Give It A Rest
Andrew Sharman, the author of The Wellbeing Book, wants us all to Give It A Rest. In aid of the Festival of Sleep Day today, we are sharing an extract from his latest book, The Wellbeing Book, all about how to make the most of our sleep to improve your wellbeing, productivity, and happiness
The famous American high-school philosopher Ferris Bueller once remarked: âLife moves pretty fast â if you donât stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.â
Many people spend long periods of their adult lives worrying that time is passing them by. That there just arenât enough hours in the day to get everything done. That they donât have time to meet friends, go to the gym, take a vacation or even take a lunch break. If this is you, donât worry â you are not alone.
Whatever speed you live your life, youâre now operating at a pace unheard of even a generation ago. Recent technological developments have accelerated our lives exponentially â yet for all the innovations, our bodies havenât changed. They have slowed evolved to be perfectly in tune with the environment â but unfortunately, itâs an environment we have systematically reshaped over a period of several thousand years â and our bodies havenât caught up yet.
Unlike modern technology, our bodies are generally easy to understand and look after. Our âoperating systemâ is founded on very basic needs.
Ideally, it requires about six to nine hours of sleep a night, regular nutritious meals, sunlight, clean water, some physical activity, stimulating work and inspiring, loving relationships. That sounds pretty simple, right? But check back on that list â how many of them do you feel you are really, honestly achieving?
Of course, falling short of some of these needs is fine â and, in the short term, it wonât do you any harm. Long-term, though, itâs another story. Adults who sleep fewer than six hours a night have a 13% higher mortality risk than those who get seven hours, and they are 30% more likely to be obese.
All the time itâs helping you to work long hours, perform labor-intensive tasks and miss sleep, your body is eagerly waiting for you to stop â so that it can shut down and repair itself. So, if youâre neglecting it â either buy working it too hard or by allowing yourself to develop bad habits â you can be sure, sooner or later, thereâll be a response.
In todayâs fast-paced world, your body has one requirement that outweighs the others â rest.
For us to continue to live active, mentally stimulating, sociable and healthy lives, the rules are simple: the more you challenge it, the more your body needs rest.
It seems that sleep deprivation impairs activity in the frontal lobe so that the sleep-deprived lose the mental clarity to make good food choices. Itâs a little like being drunk. In fact, if the average person stays awake for 17 hours a day, this has the same effect on their reactions as drinking two glasses of wine. When the body is overtired, the amygdala region of the brain engages and attempts to compensate for the lack of energy reserves in the body by creating for high-calorie foods.
The human immune system is also reliant on regular sleep. When we miss a few decent nightâs sleep, it struggles to defend the body against foreign or harmful substances. If the lack of sleep is ongoing, it can actually change the way the immune system responds: many sleep-deficient people are unable to fight off common infections.
Here are a few things that will help you rest better:
- Avoid caffeine and big dinners. Many people will tell you the benefits of âswitching to decafâ in the afternoon to aid restful nights. However, itâs also important to steer clear of big meals late at night, as these stimulate your metabolism, which will wake you up. Try to have your last meal at least three hours before you hit the sack.
- Forget the nightcap. An alcoholic drink before bed might help you to drift off, but booze-induced sleep is usually poor quality and leads to disrupted nights.
- Donât sleep in. Yep, I know! Oddly enough, sleeping longer is not helpful. Though it will give your body a chance to repair itself, when you sleep for too long, your sleep is often fragmented and shallow. Nine or ten hours of fitful sleep is less useful than seven hours of good sleep.
- Free your mind. Make it a goal to always wind down before bedtime. Spend an hour doing something calming â read something, meditate, listen to soft music or take a warm bath.
- Digital Detox. Turn your phone to flight mode when you start to wind down. Blue lights from your handheld devices and laptops can trick your mind into thinking itâs daytime and wake you up rather than wind you down, making falling asleep harder.
- Create a sleep schedule that suits you and stick to it. Even at weekends, this will help you regulate your circadian rhythms (or âbody clockâ) and, in time, this will improve your quality of sleep.
Find out more about The Wellbeing Book on our website.
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