We often think of eating better, exercising better to improve our health and happiness, but actually, studies suggest that sleep has an even bigger impact on our overall health than what we eat or how we move!
‘Sleep is the Best Meditation’ (Dalai Lama)
I just heard about an amazing study, the ‘daylight savings time’ – which is discussed in Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep by Matthew Walker. The study is conducted twice a year on over 1.5 billion people across 70 countries and shows a massive 24% increase in heart attacks due to the loss of just one hour’s sleep and in the autumn there’s a 21% decrease in heart attacks. That’s pretty incredible to me. Just one hour’s sleep results in such massive biological differences and such a marked effect on our biology. It really makes me think that if that one hour makes such a difference, what of a lifetime of sleep-loss?
Evidence seems to show that we’re all sleeping much less as, one in two is trying to survive on less than 6 hours, and this has terrible consequences on our overall health.
Sleep is the foundation of good health. Here are 8 things that more sleep will change in your life!
1. Sleep helps you to lose weight
Did you know that your body is more reluctant to shed fat if you are under-slept? Your body doesn’t want to give up extra fat if you’re tired, and you’ll find losing weight much harder if you’re sleep deprived. So you want to lose weight? Get some sleep!
2. Sleep is better for your heart
So we heard that a loss of just one hour’s sleep can cause an increased incidence of heart disease? Well, that’s not all, lack of sleep also increases the incidence of high blood pressure, as well as diabetes.
3. Sleeping more reduces your likelihood of Strokes
A 2016 study found that the overall rate of stroke was 8% higher in the two days after daylight saving time. Cancer victims were 25% more likely to have a stroke, and older people were 20% more likely to have a stroke
4. Less sleep makes you a less charismatic leader
‘All leaders should want to inspire their followers, and they will tend to be more effective in doing so if they get a full night of sleep.’ Christopher Barnes, Associate Professor of Management in Foster School of Business at University of Washington
If all of that heart and health info was a bit much, I particularly enjoyed this research result. Apparently, employees who didn’t know the sleeping patterns of their boss consistently found that if their boss slept better they were reported as being more inspirational and charismatic. So, if you’re looking to inspire your team – you’d better get some sleep!
5. Sleeping better causes increased creativity and productivity
“We work and live in a culture that tries to cram in so much activity. Because of this, everything else suffers. I always tell my students that sleep makes everything better: your work, your life, your health and your relationships.”Christopher Barnes, Associate Professor of Management in Foster School of Business at University of Washington
Studies have repeatedly shown that we solve creative problems better when we sleep well. So if you have big creative problems to solve or business dilemmas, don’t stay up late solving them, science says to get a good night’s sleep to solve the problems!
6. A good night’s sleep increases athletic performance
Training to run a marathon? Studies show that if you sleep better, your performance will improve markedly for a good night’s sleep.
7. Sleeping less actually results in ‘cyberloafing’.
Have you ever found that you’re really quite sleepy, but you just seem to keep scrolling? Well, researchers have shown that this actually happens, and worse still, this is happening at work! Researchers have shown that a sleep loss of just 40 minutes causes employees to be less able to self-regulate their time on the internet, be less disciplined and just search the internet for personal reasons.
8. And no, Sleepyheads aren’t lazy bones!
It seems so strange to me that those who sleep a good 8 hours are called lazy! Surely we should be putting them on a pedestal, and lauding them for their good health, good productivity and focused mindset!
As a child growing up in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain, with her famous sleeping routine of only 4 hours a night. I was brought up to think that if only I could master sleeping 4 hours a night, somehow I would be ‘successful’.
Looking at all the evidence, this seems not only so bizarre but so incredibly damaging. And I now see that we’re still keeping the same stories alive for children growing up today, that if they sleep less and work hard, their lives will somehow be more worthy, they will be more ‘successful’. How on earth is it that we’re propagating the message that sleep is lazy and sleeplessness successful? This seems so annoyingly typical of this culture that gets all the messages all mixed up, and appears to somehow conspire that we should have less healthy habits.
How to make sure that you get your full quota?
8 ideas to sleep better. These are ideas that I certainly find helpful!
1. Keep your bedroom cold.
A cooler environment has been shown to be useful in helping sleep. Another way to lower your body temperature before bed is to take a warm bath before bed, which will also have the effect of relaxing your muscles. When you sleep, you need to keep cool, and if you’re overheated during sleep, your body doesn’t produce adequate melatonin. So keep cool by sleeping nude or wearing bamboo, for optimum temperature regulation.
2. Exercise your discipline muscle
Stop cyber-loafing, get off the social media, press pause on the box-sets and make it an absolute priority to be in bed early.
3. Turn off your devices before bed
Multiple studies have shown that the light from iPhones and laptops reduces melatonin, the sleep hormone. So if you’re practicing sleepy yoga before bed, turn the brightness on your computer right down, and try to use mostly the audio, not the visual, for your cues.
4. Darken your room
It’s been shown that even a tiny bit of light can disrupt your circadian rhythm and the production of melatonin and serotonin. So get yourself back-out blinds for the bedroom.
5. Don’t eat before bed
Make sure that your evening meal is as early as possible before bed, so you’re not digesting your meal at night. And try to extend your night-time fast as long as possible, which has been shown to be good for your health. So try not to eat anything for as long as possible before bedtime. In particular, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that spicy dishes, citrus fruits or fizzy drinks can be disruptive to sleep.
6. Practice pranayama before bed
If you’re feeling anxious before bed, you just won’t sleep. Practices to calm you include pranayama, yoga nidra, restorative and yin yoga. I get my bolsters, eye pillows and cushions all ready, in my bedroom before practice, after brushing the teeth, so I know that I’m ready to get into bed straight away! That’s why I came up with these Ready for Bed classes:
7. Stop using social media so much
Just in general, social media isn’t great for our mental health, often asking us to compare ourselves and our best lives. And just before bed, these messages seem to seem directly into the consciousness. Again, use that discipline muscle and make sure you limit your time on social media.
8. Use soothing oils to calm
I find that soothing smells automatically can relax me. You know that big inhale you take when you walk into a beautifully scented spa? Our sense of smell can really impact how we feel and our lives, so get yourself some high-quality oils (maybe try Yogandha oils – they’re just gorgeous and seem to relax me so deeply almost immediately).
To be honest, I don’t know what could be more lovely, more relaxing than a lovely soak in the bath, a Yin Yoga class, or maybe try Clive’s Yoga for Self-Care where you actually get yourself some oils, give yourself a loving massage and do some calming yoga, with your PJ’s on and then dive straight under the covers!
I do hope these hints and tips help you and you enjoy plenty of wonderfully restful, early nights. I’m off to bed now!!
 Sleep Factoids all available in Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams published by Penguin
Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “From age 8 to 80, expert reveals the price we pay for not sleeping.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 October 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141029083340.htm>.
Penn State. “Switch to daylight saving time leads to cyberloafing at the office.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120307112618.ht