Why is sleep important and how can I improve mine?
Sleep is a vitally important part of everybody’s life and this article will explain why that’s the case, and how you can improve your quality of sleep. You are not alone in suffering from poor quality or lack of sleep: statistics suggest that one in three people has this problem .
One of the reasons sleep is important is that whilst it may seem that when we sleep we’re being inactive, the opposite is true. Even whilst you’re snoozing away, your body is working hard to maintain your physical health and healthy brain function . Without good quality sleep long-term our physical and mental well-being suffers . Experts suggest the following consequences of poor sleep :
- Memory issues
- Mood changes
- Weakened immunity
- Risk for diabetes
- Low sex drive
- Trouble with thinking and concentration
- High blood pressure
- Weight gain
- Risk of heart disease
- Poor balance and coordination
Clearly, these are wide-ranging and significant issues, although they affect people differently due to other factors, such as age and lifestyle. One important element of poor sleep is its major impact on mental health. The Mental Health Foundation suggests that sleep and mental health are intertwined because: “living with a mental health condition can affect your sleep, and poor sleep can affect your mental health.” 
So, the value of good sleep cannot be overstated. But how do you achieve this? In recent years the concept of sleep hygiene has been introduced, to help people create behaviours and an environment which will help to increase sleep quality. These are many recommendations around as to how you can access relaxing and rejuvenating sleep.
Experts suggest you should go to bed and get up at the same time each evening and morning, including the weekends . For many individuals this is simply not possible due to life pressures of shift-working and so forth. So, whilst you may not be able to do this all the time, it will still be helpful to do it as much as you can.
Your environment is included in sleep hygiene  and this tends to cover factors within your control, so it’s an easier win. Your bedroom should be as dark as possible, although you should be able to access a light source quickly should you need to get up during the night. Experts suggest a temperature of between 16-18°C, which equals 60-65°F  although this can differ for children and elderly people, who may require a slightly warmer room .
Whilst it is widely recommended that your bedroom is quiet , many people find some noise useful. The tick of a clock in the room can be sleepily hypnotic. Playing the sound of rain, waves or white noise via Spotify or YouTube etc., can be a comforting background that helps lull you to sleep.
Write down any worries
Nature loves a vacuum and in the middle of the night your brain may wake you with worries and catastrophising. However, writing down your concerns and anxieties can help alleviate this and be empowering. An American study showed that expressing concerns on paper helps make the brain less reactive and more focused . Take some time – even just a few minutes – at the end of the day to list your worries and see if this helps.
You could also list three things you feel grateful for to help your brain find the positive. These don’t have to be grand moments. It could be something as every day as being grateful for the bus being on time or how you enjoyed your morning coffee. Although, speaking of which…
Reduce caffeine and alcohol
You can enjoy your coffee, but perhaps schedule it for earlier in the day! Caffeine is a stimulant so is best avoided in the afternoon or evening . There is a huge range of herbal teas available so you could always enjoy exploring these tastes instead. Alcohol can have the opposite effect to coffee because it can make you drowsy, but it can disrupt your sleep as the effect wanes .
Make your bedroom a sleep and sex haven
Experts suggest only two things should happen within the confines of your bedroom walls: sleep and sex. It’s thought that by excluding everything else, the brain makes a connection between being in bed and going to sleep . Also, the achievement of climax releases hormones that allow you to fall asleep more quickly and have better-quality sleep . So, you know what to do!
Access expert help for your issues
The quality of your sleep is a huge factor in the quality of your life. Whilst the above recommendations may help, other reasons sometimes defy these suggestions. Perhaps your sleep issue is connected to difficulties in your life which feel unsurmountable or out of control. You could be simply too tired to deal with this alone. Speaking to a therapist can be one way of getting the support you need.
At My Family Psychologist, we offer in-person and online sessions to help you live a happier life. We have a range of techniques that can be tailored to your individual needs and hopes.
Call Luisa on 07801 079 555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a confidential chat about your sleep issues and how you can move forward positively.
By Fiona Ruth
If you would like to know more about how My Family Psychologist can help, call us on 07801 079555 or email email@example.com