It might sound a bit strange coming from an Irish gal living in the Big Smoke but for the second year in a row, I didn’t wear green on Paddy’s Day. The trek to the Dublin parade seemed like a trip to Mars and so, I gave it a miss. As for the alcohol? I swapped it for a creamy hot chocolate in the one and only Starbucks. The Netflix movies were on a cycle – selected the day before for fear that I’d actually have to use my brain to do any major thinking. This was all preceded by an excellent night sleep topped only by the feeling of non-hungover satisfaction I had on Saturday morning.
As I discussed with a friend at the weekend, sleep is the answer to many a challenge – tiredness, anxiety, skin problems and at times, dealing with the real world. To be clear – I’m not trying to encourage staying in bed for hours on end hiding from the world. I’m talking about pure un-interrupted rest, self-care and ensuring you’re at your best to live your best life.
According to the National Sleep Foundation of America, adults up to the age of 65 need between 7-9 hours sleep per night. This is the recommended amount based on two years of research carried out across a variety of participants – according to age, lifestyle, diet, stress levels and much more.
Lack of sleep can lead to increased stress, mental health challenges, poorer health and not to mention physical reactions like poor skin and bags under the eyes. In the long term, it can lead to being run-down and being more susceptible to flus and colds.
In order to ensure that you feel truly rested, there are number of possible healthy habits to adopt.
It seems obvious but I’m going to say it anyway. Drinking a load of caffeine later in the day is sure to affect your sleep that night. This includes the likes of black tea which has high amounts of caffeine so swapping it for a decaf version is highly recommended. If sleeping problems become a problem, avoiding caffeine for days at a time to see if it makes a difference has been an experiment that’s worked for me on several occasions.
Screens before bed impact our sleep in many ways. For one, we’re looking at realms of information that keep us thinking about the outside world rather than our cosy bedtime world. Moreover, the blue light in our screens is reacted to by the over 30,000 cells in our eye. This particular light hits the cells and sends a signal to the brain making it turn off melatonin production -which is the key that starts the engine for sleep. The options here are to switch the phone to night mode in advance of bedtime or switch it off altogether.
Meditation before bed means that you’re more relaxed and have hopefully, switched off from the day. Practicing meditation has been proven to actually strengthen the neo-frontal cortex of the brain if practiced consistently for six weeks at a time. Overall feelings of well-being will impact sleep habits and therefore health, in the long run.
Keeping a routine where possible will ensure your body is in the know of what’s going on. If you’re inclined to go to bed early and get up early, try to make this your regular routine. Perhaps your job is like mine and involves some early starts and some later ones? Still try to stay in the same habits – get up at the same time even if you’re not working for another three hours, your body will thank you for it.
Any physical activity will relax your body and mind allowing for a greater night’s sleep. Oftentimes, sleeping can be delayed by having too much energy in the body leading to restlessness in bed. Doing a decent gym session, having a walk or even some housework before bed leaves your body feeling chilled and ready for well-earned 7-9 hours.
How is your sleep? Do you need many hours? I’ve heard urban legends of people that manage on five hours sleep per night, I’d love to hear your thoughts below.