Essential for us to thrive. Yet we don’t seem to allow ourselves to get enough of it. According to an NHS 2015 report, a staggering one in three of us in the UK don’t get enough sleep. It’s just as endemic in the USA with 42% of the population getting less than seven hours per night (according to a 2015 gallop poll)Medical experts tell us we need seven to nine hours a night. I’m no Doctor, but listening to my body, tuning in to how I physically feel is the best way I know to understand if everything is working well for me. The body never lies.Sometimes I can feel completely refreshed and energised after seven hours, other times I’m exhausted and lethargic all day.I know the symptoms in my body of poor sleep very well. I used to live in a permanent state of sleep deprivation, I do wonder how I used to function at all! When I’ve not had enough sleep My body and mind feels sluggish, my cerebral functioning is slower, as are my reflexes and reactions. I find myself making silly mistakes or having accidents like stubbing my toe and dropping things. My chest feels tight, I get a hot sore throat and it feels like I’m coming down with a cold. I’m constantly hungry and I crave starchy and sweet foods, my negative emotions feel heightened and I become grumpy and quick to anger. All this change in my body from just a couple of hours less sleep.
Quality of sleep can also be a factor, brought about by our environment, stresses of life, the food that we have eaten that day or alcohol and caffeine drunk. It can be a vicious cycle, drinking caffeine to stimulate and wake up, alcohol to help relax and calm down at night. All of which play havoc on the metabolism and hormone levels which in turn affects your sleep.
Heightened periods of stress, busy minds, blocking difficult thoughts we don’t like to face through the day can come back to haunt us. The subconscious brain will still be trying to process, so consequently will wake us up in middle of the night or give us nightmares, and then we struggle to get back to sleep.
By becoming more aware of your body and what it is telling you through how it feels, you can begin to recognise any reoccurring symptoms that point to not getting enough shut eye.
There are many ways to help yourself get more sleep. Even just half an hour extra per night will make a profound difference to how you feel.
But like all things you have to take the steps to make it happen, and yes that means work to begin with, until you get into a pattern and start reaping the rewards.
Why not set an intention to go to bed 15 or 30 minutes earlier for 3 nights in a row. Put your mobile on aeroplane mode, turn off the TV, stop working on your laptop. Would 15 minutes less of Facebook or email really be the end of the world?
It will still be there in the morning.
Treat your body to what’s it’s asking you for. It will reward you greatly, with more energy, balanced mood, better memory. Not only will you feel better you will look better too through efficient cell growth and repair, and management of your weight more effectively with a stable appetite.
Certain food and drinks can help can you sleep, drinking camomile tea is a well known to relax and calm you. Milk can help the body produce melatonin the hormone that promotes sleep in our bodies. Not going to bed on a full stomach will help the body sleep instead of trying to digest a heavy meal.
Meditation or slow soothing music before bed can also encourage relaxation.
Think about the environment that you are sleeping in. Make it comfortable and calm, think about the bed linen, your mattress, pillow, the brightness of the light, is there any clutter around your bed, how warm or cool is the temperature. All of which can either promote or hinder sleep.
Our bodies are amazing machines but all machines need to be recharged to work effectively.
If you treat your body with the love and care it deserves, it will love you right back.