Why good slumber matters more than you think 💫
Sleep is one of the most important aspects of our lives, and yet, it is often the first thing we sacrifice when we get busy. We might think that cutting back on sleep is harmless, but the truth is, sleep deprivation can have significant consequences on our health and well-being.
I recently came across the work of Dr. Matt Walker, a sleep scientist, fondly known as the Sleep Diplomat. His research has made me seriously revaluate the importance of quality sleep and the long and short term implications when our slumber is disrupted.
I have always been someone who struggles to get enough quality uninterrupted sleep. Anxiety, hot flushes, late nights and maybe a little too much screen time were all part of what was proving to be a troublesome night time ritual. But after reading Dr Walker’s research, I realised just how much this lack of sleep was effecting my health. He has found that sleep deprivation can lead to a range of problems, including and not limited to a weakened immune system, decreased memory and cognitive abilities, along with an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Sweet dreams, right!
One of the most surprising things I learned from the findings is how deep sleep affects the glymphatic system. This is the system responsible for clearing metabolic waste products from the brain and is only activated during deep sleep, the first two hours of our night time slumber. This is the only time we get to experience deep sleep and it is not repeated through the remainder of the night. Really gives meaning to that timeless quote “an hour of sleep before midnight is worth two afterwards”.
“the system responsible for clearing metabolic waste products from the brain and is only activated during deep sleep”
During deep sleep, the brain’s glymphatic system is highly active, pumping cerebrospinal fluid through the brain to clear out waste products. This process is crucial for maintaining brain health and preventing the build-up of toxic substances that can lead to neurodegenerative diseases. Think dementia, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Deep sleep has also been shown to have a positive impact on our overall health. It has been linked to reduced inflammation, improved cardiovascular health, and a decreased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Dr Walker has also found that when we sleep, our brains consolidate the memories we have formed during the day. This means that if we don’t get enough sleep, our memories are less likely to be stored making it harder for us to recall information later on.
Arianna Huffington, media entrepreneur of the Huffington Post and author, has also been a strong voice in the conversation around the importance of sleep. Her book, “The Sleep Revolution” explores the science behind sleep and the impact that lack of sleep can have on our lives. Huffington shares her own personal experience with burnout and the wake-up call she received when she collapsed from exhaustion at the age of 55.
In “The Sleep Revolution,” Huffington argues that sleep is not a luxury, but a necessity, and that by making it a priority we can improve our health, increase our productivity, and enhance our creativity. She stresses the importance of developing a sleep routine and creating a sleep-conducive environment, such as keeping the bedroom cool and dark, and avoiding screens before bedtime. She also highlights the benefits of sleep, including reduced stress and anxiety, improved memory, and better physical health.
“we can improve our health, increase our productivity, and enhance our creativity”
Huffington is a firm believer in the transformative power of sleep and encourages people to prioritise it in their lives, just as they do with exercise and nutrition. She argues that sleep is not just a time to rest, but a time to repair and regenerate our bodies and minds. In addition to the physical benefits of sleep, she also emphasises the emotional and mental benefits, including increased happiness, better relationships, and increased resilience.
Dr. Michael Breus, a well-known sleep specialist and clinical psychologist, has dedicated his career to studying the science of sleep. He has extensive experience helping people improve their sleep and has seen the transformative power firsthand. In his work, Dr. Breus believes in the power of personalised sleep solutions and encourages people to take an individualised approach to sleep. He argues that everyone is unique and that a one-size-fits-all approach may not work for everyone. Instead, he encourages people to assess their own sleep patterns and work to find a sleep solution that works best for them.
In his books, including “The Power of When” and “Good Night: The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health,” Dr. Breus provides practical advice and guidance for improving sleep, including tips for developing a sleep-conducive environment and techniques for reducing stress and anxiety.
These new found learnings has made me view sleep as a foundation of health instead of just another pillar of wellness. I have started to go to bed earlier and to avoid caffeine and screens in the hours leading up to bedtime, to ensure that I get a good night’s slumber.
I’m also getting clear on the power that sleep has on our emotional well-being. I’ve found that lack of quality sleep can increase our stress levels and contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression. This has been particularly relevant for me, as there have been times that I’ve really struggled with anxiety. By being more mindful around my bedtime rituals and making sure I get enough quality sleep each night, I have noticed a real difference in my emotional state. I feel less stressed, more relaxed, and more able to handle the challenges that come my way.
I really had underestimated how sleep contributed to our overall health and that lack of it can increase the risk of weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. This is because sleep deprivation disrupts the hormones that regulate our metabolism, making it harder for us to maintain a healthy weight. By getting enough sleep each night, I am taking the right steps to improve not only my overall health but reduce my risk of developing these completely preventable conditions.
“how sleep contributed to our overall health and that lack of it can increase the risk of weight gain, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease”
So in conjunction with my beautiful Waterlily night time, can’t-live-without, skin ritual the following has become part of how I honour my wellbeing each evening (or at least most!).
- Creating a feeling of calm by dimming lights, lighting a candle and turning off any media and screens.
- I’ve upgraded my bed with a super comfortable mattress topper and wool pillows.
- Fresh cotton bed linen and comfortable (super cute) PJ’s
- Making sure the room is cool and dark. The ideal temperature for optimum sleep is around 20 degrees C
- Drink a soothing herbal tea (I’ve reduced my caffeine to 1 cup before 8am as caffeine has a half-life of around 12 hours)
- Take a warm shower. This may sound counter-intuitive as we know we want to sleep cool, but a hot shower actually encourages blood flow to the extremities which in turn cools down your core temperature. Interesting huh!
- Before bed I’ll journal my to-do list or anything that’s worrying me about tomorrow. Putting it on paper helps me to not think or worry about before I need to.
Before I put myself to bed and bid you sweet dreams, I just wanted to share how truly inspired by the research of Dr. Matt Walker I was. His findings really underscore the critical importance of sleep in our lives and our healthy longevity. Whether we are struggling with memory problems, emotional difficulties, or health issues, sleep plays a critical role in helping us to deal with these challenges. Make it your priority too and watch life become a little brighter, clearer and easier. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
Buona Notte! 🌟