Counting sheep? Why sleep is important and how to improve yours.

Have you ever gone to bed at a very reasonable time only to stare at the darkness or make lists in your head? Chances are, you are a woman…no but seriously! I find myself rearranging rooms in my head, thinking up scenarios for the day ahead and trying to solve problems, all while cosy under the duvet.

Repeating this routine is not only problematic for the obvious “lack of sleep” problem the next day but can affect your overall health in the long run. I am going to list the five reasons you should be getting enough sleep AND how you can fix counting endless sheep at bedtime.

Reasons you should be getting enough sleep:

1.Sleep is important for mental health!

It’s been proven that lack of sleep can alter your brain activity. Simple things we are faced with every day can take a toll on your sleep-deprived state. You will struggle with things such as decisions and problem solving and worse you can struggle with controlling your emotions (AND this is already a fragile one for us-females). You don’t want to slap that annoying co-worker, Susan.

2. You might gain weight.

We’ve all heard this statement and to be honest the first time I heard it I thought it was total bollocks. However, there is a lot of truth in it as it connects more with your hormones than the sleep itself. Sleep helps in regulating the hormones ghrelin and leptin which are important hormones for hunger cues. So basically, when you are sleep deprived you will also feel hungrier.

3. Your overall health is at risk.

Sleeping is not only for resting but also for repairs. When you sleep your body heals and repairs heart and blood vessels. Studies have shown that ongoing sleep deprivation is linked to an increase in heart disease. So, don’t panic the keyword here is ‘Ongoing’. Sleep also helps in how you react to insulin, meaning too little sleep can lead to higher blood sugar.

4. Productivity.

This one is obvious and most of us have been in this exact position. When you are sleep deprived you take longer to complete basic tasks. I’ve been in this situation where I have to continue reading the same line as I don’t remember what I read or if I even read it.

5. Safety.

This is one of the most important elements that we overlook but one of the most serious. When you lose too much sleep you tend to have a thing called microsleep. This is when you have short sleep breaks while being awake and you might not even be aware that it is or has happened. It’s easy to understand why this can be dangerous, you don’t want to be driving and then lose a few seconds only to suddenly be in a crash or accident.

All these points are evenly serious and important, and we should never feel the need to give up our well-being for anything else. So here are five things that can help in getting your mind to rest when its bedtime, test them out as these things work for some but you might find some things don’t work for you.

Try these next steps:

  1. Try to not use electronics 30 min before bed. This is a difficult one and I started by using steps. I first dimmed the light on my smartphone (some phones also have a setting where you can change the screen to a softer setting). Then I step away from electronics 10 min before bed and replaced it with the steps below and increased the time as it got easier.
  2. Taking a bath or shower. I don’t always take a bath unless I have time and water to waste, so for this it was more a quick shower. The warm water does help in relaxing your muscles and gives you an overall better feeling before bed. After I would also spend needed time doing a simple skincare routine which was a win, win for me as I did not only improve my sleep but also my skin. I tried doing these things by candlelight just to avoid our very fluorescent bathroom light before bed.
  3. Drinking something warm. This was a nice routine before my shower and then it also gave me time to have my pee before bed otherwise I would be getting up at 03:00 in the morning to go to the bathroom only to realise I am completely awake after. I stayed away from caffeine and mixed it up most days switching from a small glass of warm milk to decaf coffee. Be careful though because too much warm milk will also make you get up in the middle of the night but for a different reason…
  4. Trying to be reasonable with my goals and lists for the day. I often found myself lying awake at night when I could not finish everything I wanted that day. Thinking of how I would do it and when. By making your list for the day attainable you will not have this ‘unfinished business’ flurry hanging over your head.
  5. And last but most important. When you have tried all things and you still find yourself awake in bed, DO NOT STAY THERE. When you stay in bed awake you will find yourself, awake in bed, more. You must get up and try to relax somewhere else until you feel the need to sleep. I sometimes also complete the task I am thinking of in bed only to find myself falling asleep immediately after completion.

I hope that these tips help you fall asleep and keep you from unnecessary risks.

Till next time

The Confident Dinosaur

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