health benefits of sleep. Before starting the Sleep Well Clinic 20 years ago, Dr Bartle worked as a GP for almost 30 years, gaining extensive experience treating sleep and related health issues. Now, with 10 clinics across the country, his practice specialises in a range of sleep issues including sleep apnea, night terrors, insomnia and even midnight eating.
Evidence shows the average adult needs between seven and eight hours of sleep each night, though this varies with each person and some people can need as much as nine or as low as six. With proper habits and regular, good quality sleep, you’ll be more likely to function well in your waking hours and experience the benefits a good night’s sleep can offer.
Improved cognitive function
When you are well rested, your cognitive function will drastically improve in several areas. Your ability to focus will increase and you’ll be more productive in both your job and daily life. You will also have better reaction time, a better ability to make judgement calls and be more decisive. A good night’s sleep also helps foster creative abilities, allowing you to tap into more innovative approaches in your thinking and problem solving.
When you’re sleeping, your brain is working away to store your memories from the day, transferring your short-term experiences into long-term memories. With increased quality of sleep over a period of time, forgetfulness will fade and you’ll see a marked difference in your ability to recall information and events.
Increased physical health
Everyone knows how important exercise is to a person’s overall wellbeing. Extreme fatigue makes you less motivated to exercise, so it’s vital to sustain good sleep habits to achieve or maintain your physical fitness goals. Sleep can also help fight off the hormones released by your brain during the day that increases hunger.
Decreased chance of disease
There are several health issues that can be prevented by simply prioritising good sleep habits. When you’re well rested, your blood pressure is more likely to maintain at stable, normal levels. In the long-term, you are less likely to suffer heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, type two diabetes and some types of cancer. In the short term, being well rested can boost your immunity, so you’ll be less susceptible to catching colds and the like.
More enjoyment of life
If you are struggling to sleep well, you are more likely to suffer from issues such as anxiety or depression. Firstly, work out whether your main issue is sleep quality (not sleeping deep enough or waking frequently) or sleep quantity (not sleeping long enough). From there you will have a better understanding of what is disturbing your sleep and potentially contributing to mental health struggles. With improved sleep hygiene, you will see an increase in your overall wellbeing and ability to enjoy life.
Go to bed when you feel sleepy rather than when you think you're supposed to, as you'll fall asleep easier.
Make sure your bedroom is not too hot or too cold, the ideal temperature is between 16 and 18 degrees.
Reducing screen time before bed is essential, particularly in regard to use of phones, tablets and laptops, this is because the screens are close to your face, are interactive and are backlit with blue light, which can all affect your ability to fall asleep.