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Why sleep should be a priority and easy ways to get good sleep?

Living in the fast-paced brightly lit city of Hong Kong, sleep is not something that many of us prioritize, there are late night work meetings, latest Netflix series, night outs with friends or the siren call of our devices all conspiring to keep us away from slumber.

Why not just stay up all night?

Everything which decreases the sum total of man’s sleep increases the sum total of man’s capabilities. There is no reason why men should go to bed at all.

– Thomas Edison

But we know clearly that this is not true and research has proven that lack of sleep can be extremely detrimental leading to perilous consequences for our health.

Here are my top reasons for prioritizing sleep.

  1. Lack of sleep can have an impact on the health of our skin.
    Sleep deprivation can reduce the skin’s ability to hydrate itself leading to worse skin health.
    Acute sleep loss leads to changes in the inflammatory markers in our body which might cause worsening of our eczema symptoms. For eczema warriors, it’s very important to get the required amount of sleep
  2. Sleep affects our cognition, attention and mood.
    Sleep is important for cognition during the day. Research conducted by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania has shown that cognitive performance and vigilant attention begin to decline fairly quickly after more than 16 hours of continuous wakefulness and that sleep deficits from partial sleep deprivation can accumulate over time, resulting in a steady deterioration in alertness.
    Memory consolidation happens during sleep and lack of sleep can impact our memory. Those late nights during exams might be counterproductive if you can’t recall the information during the actual exam. So study or work during the day and get that beauty sleep to perform well in exams or that big client presentation.
    Lack of sleep can exacerbate stress, anxiety or irritability and have adverse effects on our mental health.
  3. Sleep is important for our cardiovascular health, blood sugar regulation and immunity.
    Studies have found strong associations between sleep deficiency and cardiovascular problems including high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Lack of sleep has been linked to a poor immune response including a poorer response to vaccinations. It also hampers our body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, thereby increasing the risk of diabetes.
  4. Unhealthy Weight gain.
    Lack of sleep impacts the hormones leptin and ghrelin. Shorter sleep leads to reduced leptin which is the satiety hormone and increased ghrelin which is the hunger hormone, leading us to be more hungry and eat beyond what’s needed leading to unhealthy weight gain.

Now that we have established the need for sleep, let’s look at some practical suggestions to help us get that magical 7 to 9 hours of sleep.

7 tips for sound sleep

  1. Let me tackle the obvious one first, caffeine.
    Caffeine stimulates us and blocks the release of sleep hormone melatonin and sleepiness chemical adenosine. Together adenosine and melatonin regulate our sleep and caffeine interferers with their release. Ideally do not drink coffee after 12 noon but if you are really addicted to it then reduce caffeine consumption gradually or drink low caffeine beverages such as tea.
  2. Don’t let the devices ruin your sleep.
    Blue light from our phones, tablets or laptops can suppress the release of sleep hormone melatonin and disrupt your sleep cycle. Put the devices on night mode or better yet stop using all electronic devices 1 hour before bedtime. Instead of your phone use a old fashioned alarm clock to help you wake up.
  3. Make the bedroom a cool, dark and quiet place.
    Set the air conditioning to a temperature that feels a bit chilly to you as it will help you sleep better. Invest in light blocking curtains and use a white noise machine or fan to curb the outside noises.
  4. Eat a well balanced diet rich in all macro and micro nutrients so that your body gets all the raw materials needed to make the neurotransmitters and hormones required for relaxation and sleep.
  5. Similar to caffeine, food as well as high intensity exercise have a stimulatory effect on the body, making sleep difficult to come by. Do not do any high intensity exercises at least 3 hours before bedtime and try to finish dinner 2 hours before bedtime.
  6. Work on perfecting your bed time routine.
    Some people journal, some meditate, some go for a walk and some drink a calming beverage such as chamomile tea to help them relax and sleep. Experiment with various methods till you find the magic formula that helps you reach the dream land and stay there.
  7. What you do during the day determines how well you sleep.
    Try to get some sunshine during the day as it helps align your body’s circadian rhythm or internal clock which helps you to sleep at night and wake up in the morning. If going outside is not an option then consider investing in a UV lamp.

Sleep is the golden chain that ties body and health together.

References

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