Sleep is often a topic that is brushed over, but it really shouldn’t be. Adequate/ undisrupted sleep is crucial for several reasons, especially for our physical, emotional and cognitive health. Moreover, not only can inadequate sleep negatively impact our health it can also adversely affect our day to day performance, both at work and home.
Insufficient sleep may adversely impact our cognitive health by:
- Reducing our ability to concentrate over long periods of time, which in turn reduces our work productivity and increases our stress levels
- Increasing day time sleepiness – this will also reduce our ability to concentrate for longer periods of time and may result in more day time naps
Insufficient sleep may adversely impact our emotional health by:
- Significantly elevating our stress levels – for girls this may impact our menstruation, either causing our cycles to become irregular or loosing them completely
- Increasing feelings of anxiety or depression
- Feeling more irritable
Insufficient sleep may adversely impact our physical health by:
- Contributing to weight gain – specifically associated with a short sleep duration (<6 hours/night)
- Negatively affecting our bone health – studies show that a long sleep duration (>8 hours/night) is associated with a greater risk of developing osteoporosis later in life
- Increasing likelihood of fatigue and feelings of tiredness, which in turn will negatively affect your physical activity (PA) levels as you have less energy
So with this in mind what is the recommended daily sleep duration?
Before answering this I just want to mention that there is no correct duration for everyone, it is not a “one size fits all” situation. Everyone’s bodies are different and unique so our optimal sleep duration will be too. How much physical activity you do, how stressed you are, your age, your genetics etc all impact our individual optimal sleep duration.
Age specifically is an important factor to focus on when it comes to optimal sleep durations. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults aged between 18 – 64 get 7 to 9 hours sleep per night, whilst adults over 65 years old aim for 7 to 8 hours sleep; this suggests that on average as you age you require slightly less sleep.
What might be affecting your sleep quality?
- Taking day time naps is shown to negatively impact night time sleep
- Too much caffeine (this does not just include coffee)
- Your sleep routine. For instance, do you go to sleep late? Do you then wake up early or late? In both circumstances your sleep will be negatively affected and so will your work/ academic performance!
- Stress and worry levels – perhaps to do with work demands
- Sleep disorders
- Certain medication
- Artificial light
- Lack of PA
- Use of electronic devices too close to sleep
- Hormonal changes around puberty and around menstruation for females
Some tips to improve your sleep include:
- Incorporate some PA sessions into your week – PA is considered to be an effective, non-pharmacological approach to your sleep improve sleep. This does not mean you have to do all high intensity workouts though, activities such as walking, yoga or gardening will do the job too.
- Switch up your environment, perhaps play around with the lighting in your room, try listening to some music as you fall asleep, and making sure you like your pillows and duvet (i.e. a thicker one for the winter months).
- Try and incorporate a night time routine. This will be very personal to you but some ideas could include reading before you go to sleep, turning your phone on silent/ off 1 – 2 hours before bed, or try journaling before you go to sleep; this will help you get all your thoughts down on paper so that your mind isn’t thinking of a hundred different things when you are trying to sleep.
There are four main factors which make a “healthy” sleep:
- Your sleep is of an adequate duration (see above)
- Your sleep is good quality – i.e. you sleep throughout the night, have no trouble falling asleep etc
- You go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time
- You do not suffer from any sleep disorders (I will cover some common ones in a separate post if people are interested)
I hope you enjoyed this post, sorry it was a bit of a long one, there was SO much to cover!! Please like and/or leave a comment below if you liked this post, I would love to know your thoughts. It would really support my blog too 🙂