You know how annoying it is when people go on about being busy – like it’s a virtue. Yes, we’re over it. So now, when people ask you how you are, wouldn’t it be nice to say ‘I’m feeling wonderful because I’m getting plenty of sleep!’
If you’re anything like the majority of the population of the western world, that is incredibly unlikely. And things seem to be getting worse.
Ariana Huffington has even written a book about it: The Sleep Revolution. In it, she makes a convincing case of how our cultural dismissal of sleep has affected our health, our ability to perform at work, make decisions and even enjoy our sex lives.
She describes how we are under assault as never before with increased expectations of what we can cram into each day. Combined with the inexorable march of technology into every corner of our lives, this means that most of us aren't getting enough sleep. And it’s a much bigger problem than many of us realize.
Too busy to read the book? OK, here are some facts:
- Sleep is a time of intense neurological activity in which memories are consolidated, the brain detoxifies and our cognitive abilities are maintained. This means that a proper amount of sleep will enhance the quality of every waking hour. To find out more about the science of how sleep detoxifies your brain, and why it’s so important, read this article.
- Women need more sleep than men, so lack of sleep has even more negative mental and physical effects on them. According to recent research, women are at a greater risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and depression. It gets worse. For women, lack of sleep results in high levels of psychological distress, along with greater feelings of depression and anger – more so than men.
- The more we succeed professionally, the more we should be resting at home. That’s so unlikely it’s almost funny, right? According to Dr. William Dement, the founder of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic “working mothers who have young children at home have seen an additional 241 hours of work and commuting time added to their lives annually since 1969.”
- Sleep can boost your creativity by making new connections, unconsciously, that it may not have been capable of in a waking state. And while you sleep, your brain converts information into long-term memory, which can be helpful for consolidating physical learning – anything from driving to yoga to learning a new dance move.
- It’s not called beauty sleep for nothing. Enough said!
So here’s how to improve your sleep
- Get that tech out of your bedroom. Now. Your bedroom is for sleep and sex.
- Get plenty of sunlight during the day. Your body will be better able to rest at night.
- Take a bath before bed. This will lower your body temperature to signal it’s time for sleep.
- Keep your bedroom cool and completely dark. Wear an eye mask if your curtains don’t do the job.
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Your body clock will thank you.
- Avoid caffeine after 2pm.
- Alcohol interferes with your sleep. Cut right back – especially during the week.
- Don’t eat too late or go to bed hungry. Both can interfere with your sleep.
- Get it out of your mind and on paper. Writing a list before bed of the things you need to do the next day can banish those night time worries.
- Treat yourself to a new set of beautiful, clean, crisp bed linen.
Finally some words of inspiration from two women who understand the importance of balance:
'Sleep is my weapon... I try to get eight hours a night. I think what works best is sleep, water - and a good cleanser.' Jennifer Lopez
'Having peace, happiness and healthiness is my definition of beauty. And you can't have any of that without sleep.' BeyoncéIf J-Lo and Beyoncé have enough time for sleep, you definitely do. Don’t wait for permission, and good luck!