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World Sleep Day: Helping You Sleep Better

World Sleep Day is on Friday 19th March 2021 and is celebrated by the World Sleep Society. This year, the slogan is ‘Regular Sleep, Healthy Future’.

It’s time to start making a good night’s sleep a priority. Here, we take a look at why this is so important and how to help you sleep better this World Sleep Day.

What is World Sleep Day?

Now in its 14th year, World Sleep Day is an annual event designed to advocate the importance of a good night’s sleep, educating the world on its role in achieving optimal quality of life.

Over the years it has highlighted many different aspects of sleep, including how it impacts happiness, staying alert, and healthy ageing.

Why was it created?

The habits of modern living often compromise the human right that is sleep. Researchers and sleep medicine professionals often came up against the belief that sleep was not essential in personal health, so much so that it didn’t need to be a priority.

Therefore, WSD was created to not only celebrate sleep, but raise awareness on its importance.

Who is the World Sleep Society?

The World Sleep Society is on a mission to advance sleep health worldwide. It does this by promoting education, research and care across the globe, bridging gaps between different societies and cultures. This includes advancing knowledge about sleep, circadian rhythms, sleep health, and sleep disorders1.

Why should you care?

The focus of WSD this year is the benefits that regular sleep provides. This includes better mood, psychomotor performance, and academic achievement2.

Several studies have proven that stable bedtime and rise times are linked to healthy sleep.

World Sleep Day should serve as a reminder to many to get enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that healthy adults need between 7 and 9 hours sleep a night3. Yet, it’s reported that 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough4, often not meeting the minimum recommendation of 7.

Why is sleep so important?

Juggling the demands of a family, social life and career can mean that, for many of us, sleep falls to the bottom of the priority list.

However, sleep is as important to our bodies as eating and drinking, vital for maintaining both physical and mental health5. Poor sleep is linked to obesity, lack of concentration and can put you at a greater risk of a heart attack or a stroke6. It’s also linked to depression.

5 reasons to get more sleep

When it comes to ‘leading a healthy lifestyle’ sleep is often overlooked as a requirement. If you’re still unconvinced on the importance of your sleep, let’s drill down into some of the most important reasons to get more of it.

Lowers your risk of heart disease

High blood pressure is a major risk factor when it comes to heart disease. Getting adequate amounts of rest every night allows the body’s blood pressure to regulate itself, promoting better overall heart health7.

Impacts you day to day

Getting enough quality sleep, at the right times, will improve how you feel while you’re awake. This includes how well you think, react, learn and get along with others8.

This is because as you sleep, your body works to support healthy brain function, along with physical health. Since the body heals during sleep, getting enough of it gives you:

  • More energy
  • Better coordination
  • Faster speed
  • Better mental functioning
  • Greater performance intensity

These things are all essential not just for working out, but for general day to day activities too.

Lowers inflammation

Research suggests that those who receive poor quality sleep are at a greater risk of adverse health conditions, including poor immune function and inflammation.

Studies have linked sleep deprivation to inflammatory bowel diseases that affect people’s gastrointestinal tract9. These illnesses can then, in turn, negatively impact sleep even further.

Improves mental health

It’s not just physical health you need to worry about. 90% of patients with depression complain about sleep quality10, and numerous studies have made the link between the condition and a lack of sleep. Find out more about how sleep impacts depression here.

Leads to weight gain

Short sleep duration puts individuals at a greater risk of obesity11. This is due to a number of reasons, including:

  • Causes a lack of motivation to exercise
  • Worsens athletic performance
  • Has adverse effects on glucose metabolism and raises risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Reduces levels of the hormone leptin – which in turn leads to increased food intake12
  • Elevates ghrelin (the hunger hormone)
  • Makes you less likely to fight cravings and make healthy choices
  • Decreases resting metabolism in some individuals13
  • Prevents insulin resistance

How to have a better sleep

If you’re convinced of the importance of sleep, you might be thinking that getting enough sounds easier said than done. How do you actually improve sleep quality?

The World Sleep Society recommends 10 different steps:

  1. Fixing a bedtime and awakening time
  2. No taking naps over 45 minutes long
  3. Avoiding alcohol 4 hours before bed and stopping smoking completely
  4. Avoiding caffeine 6 hours before bed
  5. Avoiding sugary, large meals 4 hours before bed
  6. Exercising regularly, but not just before you go to sleep
  7. Using comfortable bedding
  8. Promoting a healthy sleep environment e.g. finding a comfortable temperature and keeping the room ventilated
  9. Sleeping in the dark and blocking out noise
  10. Avoiding doing work in your bed

Tired of being tired?

If you’re experiencing prolonged difficulties sleeping, it might be worth speaking to your doctor, as your lack of sleep could be the result of a sleep disorder.

Maintaining your circadian rhythm (which controls your sleep-wake schedule) and getting enough quality sleep is essential for both physical and mental health. Sleep sits alongside nutrition and exercise when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle.

The bottom line is: you simply can’t achieve optimum health without proper sleep.

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