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Sleep & Why it should be your Best Friend.

The Key Element for Brain Function and Immunity

A recent book I read “Why we sleep?” by Matthew Walker has enlightened me further of the huge importance of sleep for our mental and physical state. Walker identifies a causal link between sleep-deprivation and depression, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Matthew Walkers main piece of advice was REGULARITY. Weekday or weekend, bad night sleep or sleep disruption, continue to wake up at the same time.

When we sleep are body begins the detoxification process. During sleep the space between brain cells increases, allowing the brain to flush out toxins that build up during waking hours. During this beautiful state of paralysis, sleep enriches a diversity of functions within the brain, including our ability to learn, memorise, and make logical decisions and choices. Have you ever gone to bed frustrated and woken up feeling more calm and collected than the previous evening? Sleep gives us the opportunity to recalibrate our emotional circuits, empowering us to navigate next day social and psychological challenges with a cool headed composure. You can thank Sleep for your immunity, 7-8hrs of shut eye allows your immune system to restock its armour, preventing infection and warding off all manners of sickness. WOW! Routinely sleeping less than 6hrs/night will demolish your immune system, doubling risk of cancer. YIKES!

I wouldn’t be afraid to state that you have likely experienced increased hunger when you are tired… the desire to eat more when one is tired is because too little sleep swells the concentration of a hormone that makes you hungry and suppresses a companion hormone that signals food satisfaction - interesting stuff. Therefore sleep regulates our appetite, helping control body weight through healthy food selection rather than rash impulsivity. Just one week of inadequate sleep can completely disrupt your blood sugar levels so intensely you would be classified as pre-diabetic!!! Ultimately Sleep deficiency is a proven recipe for weight gain. Sleep reforms the body’s metabolic state by fine-tuning the balance of insulin and circulating glucose. Conclusively plentiful sleep maintains a flourishing microbiome within your gut! Healthy Sleep, Healthy You.

12 Tips for Healthy Sleep (extracted from Walkers book)

  1. Stick to a Sleep Schedule. Set an alarm for bed time!

  2. Exercise for 30mins daily if possible, but not later than 2/3hrs before your bedtime.

  3. Avoid caffeine and nicotine. Caffeine can take up to 8hours to fully wear off.

  4. Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed. Heavy use robs you of deep sleep and one often wakes up in the middle of the night when the alcohol has worn off.

  5. Avoid large meals and beverages late at night. Large meal can cause indigestion, interfering with sleep. Too much fluid can cause increased urination.

  6. Avoid medicines that delay or disrupt your sleep. E.g Herbal remedies for coughs, colds or allergies and heart, blood pressure or asthma medication can disrupt sleep patterns.

  7. Don’t take naps after 3pm. Naps can make up for lost sleep, but late afternoon naps can make it harder to fall asleep.

  8. Relax before bed. Unwind without staring at screen. Reading or listening to music/podcast, should be part of your bedtime ritual.

  9. Take a hot bath before bed. The drop in temperature after getting out the bath may help you feel sleepy, and the bath can help you relax and slow down so you’re more ready to sleep.

  10. Dark, cool, gadget free bedroom. Get rid of anything in your bedroom that might distract you from sleep, such as noise, bright lights or warm temperatures.Turn your clock face away so you are not clock watching when you are falling asleep.

  11. Have the right sunlight exposure. Daylight is key to regulating daily sleep patterns. Try to get outside in natural sunlight for at least thirty mins each day. If possivle, wake up with the sun or very bright lights in the morning.

  12. Don’t lie in bed awake. If you find yourself still awake after staying in bed for more than 20mins or start feeling anxious or worried, get up and do some relaxing activity until you feel sleepy. Anxiety of not being able to sleep can make it harder to fall asleep.

Fun Facts:

  • Sharks have no eye lids thats why sleep with there eyes open.

  • Birds sleep with one half of there brain asleep whilst the other is awake to protect from predators.

An extract from Matthew’s book which made me laugh.

“Imagine the birth of your first child & at the hospital the doctor enters the room and says ‘congrats its a healthy boy. We have completed all the preliminary tests and everything looks good.’ She smiles reassuringly and starts walking to the door. However before exiting she says ‘just one thing, from this moment forth and for the rest of your child’s entire life, he will repeatedly and routinely lapse into a state of apparent coma and while his body lies still his mind will often be filled with stunning, bizarre hallucinations. This state will consume 1/3 of his life and I have absolutely no idea why he’ll do it, or what it is for. Good luck!.”

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