Sleep is important for health
One of the best things you can do to support your physical and emotional wellbeing is to sleep well. Healthy sleeping habits are essential for staying healthy! Adopting a regular and consistent sleep pattern helps people to stay energised, improves concentration, improves performance and improves mood.
It is no surprise then that people who have good sleeping habits get better grades…
Getting the right amount
The amount of sleep a person needs varies and depends on a variety of different factors, the most important is your age. You’ll see a figure of 8 hours sleep per night for adults being widely quoted on various health information leaflets and websites. However, we know that for those up to the age of 25 that could actually be up to 10 hours of sleep. Young brains need sleep.
Age isn’t the only thing that determines of the amount of sleep we need: lifestyle, general health and habits also affect the amount required.
To get an idea of how much sleep you need, it’s helpful to reflect on how you feel when you’re having your typical sleeping pattern.
- Do you feel refreshed when you wake up?
- Can you get through the day without being dependent on caffeine (tea, coffee, energy drinks, supplements) to keep your energy levels up during the day?
- Can you get through the day without urges to nap?
- Are you able to fall asleep easily at night?
- Are you productive during waking hours when you have a normal sleep pattern?
If the answers are negative, then its work looking at your sleeping pattern again.
When we don’t get enough sleep we accumulate a sleep debt. For example, if you usually need around 8 hours of sleep per night and you’re only getting 6 hours, then you’ll accumulate a sleep debt. If the sleep debt becomes too large it can be difficult to deal with, leaving you constantly tired and less productive. Staying up all night to revise for an exam will catch up with you at a later stage (hopefully not during an exam).
Developing healthy sleeping habits is so important. We often hear people complain that these simple tips surely cannot be enough to help with sleep. We only recommend them because they work!
Below are our top tips for sleeping well:
Create a healthy sleep environment
- Your bed should be used for sleeping and sex only. Don’t use it to work!
- Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool during sleeping hours.
- Remove the distractions: switch of your mobile phone, turn off the TV and turn off your laptop/PC/tablet.
Go to bed at a regular time and get up at a regular time
- If you regulate your sleep times, you’ll help regulate your body’s internal clock. This helps to reduce day time fatigue.
- Routine is important. It has been shown to reduce emotional difficulties, low mood and anxieties.
Be prepped for sleep
- Try to clear your mind of any worries from the day. If you’ve got things on your mind, write them down and deal with them tomorrow.
- A hot bath or shower before bed will help relax your muscles and help you unwind.
- Deep breathing and relaxation exercises before or in bed can help your mind and body settle for sleep. You can get free relaxation podcasts online and also on the ShefUniHealth smartphone app.
- FACT: Hot milky drinks can help induce sleep! Try a hot chocolate or Horlicks before bed to settle you down.
- Exercise is good for helping regular sleep, but don’t do it too close to bedtime as it might keep you awake!
What about napping?
Napping is an issue of debate! If you need to nap you’re probably not getting enough sleep.
We know that short naps of 20-30 minutes can help improve concentration, decision making and energy levels. However, they are not a substitute for good sleep as they do not allow your brain to go through a full sleep cycle. So 3 x 20 mins napping does not equate to an hour of quality sleep. So whilst a short power nap might be helpful in the short term, you’ll still need your 7-9 hours sleep per night!
Planned napping can be helpful if you know you are going to be up later than your usual bed time (eg: the infamous disco nap).
The sleep VT
University Counselling Service have produced an excellent short video on good sleep. We recommend you take a look.
Until next time, sleep well.