Sleep and your well being
Other than breathing and eating, sleep is the most important thing for us in order to function. It doesn’t matter if we live in a rural area or big city sleep is fundamental to wellbeing and even minimal sleep loss takes a toll on mood, energy, ability to concentrate, think clearly and in your ability to handle stress. Chronic sleep loss has a detrimental impact on both mental and physical health.
An average of 8 hours good quality sleep on a regular basis is needed for good brain functioning. While you rest your brain is working hard with the maintenance and tuning that is required to keep your body running smoothly and ready for the day ahead. Just as our cars require maintenance to keep running smoothly so do we; quality sleep is like a grease and oil change and the length of time we spend sleeping is filling our petrol tank.
Occupations can have an impact on sleep; shift work for example can lead to increased ill health and ailments in addition to fatigue and poor sleep patterns; being on call can lead to poor sleep quality as we are prone to stay in a more alert state ‘just in case’. Excessive work hours as are often found in transport and agriculture are also detrimental to sleep quality and quantity. The increased use of computers and mobile phones can also be detrimental to our sleep particularly when taken to bed so you can work before going to sleep.
For rural people there is an increased risk of accidents due to poor sleep. In rural areas there is a greater need for reliance on the car but driving tired drastically increases the risk of accidents. Similarly, for farmers a lack of sleep decreases the capacity to perform farming tasks safely.
Noticeable signs of sleep deprivation are:
- Excessive sleepiness or fatigue
- Reliance on the snooze button/difficulty getting up in the morning
- Low mood
- Difficulty concentrating, learning or remembering
- Low motivation
- Increased appetite and craving fatty or sugary foods
- Reaching for the caffeine to have a kick start
- Reduced sex drive
A commonly used term for how to maximise the chances of getting to sleep and staying asleep is sleep hygiene which simply means good sleep habits. Some of these good habits are:
- Consistency – go to bed and get up at the same time every day (including weekends and days off).
- That being said, it’s important not to ignore tiredness and go to bed when your body is telling you it is tired and not go to bed when not tired as that will only reinforce the bad habit of staying awake.
- Make sure the bedroom is at the right temperature, is quiet and dark and technology free.
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine for at least 4-6 hours before going to bed; both are stimulants and interfere with the ability to fall asleep.
- Avoid alcohol for at least 4-6 hours before going to bed. Alcohol is a depressant which impacts the working of the nervous system. It might help you doze off initially but it disturbs the sleep rhythm impacting the quality of sleep.
- Avoid daytime naps but if you can’t make it through the day without one make sure it is before 3pm and preferably no more than 20 minutes.
- Regular exercise helps sleep (and reduces stress) but no strenuous exercise 4 hours before bed.
- Develop your own sleep routines eg hot bath or shower before bed, herbal tea, relaxation exercises or taking time out to clear the mind.
If you struggle with sleep quality or quantity contact us to get some help. The online counselling option is super easy and convenient.