Together with nutrition, exercise and stress management, sleep is one of the main pillars for a healthy body, mind and gut. It is said that we are sleeping 1/3 of our life, but more and more research shows that the population of the Western world is sleeping way less than our body requires.
In fact, the NHS in the UK is reporting that the average British person is sleeping about 6.4 hours per night, whereas the recommended sleep length should be between 7-9 hours per night. Even though the length of sleep is important, due to completing the different sleep cycles throughout the night, the quality of sleep is actually more crucial!
Another important fact - Did you know that our gut can be highly influenced by the lack of sleep? The gut is regulated by the circadian rhythm (our sleep-wake cycle)and if this is disturbed over a long period of time, our gut microbiome (our inner ecosystem made up of microbes) can get upset and change. Furthermore, 70% of our immune system lies in our gut and if we do not prioritise the time to rest, we become more prone to catching colds and other illnesses easily and more frequently as the immune system is not at its optimal state to protect us from such.
Further consequences of sleeping less:
- Disturbed hormonal production (e.g. decreased insulin and leptin production and increased ghrelin production
- Impaired sexual drive
- Memory loss, lack of concentration and impaired impulse control
- Mood swings and irritability
- Unhappy gut and irregular digestion
- Weight gain and changes in our metabolic pathways
- Depression and other mental health challenges
Are you ready for better sleep? Here are our tips to help you improve your slumber:
- Differentiate between work and private life. Set clear boundaries for when you do what
- Set a screen-curfew in the morning and the evening to disconnect
- Make yourself a bed-time routine: reading a book, meditate, go for a relaxing walk, breathing exercises = wind down
- Avoid reading/seeing/ talking about something that upsets you and might steal your sleep
- Avoid eating heavy meals (e.g. food with high fat content or red meat) late in the evening
- Caffeine can stay in our circular system for up to 12 hours. Try to avoid having coffees after 14:00 in the afternoon
- Avoid exposing yourself to sharp and strong light before bed as this can disturb or even inhibit the release of the sleep hormone melatonin
- Alcohol is a sedative, but more than 4-6 units can make it difficult for us to go into the deep-sleep cycle.
As with everything, it is all connected. Thus, sleep is a part of a healthy lifestyle together with eating nutritious food, getting a decent amount of exercise, taking care of your mental health and managing stress to the best of your ability. Remember, sleeping does not cost anything, it is a way for your body and mind to rest, so that you can perform better in your daily life.