There’s absolutely no doubt that we feel tip top when we’ve had a good night’s sleep. It energises our body and puts us in a good mood. A bad night’s sleep can happen for many different reasons – the birth of a new baby, stress and anxiety or as a form of torture! Well I guess the third doesn’t happen to that many of us, but it does demonstrate how effective sleep deprivation is in causing us discomfort in most areas of our lives. Ever had that ‘can’t decide what to wear’ feeling? Or ‘Ooh that chocolate cake is just what I need to pep up my energy?’ Or ‘Why did I snap at that shop assistant? They were just doing their job.’ Many of life’s ‘incidental’ niggles like these can be put down to a lack of sleep. Let’s take a look at some of the health benefits of sleep and see why getting enough sleep is so important.
1. Improves your concentration
When the body and mind are tired there’s much more chance that your mind will wander and become distracted. This is especially important if you are driving or operating machinery where a moment’s laps in concentration can cause an accident. By getting plenty of sleep you are helping your mind and body to stay focused and sharp the next day.
2. Learn and make memories
Not only does sleep allow your body the time it needs to rest, repair and rebuild, but it does the same for your mind too. As you sleep, your brain begins to organise and process all the information you’ve taken on during the day. It converts your short-term memories into long-term memories. This helps you to learn and means that when you wake up, you can often see things more clearly. So don’t be fooled into thinking that when you’re asleep your brain has shut off too. Your brain is actually quite busy while you sleep, sorting and storing information from the day.
3. Helps you maintain a healthy weight
If you’re not sleeping properly, your body will need more energy because it’s awake for longer. Also, you’re more likely to overeat and choose foods that are high in calories later in the day as you feel your energy slump in the afternoon or evening.
4. Keep your heart healthy
As we sleep, the heart rate and blood pressure naturally drop, to allow your heart time to rest and recover. Research has shown that if you’re not sleeping properly, your sympathetic nervous system remains stimulated at night. This is the system of your body responsible for the ‘fight-or-flight’ response – how your body reacts when it senses danger. This means your heart rate and blood pressure don’t go down at night if you’re awake, and your body releases stress hormones that keep you alert. And if your blood pressure remains up at night, you’re more likely to have high blood pressure during the day.
5. Keep your immune system strong
The immune system defends your body from invading bugs. Sleep gives your immune system the time it needs to rest, repair and stay strong. If you do get ill, it’s essential to give yourself time to rest and sleep so that you can build up your body and immune system. While you’re sleeping, your immune system releases a type of small proteins called cytokines. If you’re sick or injured, these cytokines help your body fight inflammation, infection and trauma. Without enough sleep, your immune system might not be able to function at its best.
6. Looks after your emotional and mental wellbeing
Not getting enough sleep can increase your risk of developing poor mental health. For example, if you’ve got a lot on your mind, are feeling upset, anxious or worried – you might find you lie awake at night going over things in your head. But then not being able to sleep only adds to your list of worries the following day. You might begin to see a change in your mood and find you’re feeling low. The good news is that improving your sleep can improve your mental health and wellbeing.
7. Reduce your stress levels
There are lots of things that can cause us to feel stressed, and how you personally deal with stress be different from someone else. But feeling stressed, for example from work, relationships, financial or health concerns, is often a key factor if you’re struggling to sleep at night. When you’re feeling stressed, your body releases ‘stress hormones’, for example cortisol, which can keep you awake. On the other hand, a good night’s sleep can have an ‘anti-stress’ effect and relax the systems in your body that are responsible for this stress response.
8. Maintain good relationships
The amount of sleep you get can affect your language, reasoning and communication skills – all key factors when building relationships with others. A bad night’s sleep can make it more difficult to control your emotions and communicate with others, and can sometime lead to conflict. Getting enough sleep helps us to regulate your emotions, interact well with others and maintain good interpersonal relationships.
“Yoga for a good night’s sleep” – is a 6 week course to work through at home, in your own time and develop lots of techniques to help you sleep. CLICK HERE to find out more and enroll on this course today.