It’s just as important for your health as diet and exercise – and most people just don’t get enough. It’s not a new superfood: it’s sleep. Getting enough sleep is essential for pretty much everything from your mood to memory to your physical health.
Your brain is actually quite busy while you’re asleep. It’s been known for a while that sleep gives your brain a chance to consolidate memories of what you’ve learnt during the day. While you sleep, you also build new neural pathways, which strengthens your memory. If you’re trying to learn something new, a good night’s sleep could be the missing element.
It’s not just your brain that benefits from getting enough sleep – your weight wins too. Research has found that dieters felt more hungry the less sleep they got. Those who were well rested also lost more fat, while those who were sleep deprived lost more muscle mass. This is because sleep is linked to your metabolism in the brain. When you don’t have enough sleep, your brain releases hormones that tell you you’re hungry.
You might already know that you get a little, well, cranky when you don’t get enough sleep. It’s not just our mood throughout the day that’s affected if we don’t get enough sleep, but our overall emotional and mental health. Getting enough regular sleep can help decrease anxiety and the risk of developing depression.
More sleep means less stress, which means lower blood pressure. This is linked to better cardiovascular health overall.
So how can we make sure we’re getting the shut-eye we need? Setting (and maintaining!) a regular bedtime is important for regulating our body clocks and ensuring we get smoothly off to sleep each night. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and heavy meals before bedtime, and make sure you get regular exercise. And while browsing the internet before bed is something we’re all guilty of, try to minimise noise and light just before you go to bed – the artificial light can mess with our body clocks and make our body think it should still be awake and ready for action.