How. Good. Is. Sleep!!!
Even though we don’t really get to remember it… or think about it while we are doing it… it’s pretty hard to find someone who doesn’t agree that sleep is one of the greatest joys in life. We look forward to it, we miss it when we don’t get enough of it, and, for a lot of us, we spend a lot of our waking moments wishing we were asleep!! (any new parents reading this?!?!)
Sleep is also incredibly important for our health.
Sleep is right up there alongside adequate nutrition and regular exercise as key factors to overall physical and mental health.
Unfortunately, modern ways of life are interfering with our natural sleep patterns. People are sleeping less, sleep quality is decreasing, and we even tend to be prioritising sleep less and less in the face of our increasingly busy and frantic lifestyles.
Yes, technology has had a huge role to play in all of this…
We are glued to screens constantly. We all have social media accounts. We spend too much time binge-watching seasons on Netflix. We are always getting notifications on our phones from any number of apps & messaging services.
But we can’t completely blame technology for our lack of quality sleep, nor is it impossible to overcome our technology dependencies and get adequate, high quality rest!
But let’s start with the basics … WHY is sleep so important?
1. Good quality sleep improves concentration and productivity
Sleep is important for various aspects of brain function including cognition, concentration, productivity and performance - and ALL of these are negatively affected by sleep deprivation.
You might have heard that sleep deprivation has some similar effects on brain function as alcohol intoxication… and this is true! When sleep deprived you are more likely to make mistakes…
Good sleep, on the other hand, has been shown to improve problem solving skills and enhance memory performance of both children and adults.
2. Poor sleep makes weight management difficult
Yep, in fact short sleep duration is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity, both in children and adults. The effects of poor sleep influencing weight gain include hormone imbalances, reduced motivation to exercise and increased difficulty moderating appetite.
3. Good quality sleep also improves physical/athletic performance
Yep, this one seems pretty obvious because sleep is most noticeably a time where we rest our bodies… so it’s a no brainer that sleep enhances your ability to perform physically.
Better quality sleep has shown to significantly improve speed, strength, accuracy, reaction times, and, as per point #1 - the mental concentration element involved in physical & athletic performance.
4. Poor sleepers are at greater risk of Heart Disease, Stroke, Type 2 Diabetes & other chronic conditions
Sleep quality and duration can have a major effect on many risk factors believed to drive chronic diseases. Studies have found that those who sleep for more than 7 hours per night are at less risk of heart disease & stroke.
Sleep also affects blood sugar and insulin sensitivity, to the point where in one study just a week’s worth of restricted sleep (4 hours per night) caused symptoms of pre-diabetes! This was then resolved after another week of increased sleep duration. Generally, those sleeping less than 6 hours per night have repeatedly been shown to be at increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
5. Poor sleep is also linked to depression, emotional instability & difficulty in social interactions
Mental health issues, such as depression, are strongly linked to poor sleep quality and sleeping disorders. It has been estimated that 90% of patients with depression complain about sleep quality. Poor sleep is even associated with increased risk of death by suicide.
Sleep loss also reduces our ability to interact socially, with a reduction in our ability to recognize facial expressions and other important social & emotional cues.
6. Good quality sleep improves your immune function & reduces inflammation in the body
Have you ever thought you were getting a cold, done the smart thing and gone to bed early, and woken up the next day without a cold? Yep, that wasn’t your imagination. That’s very real.
Even just a small loss of sleep has been shown to impair immune function against conditions like the common cold. Sleep loss is also linked to long-term inflammation and cell damage, particularly in the bowel.
Sick of taking sick days (because you’re actually sick, not just lazy)?? Better get some rest!
OK - but back to technology and lack of sleep and all that… aren’t we also working more hours? Expected to be more present as parents? Supposed to exercise and have hobbies and follow our passions and everything else society tells us will make us happy… how and when do we find time for good quality sleep ???
We agree, it’s not always easy to find the time for lots of sleep, especially with the demands of work, family and everything else in our busy lives… but there are plenty of easy things you can do to get good quality sleep.
So here are our DadBods Top 10 Tips for consistently getting high quality sleep:
1. Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time every day.
- It doesn’t matter what those times are as much as that they are consistent. Your body needs a circadian rhythm (don't know what that is? Google it) - so pick a bedtime and a morning alarm time... and stick to them!
- Yep, really a continuation of Tip #1, try to avoid sleeping in, even if you come across a day where you have the time for it. Studies have shown that ‘sleep banking’ (or making up for sleep on the weekends/any given night) doesn’t really work, and in fact can just throw your body out of your circadian rhythm. So once again, pick your sleeping hours and stick to them!
- Notice that this does not say ‘do not nap’. It just says be smart about it. If you can find time in your day to squeeze in a 20 minute power nap, then great, go for it!! But any longer than that and you really risk lessening the quality of your sleep at night. Have a decent chunk of time to yourself during the day and want to do something restorative for your body & mind?? Then try meditating!!
- This will help cement your circadian rhythm by assisting your body regulate its melatonin levels - an important hormone that keeps you alert during the day and makes you drowsy at night. Try get sunlight early in the morning (coffee or breakfast on the verandah, walk/ride to work, step outside for a phone call), and then do your best to keep your workspace as naturally well lit as possible!
- Turn your TV off, put your phone on Do Not Disturb, put away your tablet. The white light emitted from these screens keeps your brain awake well after you close your eyes to go to sleep. So try and have at least one hour away from screens before your bedtime so your sleep is good quality right from the start!
- Make it dark. Make it cool. Have a firm but comfy bed. Only use your bed for sleep & sex - no working or TV watching! Creating the right environment for sleeping is essential and your body should only recognise your bed for sleeping. So go review your bedroom and make any changes necessary to ensure the best possible sleeping conditions - you will thank yourself in the long run!
- Let’s be real, try to avoid those second two as much as possible at any time of the day. But for those coffee drinkers, beer-lovers and even smokers amongst us - avoid your drug of choice in the evening! They have all been shown to seriously disrupt sleep quality. So skip the late afternoon coffee, pass on the wine with dinner, and if you smoke, well… quit! Or at least don’t smoke at night :-)
- Yep, another no-brainer here. Working out during your day is guaranteed to help you sleep better at night! Regular exercise improves the symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnea, and increases the amount of time you spend in the deep, restorative stages of sleep. It can take several months of regular physical activity before you experience the full effects on your sleep quality, so be patient and be consistent. Also, try not to exercise too close to your bedtime, as the stimulation of your hormones & metabolism may make it difficult to get to sleep!
- We all need some time to relax and unwind after a long day. So try reading a book, doing some light stretching, getting stuck into some self myofascial release, taking a warm bath, spending some ‘quality time’ with your partner, or anything else that helps you relax! (keeping in mind Tips 5 & 7)
- OK, this one is just a joke, we all know kids are the best thing ever! But they do have a huge impact on your sleeping patterns and quality. Of course, we all have to do whatever we can to raise our children, but setting firm sleeping principles for your children from a young age will help you get enough quality sleep in the long run. Educate your children on the importance of sleep (for them as well as you!), make sure their sleeping environment is ideal, set a strict bedtime routine, and most importantly, lead by example!!
So, we might not be able to help you get more sleep, but we hope these 10 tips will help you get better quality sleep!!
Happy sleeping DadBods!
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