Here's how you can improve your sleep habits
Refreshing sleep is of huge importance when staying healthy. Better Sleep Month is supported by the Better Sleep Council (BSC), which aims to raise awareness about the benefits of better sleep and how poor sleep can disrupt our lives. As with diet and exercise, sleep is crucial to our physical, emotional and mental health.
Inadequate sleep can lead to an increase in blood pressure and stress hormone production; the body can become stressed when it does not get enough sleep.
The consequences of poor sleep include reduced concentration, mood swings, irritability, stress, and a weakened immune system. The release of stress hormones can also make it harder to sleep, perpetuating an unhealthy sleep cycle.
In severe cases, poor sleep may be linked to serious problems including narcolepsy, insomnia, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea. Better Sleep Month helps to make more people aware of these problems; advice from a suitable health professional should be sought if any of these consequences are experienced.
There are many physical and psychological factors which can cause poor sleep; stress is a common cause.
Worries such as elder care, childcare, family conflicts, problems with personal relationships, financial concerns and other anxieties can all interrupt healthy sleep patterns. Physical factors which can affect sleep include pain, excess sweating, need to urinate, noise (including snoring by a bed partner) and light levels.
Stress can elevate blood pressure; heart attack and stroke are well documented risks of high blood pressure.
Further factors which disrupt sleep include excitement, depression, anxiety, and caffeine intake close to bed time. Environmental factors include room temperature, light levels, humidity, mattress, bedding and noise.
In many cases, better sleep can be achieved through changes to our lifestyle and the way we think about things. Better Sleep Month helps to make people aware of any poor sleeping habits we may have.
Counseling can help address any personal problems which are causing stress; relaxation techniques may be taught to counteract the effects of stress.
There is recent evidence which suggests achieving better quality sleep may be more important than increasing the number of hours of sleep. The National Sleep Council, which supports Better Sleep Month, has reported that people who sleep between 6 and 7 hours a night actually live longer than those who sleep for 8 hours,
Many experts believe that between 7.5 and 8.5 hours of sleep a night is optimal. However, better sleep does not refer to just the length of time we sleep.
6 hours of deep refreshing sleep is more beneficial than 8 hours of light interrupted sleep.