'Sleep is as important to our health as eating, drinking and breathing. It allows our bodies to repair themselves and our brains to consolidate our memories and process information'
As stated by The Mental Health Foundation, in reference to their report ‘Sleep Matters’.
During a busy week (or month), in order to cram in as much as possible to our day, sleep is often the first thing that is neglected:
‘If I just have a 6-hour sleep tonight, I’ll be able to get that report finished, put the kids to bed and respond to those 5 million What’s App texts before bed.’ Uh-huh...
What are the effects of not getting enough sleep?
Night after night most of us squeeze our nightly rest into as little as four or five hours. A one-off might be ok, however if we do this again and again, just a few hours sleep can be extremely counter-productive, leaving us: moody, exhausted, irritable, lacking concentration and unable to hold an eloquent conversation.
I am definitely guilty of this, and certainly suffer from these consequences above when I get six hours of sleep or less a night. If this lack of sleep continues more than a few days we may feel extremely emotional, experience apathy, slowed speech and flattened emotional responses as well as impaired memory and the inability to multi-task. All of which are pretty vital for most careers, right? Yikes.
Sleeping helps nourish our brain power:
Whilst we sleep and rest, our brains are actually hard at work processing thoughts from that day; busy creating pathways for new memories and insights. Without that crucial sleep each night, we may struggle to pay attention and respond to the best of our ability.
New parents with young babies, perhaps get as little as three or four hours a day, broken up into painfully small chunks as they grab sleep whenever they can throughout the day and night. Shift workers are also particularly prone to sleep deprivation from night shifts and constantly changing their sleep patterns. There is no fixed number of hours that we should all have; each of us have different bodies and different lifestyles, therefore the amount of sleep we need varies from 7 to 11 hours. Taking into account the side effects above, most of us know if we have had enough sleep or not.
So how can we stop ourselves from feeling like zombies? Here are a few other tips to help combat sleep depravation:
Getting regular exercise (may sound crazy to exercise in order to sleep more, but 'tis true).
Set an alarm half an hour before you want to be in bed, to remind you to: turn off that TV, prepare for bed, get your bathroom routine done in good time.
Put on those PJs at least an hour before bed, to get your mind into a more sleepy zone.
Minimise noise, light and excessive hot and cold temperatures where you sleep.
Minimise the amount of caffeine you drink each day and especially avoid caffeine at least six hours before lights out.
Avoid using your blackberry/answering those work emails at least an hour before bed and try to help your brain switch off from ‘work mode’.
How does lack of sleep impact our health?
Stress is naturally the number one cause of sleeping difficulties, as well as job and family pressures. Health wise, there are a growing number of studies to prove that there are strong links between a lack of sleep and obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Our immune system can also be effected, unable to protect our bodies to maximum effect.
How can massage help?
You don’t have to have cognitive behavioural therapy to solve sleep depravity problems; massage can be a wonderful way to prepare your body and mind for sleep. Also taking the time to concentrate on your body and also your state of mind is an important step to prioritise sleep and rest in your daily routine.
Whilst I sadly cannot help to take away your work woes and family pressures, Massage & Me can help you to adopt some healthy sleep routines and also to prepare your body and mind for a healthy overnight rest. Here is a little reminder of the benefits massage can bring us.