We’ve all experienced it; a bad night’s sleep that’s left us feeling tired, irritable and unable to concentrate the following day. If it’s something that happens once in a while then it’s more an inconvenience than a problem but when you regularly don’t get a good 7-9 hours sleep a night your body and mind will start to suffer long term.

So why do we sleep? Well nobody actually knows for sure but the main theory is that sleep is a regulatory process just like eating and breathing and is therefore critical to our health and well being. Just like if we don’t eat enough we feel run down, lack energy, become grumpy and generally just don’t feel good. Whereas after a good night’s sleep we are ready to face the day, have tons of energy and most of the time feel ready to tackle whatever the day brings.

But how exactly does sleep contribute to a healthy body and mind. Here are 5 benefits of a good night’s sleep that you might not be aware of.

  1. Major restorative functions in the body like muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and growth hormone release occur mostly, or in some cases only, during sleep. So if you’ve had a hard training session then it’s essential that you get a good night’s sleep so your body can repair muscle tissue to help you get the gains that you are after.
  2. It can help control your weight. A lack of sleep can make it difficult to control your appetite. The longer you are awake the more energy your body needs so you will eat more. There is evidence to suggest that the levels of hormones that control feelings of fullness and hunger may alter also leading to over eating.
  3. To stay fighting fit, the body needs plenty of good quality rest. Your immune system weakens and becomes less effective at dealing with viruses and bacteria when you are sleep deprived.
  4. Whilst you are asleep your blood pressure will drop. If you are awake too often this doesn’t allow your circulatory system time to rest, keeping your blood pressure high and your heart working hard. In the long term this can lead to a higher risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
  5. A good night’s sleep generally makes us feel better mood-wise. Whilst we sleep our brain processes emotions and consolidates memories. A chronic lack of sleep can result in mood disorders like anxiety and depression.

If you struggle to sleep there are a few things you can try before resorting to medication.

  1. Try to wind down 30 minutes before going to bed. I love reading but unless I make time in the evening to do so I never do it so over the last couple of weeks, instead of watching some series on Netflix at 9pm I now get ready for bed and read until 10pm. Reading really helps me to feel sleepy and so I am definitely ready to sleep by the time 10pm comes around.
  2. Avoid having a drink an hour or so before bed if it means that you will end up needing to visit the bathroom in the night and therefore disturb your deep sleep.
  3. If you can’t sleep because something is bothering you, have a brain dump. Grab a pen and paper and write down whatever is on your mind. I do this if I have a to-do list of things that need doing the next day. If something is worrying you, write it down then all the possible solutions to fix the problem but remind yourself that there isn’t anything you can do about it until the morning.
  4. Make sure the room environment is optimal for sleeping conditions. The best temperature is usually around 16-18 degrees centigrade. Invest in a good blackout blind or pair of curtains to cut light down and ideally there should be minimal chance of noise disruption.
  5. Exercise regularly but not too late in the evening as you may feel too pumped afterwards to wind down in time for your usual bedtime.

Sweet dreams!