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The importance of sleep

Sleep is possibly one of the most effective forms of self-care. Everything feels worse when you’re tired. It’s common knowledge that sleep problems are prevelant in those who suffer from things like anxiety or depression, but what isn’t as well-known is that lack of sleep can contribute to the development of such things.

Sleep deprivation is nothing unusual among people today. The temptations to stay up all night watching something on Netflix or reading ‘one more chapter’ of a good book, or if you’re like my boyfriend, talking about anything and everything, is all too inviting. So we watch one more episode (and another, and another…), wake up tired and spend the whole day yawning and cranky.

Now I’m not going to bore you with all the technicalities of sleep but they do say knowledge is power. There are two major categories of sleep: quiet sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Quiet sleep is deep sleep. Here our muscles relax, our body temperature drops, our heart rate, and breathing slows. Quiet sleep helps boost our immune system functioning. REM sleep is dream sleep. Our body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and breathing increase back up to the same rates as when we’re awake. REM sleep increases memory and learning capabilities and improves our mental health. Any interruption to sleep affects our levels of stress hormones and messes with the way we think and the way we feel.

So how can you improve your sleep, I hear you ask? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

Sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene is very important. This doesn’t mean having a shower before bed and washing your sheets all the time. Sleep hygiene is having a regular sleep schedule. Going to sleep at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. Getting into a routine makes it easier to get up and make it through the day without constantly yawning and needing a nap. It’s also important to make sure your bed is just for sleeping. Watching films/TV or doing work in bed means the brain associates the need to be busy and feelings of stress with sitting in bed. So when you try to get to sleep, your brain is thinking the opposite.

Lifestyle changes

Everyone knows that caffeine has negative effects on your sleeping habits; drinking caffeine six hours before bedtime reduces total sleep time by at least one hour. But alcohol and nicotine also have negative effects on sleep. After a night of drinking, sure it’s easy to fall asleep. But the sleep you get is broken and light so you wake up just as tired as when you went to sleep. The same is said for smartphones and social media before bed. The light from your phone makes your brain believe that it’s morning and so it’s harder for you to fall asleep. Cutting these things out, or limiting them at least, will help improve your sleep.

Exercise

Exercise! Studies have found that half an hour of aerobic exercises help you fall asleep quicker.  Not only that, but you spend more time in deep sleep and therefore feel more relaxed when you wake up. Fair warning though, I try this one a lot and often wake up with sore exercise muscles but this is probably due to the fact that my exercise occurs once in a blue moon.

Relaxation techniques

Now I know when I try to get to sleep, my brain likes to run a mile a minute thinking about everything and anything. My most embarrassing moments, how I haven’t got my life sorted etc, etc. I get myself trapped in a downward spiral and getting to sleep is near impossible. Recently I’ve been trying meditation or deep breathing exercises to calm me down and they really make a difference.

All of this is definitely easier said than done, I know that for a fact as I’m known for my backwards sleeping routine and taking an afternoon nap to compensate for it but trying to incorporate some of these changes into your life will help you get a better night’s sleep and in turn aid to improving your emotional and mental health.

Photo by Malvestida Magazine on Unsplash

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14 COMMENTS

  • Wow Hannah thanks so much for this.

    I often wake up at 1 or 2 am and that’s when the ‘dark’ thoughts begin. I need to learn to switch off my phone before sleeping! Also I swear I dream too much.

    This is so good – the tips are really useful.
    -Lena
    x
    http://www.lenasnotebook.co.uk

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Thanks, Lena! I hope it helped a little bit! Haha, I don’t remember most of my dreams, I wish I remembered more! x

  • Geraldine

    I have such a bad habit of going to bed and still being on my phone 😂 it’s terrible and hard to change! I definitely tried to not do work while and in bed, is comfy as that might be for that reason. It gets a bit uncomfortable over time anyway 😅 I try to listen to sleep music belowb hitting the hay. Thanks for sharing these tips!

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      I will admit that I’m guilty of doing most of my work from bed, especially blogging because Mike usually sits at the desk but I definitely need to get out of that habit! I just find it so easy to slip into a nap when I’m working from bed though, haha! Thanks for reading, Ger! x

  • Marie-Céline

    I sleep a lot because of my depression. When I used to get up at silly o’clock to go to work I needed an afternoon nap as soon as I got home. But it always turned into more than a nap. So basically my natural sleep cycle was totally messed up.

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Sorry to hear that, Marie! I feel you on the naps turning into more than a nap, though! x

  • Chloe Chats

    Fab post! I do love sleep. I am definitely sleep deprived this week, I’ve been absolutely miserable for the past few days and I imagine it’s down to be ridiculously tired, although I do go to bed every night pretty much at the same time, so I got that routine down! I often struggle with getting to sleep once I’m in bed though so I have some meditation apps to help me relax and they really are great. Love the post Hannah!

    Chloe xx

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Lack of sleep definitely makes me super cranky! Such an interesting idea about the meditation apps to help with relaxation! Thanks, Chlo! xx

  • cockneycountrybumpkin

    A great post with some great tips .. Although with 3 young children I don’t think I’m ever to sleep again 😂

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Yea, I’m gonna make the most of my sleep before I get on to having kids, haha! x

  • I’m going to send this to one of my friend’s who always has a difficult time falling asleep. I’ve never heard the term “sleep hygiene” before now, and it’s definitely not what I thought it meant. Great post, Han!

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Thanks, Alex! I hope they find it useful x

  • Nancy

    YESS it is so important to get the right amount of sleep. Going to sleep in clean sheets is a MUST! Last thing you want is to be uncomfortable and can’t sleep. I find exercising being super helpful with getting me sleepy, even when it is earlier in the day. Love these relaxation techniques! Thanks for sharing some tips :).

    Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Thanks so much, Nancy! Glad you enjoyed it 🙂 x

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