The healing power of sleep
The importance of sleep
While the Guinness World Records track things like the deepest free dive and the most cockroaches eaten in a minute, it no longer recognises people who go without sleep for the longest period. It’s well-known that it is too dangerous to forgo sleep and here we look at the importance of sleep for your mental and physical well-being.
Sleep well to live well
Sleep is essential to life. It’s not some large stretch of time we waste each day doing nothing – it is vital for us to function properly. Sleep is the body’s most effective way to heal itself, and without sleep, the entire body will deteriorate quickly.
While you sleep there are millions of processes happening in your body to restore your tissues and cells, which is where the idea of ‘beauty sleep’ comes from. Sleep is also the main time that growth hormones are released – so it’s vital for growing kids to get enough sleep. It’s also worth remembering that there is no other time during the day that your cells can absorb nutrients and amino acids at such a fast rate.
Sleeping is fundamental for your immune system and overall health. Some studies show that even low levels of sleep deprivation can reduce your white blood cells, which are part of your defence against infections and viruses.
Sleeping is essential
Not getting enough good quality sleep doesn’t just equate to serious lack of energy and extreme sleepiness during the day. It actually means your body hasn’t had enough time to restore and repair itself. Sleep deprivation can make you feel anxious, depressed or moody. You may also have trouble focusing, paying attention, learning and remembering, all of which can prevent you from performing at your best.
Quality not quantity
It’s important to focus on not just spending hours and hours in bed each night; you need to focus on getting good quality sleep every night. Getting great sleep is partly connected to the bed you’re sleeping on, and then secondly how you prepare for sleep.
In terms of preparing yourself for restorative sleep, here are some tips from Dr Libby Weaver (PhD) who is one of Australasia’s leading nutritional biochemists, and is an authoritative figure on health and wellness issues. She suggests:
- Avoid caffeine and other stimulants, especially after 11am.
- Give yourself time to digest your dinner before you hop into bed and avoid heavy meals or food and drinks with lots of sugar before bed.
- Reduce the amount of liquid you drink in the evening so you don’t need to go to the bathroom during the night.
- Set your regular time to go to bed and get up each morning. Ideally getting up between 6am and 6.30am is optimal and going to bed between 9.30pm and 10pm is ideal.
- Choose an evening routine that is relaxing and prepares you for bed, even if it’s only for ten minutes. Maybe it’s a warm bath, mediating or reading a calming book.