What Happens While We Sleep?
I think we all agree that regular, peaceful sleep makes our lives more pleasant and successful. Having suffered from sleep problems in the past, I know from personal experience that a good nights sleep is vital for health and happiness in body and mind.
Sleep helps us thrive by contributing to a healthy immune system, our heart and vascular system are able to rest and our tissues and cells are restored and repaired. Good sleep can also balance our appetites by helping to regulate levels of hormones. A peaceful and healthy night’s sleep helps the body suppress ghrelin, a hunger hormone, and stimulate leptin, which controls appetite, so when we are sleep deprived we may feel the need to eat more as a way to try and find energy, this could lead to weight gain.
Sleeping also seems to be related to forming the pathways in the brain for memory and learning. And it’s believed that the brain’s waste-flushing system (called the glymphatic system) may be close to 10 times more active when we sleep compared to when we’re awake.
Sleep Is affected By Stress, Lifestyle And Diet
Our modern lifestyles are not always conducive to a good nights sleep. Busy work and family life can become stressful at times. Often we get so busy that we neglect to take care of ourselves, we don’t eat enough fresh, healthy food and many of us spend a large part of the day quite inactive or sitting in front of screens. Also overexposure to electronics, news and information overload can all contribute to physical and mental stress, causing sleep problems. But the good news is there are many simple things we can do to restore balance and ensure a good nights sleep:
Light – Expose yourself to natural light during the day – get outside, the more daylight we expose ourselves to, the better. Our body will then more naturally begin to relax and settle down as it gets dark.
Exercise – Whether its just a walk in the fresh air, gardening, walking the dog or something more structured and strenuous, exercise will always help our body to be more ready for sleep (and more likely to stay asleep during the night.
Diet – cutting sugar out of our diets, especially before bed, will be particularly beneficial. Add lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, eat healthy food at regular intervals during the day and no large meals just before bedtime.
Relaxation Routine – Create a relaxing bed time habit that tells your body “it’s time for bed now”, set a bedtime, and wake-time, and stick to them, Do something to settle yourself down before bed each night. This might be reading a book, taking a bath, stretching, meditating or listening to relaxing music. This one has been invaluable for me!
Anxiety – If you are someone who tends to worry at night, keep a notepad by your bedside. When worries come to plague your mind, write them down and tell yourself tomorrow is another day, you can deal with it then.
Positivity – Have something to look forward to – a positive morning routine can make all the difference to our day, and as a result, contribute to a peaceful nights sleep at the end of it. Make some time to read something uplifting each morning, keep a positive journal or follow a more structured but short routine such as The Miracle Morning – I have tried this and it’s transformational.
Don’t go to bed late – some of your best sleep occurs before midnight.