Sleep is your superpower
It is not shocking to hear that better health outcomes are linked to better sleep. What will truly get your attention is that men who sleep less have smaller testicles. As Matt Walker’s Ted Talk stated - "sleep is your superpower."
Sleep is so beneficial and essential as it facilitates body restoration and repair due to a growth hormone that is released at night. It also clears neurotoxins with cerebral spinal fluid. At night our body increases the activity of natural killer cells (the good kind, I promise) that eliminate toxins which improve our immune system. A study has shown that one night of as little as four hours of sleep can lead to a whole 70% drop in our natural killer cell activity. Sleeping heals our body and is what our body needs after a day of movement or exercise.
Your diet can also influence your body's ability to relax at the end of the day. Rethink the times of your last coffee or sugary drink of your day. The number of these drinks that you consume can also be troublesome.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has even classified night shifts as a carcinogen. In a group of participants, it was noted that losing one hour of sleep led to a 24% increase in heart attacks. On the flip side, one extra hour sleep led to a 21% decrease.
Okay, so back to sleep being a superpower. Sleep plays an important role in the formation of memory and regulating our hormones such as melatonin and cortisol. This is due to the circadian rhythm which is expected to control the onset of sleep and wakefulness. Light can train our sleep cycle. Sunlight goes into the retina and hits a part of our brain which then signals our body. You do not have to be awake for this as it all happens in your sleep. Considering lighting in your room and the lighting you expose yourself to in the evenings is really important.
Good sleep can also be seen as a state of mind. Research has shown that being mindful and practising gratitude is successful in improving sleep (as well as stress, depression and anxiety). Find a mindful practice online or start with writing down a gratitude list before going to bed.
What also improves sleep is being consistent with your sleeping pattern. Whether you are a night owl or an early bird, set yourself a regular sleeping pattern. A study that looked at the average amount of sleep in those with good health outcomes found that on average they slept 8.5 hours. I give myself nine hours in bed so that I can chill a little bit on either side of those eight (ish) hours.
Tips for better sleep
- Stay away from coffee and sugar at the end of the day.
- Give yourself at least nine hours in bed.
- Keep a consistent routine.
- Give yourself time to wind down at the end of your day.
- Dim your room at night and let light into your room in the mornings.
- Practice mindfulness online or through an app.
- Write a gratitude list.
Moral of this story, be a badass and get more sleep.