If you’re also a night owl and (used to) have a long commute to work that forces you to wake up earlier in the morning, you understand how difficult it is to get the right amount of sleep every night. For that, the Government telling us to stay home with the pandemic has been a blessing: the opportunity to spend more time in bed! I remember how it always used to be a struggle for me to wake up early in the morning, I wish I could be wide awake before my alarm clock even rings and get up feeling fresh but it’s simply not the case. We’re not all equal when it comes to our ability to fall asleep but focusing on getting a good sleep routine is essential for our mental health, weight management, mood etc, basically our overall wellbeing.
The importance of sleep
Sleeping is as important as breathing, eating and drinking, it plays a vital role in our mental and physical health. The connection between sleep and health is very strong: if you don’t sleep well, it will impact your health, and if you’re not healthy, you will not sleep well. It could quickly turn into a vicious circle: lack of sleep => tiredness => difficulty coping with daily life => low self-esteem => feelings of worry and/or stress => lack of sleep. According to the Sleep Foundation, adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night. A good night’s sleep can facilitate weight loss too. Associated with a lower stress level, you can double your chances of slimming down. Sleep patterns affect weight loss.
What happens if you don’t get enough sleep
A lack of sleep in the short term can happen easily to anyone, but it’s more the long term impact you need to worry about. It can affect your mood, energy, concentration levels, relationships, and your ability to stay awake and function at work during the day. Poor sleep can make it much more difficult to cope with relatively minor stress. A lack of sleep can cause depression, anxiety, symptoms of mania or hypomania, and can also reinforce schizophrenia or aggravate symptoms if you already have ADHD. On top of all that, poor sleep dramatically alters the way the body responds to food: it’s a major risk factor for weight gain and obesity because it can increase your appetite and therefore increase your calorie intake. It can also decrease your resting metabolism and cause cells to become insulin resistant.
How you can improve your sleep
Personally, I find useful to use a sleep tracker to look at my record in the morning. I use an Oura ring because their reports are very well done, below some screenshots of my sleep record last night as an example (click on images to enlarge them). They give you a score out of 100 (over 85 is considered optimal), based on different contributors. You can see on the graph I seem to have been awake just before 4am… 2 options: my bladder or my cats. But overall I’m doing pretty good with my sleep.
There are 4 sleep stages: one called REM (rapid eye-movement, also known as “active sleep”) and one called non-REM, subdivided in 3 stages (including light and deep sleep). Overall, it usually goes in cycles through each stage of the sleep but you spend the majority of the night in light sleep. Based on data gathered from Oura users, deep sleep represents on average 13-23% and REM 20-25% (it can vary widely by individual). These 2 phases are extremely important for good recovery.
If you struggle to fall asleep
Meditation can help, as well as other techniques used to fall asleep in no time. You can find some illustrations in this useful article from Healthline. If you think you have insomnia (like about a third of the global population), maybe you need to check if it’s actually the case by doing a sleep self-assessment here, it will also give you some do’s and don’ts to treat insomnia yourself. But if it’s more serious, you should get help from a professional.
Since I’ve had the chance to this year, I’ve been focusing on my sleep a lot lately. I make sure to wake up and go to bed at similar times every day (including weekends) and I have a light dinner early (around 6pm) to leave plenty of time for digestion before bedtime. If I feel tired during the day, I make sure not to nap so I can sleep better at night. I try to relax and avoid big screens just before going to bed but sometimes 2 little fellas are not cooperating: my cats get more active during the twilight hours of dawn and dusk, like other crepuscular animals. But they also contribute positively to my mental health so it compensates the occasional sleep disturbance. Overall, I’ve never felt better!
Have you been getting enough sleep lately?
Big Girl x