Posted on March 07, 2019 by Emily Forbes

I am the bearer of good news, March is National Bed Month! Turn off that alarm clock and grab some extra zzz’s. How lush does that sound? No doubt the majority of us aren’t getting enough sleep or sleep of decent quality. But we are learning more and more of the detrimental effects poor sleep can have on our health. I don’t believe you aren’t all capable humans, but my assumption is now that we’re at the beginning of March, most of your New Year’s resolutions have fallen by the wayside. But don’t worry, NOW is the right time to set a new challenge. In December I wrote a blog on setting yourself a 30-day challenge, so why not use March to set yourself a challenge to sleep for health?

Circadian rhythms:

Evolution did a great job of tuning our body to the natural cycles of nature through our circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are essentially our internal 24-hour body clock which switches between sleepiness and alertness throughout the day. In layman’s terms, it’s our sleep/wake cycle. There are many things which can affect this cycle; natural influencers like sunlight and temperature or artificial factors like work schedules and modern technology. Safe to say the majority of our body-clocks are pretty skewed!

Why aren’t we getting enough sleep?

  • The biggest changes in our sleep patterns happened in 1879  when Thomas Edison developed the lightbulb. This meant we no longer had to sleep when the sun went down. Over the century, the average sleep time went down from 10 hours a night to 7-8, with more and more people getting less than 6 hours sleep a night.
  • These advances meant people could now work longer and longer hours. We have fallen into a rat-race where life doesn’t stop for 24-hours a day. We can get people to work all through the night if we need.
  • The blue light emitted from the screens of TV’s, tablets and mobile phones also delays the release of melatonin which is our “sleep hormone” and is required for getting to sleep and helping us to reach a deep sleep in the night.
  • The daily life of managing families, jobs, stress means we don’t always get to bed when we want or struggle to fall asleep with everything on our minds.
  • Because we are so sleep deprived we are using caffeine as a crutch to get us through our day. But this dependency is causing a vicious cycle. I once worked with a guy who complained that he couldn’t sleep until 4 am and was always tired. I tried to explain how his 8 double espressos and 4 red bulls a day were likely to blame and perhaps he just start cutting back. He wasn’t buying it! I see school kids drinking huge cans of Monster on their way to school, that’s scary!

Tips for a better nights sleep:

  • Have a regular sleep pattern. Go to bed and wake at the same time every day including weekends.
  • That ideal bedroom temperature is thought to be 16-18°C. Too low and it will be difficult to fall asleep and too high you may be restless throughout the night. As creatures of habit, it is also useful to have certain things we always do before bed which help us prepare. Perhaps 5-10 minutes of meditation or yoga, self-massage with lavender oil or just reading before bed. If we do this every night, then this simple act will trigger our brain to realise that sleep is coming next.
  • Light is a huge influencer of sleep patterns. Try to avoid screens for a few hours before bed. Blackout blinds and eye masks can help with summer sleeping and light alarm clocks can help in the winter. Also, try dimmer switches and candles in an evening.
  • Make sure you are comfortable. Invest in the best mattress and bedding that you can to help support a good night’s rest. Consider separate beds if you have a partner who continuously affects your sleep.
  • Create a sanctuary in your room. It is not an extension of your office or living room. Have electrical items as few possible. Every little buzz, light or electrical wave can affect your circadian rhythm.
  • Reduce the noise as much as possible. Use earplugs or invest in double glazing (worth it when you consider we spend a third of our lives asleep).

The benefits of sleep are numerous. Less stress, improved memory, productivity, mood and energy. Better weight management and immunity. Reduced risks of diabetes and heart conditions and lowered blood pressure. So try the 30-day sleep challenge for improved health. Thank me later.

Sweet dreams. Emily x