I realised I needed more sleep when I was in Tesco and the checkout operator asked if I needed anymore bags. Very puzzled as I had forgot the bags for life (as always, I am sure I could provide bags for the whole of my postcode area) I realised that she was talking about the supersized bags under my eyes. I knew then that I needed a word with myself about the importance of sleep and ways to get a better quality sleep.
Long gone are the days when counting sheep was a “thing”. Something about that just doesn’t do it for me. I start overthinking everything. What are these sheep names? Oh actually, is it sheep or sheep’s? Where’s the shepherd and why are they trying to escape by jumping over the fence?? Somebody also told me to count back from 100, but how long do you go before you call it a day? – 99 -100?! So I went back to the drawing board to find out some hints and tips to getting my snore on.
2020 was a tough year for most. And 2021 isn’t turning out to be a barrel of laughs so far either. It is understandable if we are struggling to sleep. But to perform at our best and feel our best we need good quality sleep. We need about 7-9 hours of sleep a night. By doing this it can help us maintain a decent weight, yes I have actually read that good sleepers tend to eat fewer calories. I hope this one is true. The only way I would be able to eat fewer calories at the moment is if I slept for about 48 hours straight, but I don’t think this is what they mean. It also helps boost our immune system and reduce depression and anxiety. Poor sleep is linked with depression and it is estimated that 90% of people with depression mention sleep quality. If we are stressed or unhappy then we may find it a little harder to sleep, which is understandable with the ongoing pandemic and the uncertain times we find ourself in. A good sleep pattern also helps improve our immune function. Something that we all need to be in tip top condition at the moment. In a study it was found that those who slept less than 7 hours a night were almost 3 times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept 8 hours or more. After a few nights of rubbish sleep I can actually feel myself getting run down and my immune system does not feel as strong as I would like it to be.
We can be plodding along getting the correct amount of sleep thinking we have cracked it, then certain things can throw us off and our pattern can get out of sync. Sometimes this can occur because of work shifts, travel (if only eh), a life style that promotes late nights or early wake times, stress, some medications, health conditions and poor sleeping habits which could include eating or drinking late at night or watching screens too close to bedtime. Whatever it is that damages our sleep pattern, we have to try and rectify it sharpish.
Exercise can help improve our sleep. A little bit of exercise can help improve our sleep as well as improving our physical and mental health in the process. Try to get out for a walk every day if the weather is ok, even a walk around the block will do the trick. If you don’t fancy a walk, there are plenty of online exercise videos and different ideas to spice it up a bit. Exercise can also help with your mental health. A bit of fresh air and a change of scenery can work wonders for mood as well as tiring you out so you can get that much needed sleep.
Watch what you eat. No I don’t mean look at that chocolate bar lovingly for a whole minute before inhaling it within seconds. Think about what you are eating as this can affect how you sleep. Turkey, chicken and nuts are good for sleep because they contain melatonin or the substance that makes melatonin which is our sleepy hormone. Complex carbs like oats and brown bread can also make us feel satisfied and help us to not wake up hungry in the night. Alcohol, I would love to tell you helps you fall asleep. Indeed it may feel this way when you wake up and wonder why you have half a kebab stuck to your face as it does indeed act like a sedative, but in fact it disrupts our sleep and the quality of sleep we get when we have had a few glasses (ahem bottles) of something is not very good quality at all. Now we all know caffeine does not help us sleep but did you know that in order for it to not affect our sleep, that we need to have our last coffee at 2:00pm. Calm down people, if your sleep is ok then carry on as you are, but if you are struggling then give this a go as it may help you.
Try to take a little bit of time to relax before bed. Any issues or problems you have, try and think about them in the daytime well before the land of nod comes calling. Have a relaxing bath and read a book. Something you can chill with. I’m talking more Katie Price autobiography than war and peace. Take a bit of time for yourself to just relax and get ready for bed so you have the best chance of sleeping. You could even give meditation a go if that is your thing, or listen to sleep sounds like rain or waves. I sleep with a fan on as this helps me and the white noise blocks out any other sounds that would otherwise wake me up.

As with any problem, if you need to then ask for help. Visit a doctor if the problem gets too much for you or ring the NHS helpline on 111. If you find that your mental health is suffering as a result of the lack of sleep there are organisations you can call. Mind is a mental health charity with a dedicated help line (0300 123 3393) or the Samaritans on 116 123 free from any phone at any time. Take the time to get the sleep right and then hopefully the rest will follow.