Health + Wellness

Forget the Year of the Rat, 2020 is the Year of Sleep

We all need it, we all love it, yet very few of us are getting enough of it. Sleep is a fundamental part of our lives, yet more and more of us are suffering from a lack of sleep, or good quality sleep.  

The importance of sleep

Tatler is already calling sleep ‘the new status symbol’, as it is proving elusive to millions in our busy, time-poor, modern lives. Sleep has never been more important, and the profile of it is set to rise this year.  

We have already had the recent presentation of a Sleep Manifesto to the House of Commons just last month from The Sleep Council and The Sleep Charity. The aim? To push sleep up the public health agenda. As Lisa Artis, chief advisor for The Sleep Council explains, “Government recognition of the need to take sleep seriously would be a major step forward in improving the health of the nation. Everyone is aware of public health messages around exercise and eating with the ‘Five a Day’ mantra well established. What we want to see is the same public awareness around the need to ‘Sleep for Seven’.”

On 13 March, we see World Sleep Day taking place. Designed to raise awareness of sleep as a human privilege that is often compromised by the habits of modern life.  

Then in May, sleep will be the key theme of Mental Health Awareness Week organised by The Mental Health Foundation. Focusing on the connections between sleep – or the lack of it – and mental health, this week will provide information and advice, and campaign for change to improve wellbeing and recovery. “Sleep is the unsung hero for our mental health” said Mark Rowland, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation. “By understanding what affects our sleep, we can help protect the mental health of millions of people and also support recovery. We want to start a national conversation about how we can all sleep better – and uncover the hidden mental health costs of the poor sleep that affects so many of us.”

So, what is the big sleep problem?

Sleep is an essential part of living, and not getting enough of it can lead to serious mental and physical health problems. According to The Great British Bedtime Report, one third of UK adults sleep just five to six hours a night. Significantly less than the recommended seven to eight hours needed to ensure we are physically and mentally refreshed.

This can lead to a number of problems. When we don’t get enough sleep we feel tired, irritable, unmotivated and find it hard to concentrate. If we repeatedly don’t get enough sleep, it can lead to weight gain, illness and serious health problems such as risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and even certain cancers.  

With 200,000 working days lost every year in the UK due to sleep-related problems, it is a worrying trend, and one that numerous health bodies, organisations and governments are concerned about.  

Yet it’s no great surprise, given our modern lifestyles – in our digital, 24/7 365 world, it can be hard to switch off long enough to get a restful sleep.

Establishing a routine to help you on your way to the land of nod

So with numerous studies proving that not getting enough sleep, or a decent quality of sleep, can wreak havoc on our health, it is important for us all to establish good sleep routines.

Studies clearly show that the increase in technology, such as smart phones and computers, are a key part of the UK’s sleep problem. Not only having too much screen time, but having these devices in our bedrooms, can interrupt any chances of a peaceful slumber. But it isn’t just technology that’s to blame. Many other factors of modern living have a significant impact on sleep. From caring for young children and other dependents, anxiety, obesity, stress, night-time shift working, noise and light pollution, the list goes on and on.

To help improve your sleep, it is important to analyse your own behaviour and look at ways to create a good sleep routine. This can include reducing your caffeine intake, putting down screens in advance of going to bed, ensuring you have a ‘wind-down’ before sleep such as meditation, writing your thoughts on a piece of paper to enable you to switch off, and even giving yourself a set bedtime to ensure you have a chance at getting that elusive eight hours.  

Alongside the routine, it is important to consider your environment. Investing in a good quality bed and pillows, and decorating and decluttering your bedroom so it is a calming oasis, can have a hugely beneficial impact on your sleep.

Sleep aids

If you are still struggling to regularly sleep well, there are a number of sleep aids that you can turn to for help – from pillow sprays, sleep masks, and night lights, to soothing audio tracks and blue-light blocking glasses.

If you need that something extra, there are a myriad of sleeping supplements available too. As the quality of natural sleep continues to decline, so more and more sleep products appear on the market. Yet with so many sleeping supplements available, choosing the right one can be difficult.

There are different sleep aids which tackle different sleep problems. If, for example, you are struggling to fall asleep, there are products out there which focus on inducing sleep quickly. Generally melatonin based, these products help induce sleep and keep you asleep. Then there are more comprehensive supplements, known as full-spectrum sleep enhancers; these cover every aspect of sleep, including duration, quality and disturbances. 

The benefits of a good night’s sleep.

Sleep is hugely beneficial to our health, and according to sleep expert Jen Nurick of Bed Threads, there are eight key reasons why sleep is so good for us:

  1. Sleep strengthens memory – consolidation, a process that takes place throughout the night, means your brain works double time to practice and learn memory skills while you sleep.
  2. Sleep promotes healthy eating – sleep and metabolism are intrinsically linked. When you are tired, the hormone that increases your appetite becomes more active, so it’s no wonder you are likely to eat more badly when tired.
  3. Sleep helps your live longer – research shows that people who sleep more, are less likely to run into health problems in later life – which can lead to a longer life.
  4. Sleep improves concentration – sleep deprivation impairs cognition, exacerbates concentration, and shortens attention span. 
  5. Sleep fortifies your immune system – when you are run down it is often because you haven’t been getting enough sleep. Sleep produces protein molecules that aid us in the fight against infections and colds.
  6. Sleep improves mood – countless studies have shown the link between sleeplessness and depression. Improved sleep patterns can alleviate symptoms of mental ill health.
  7. Sleep improves your life quality – when you sleep well you interact better, are more productive, and just generally perform better.
  8. Sleep reduces inflammation – sleep helps to restore, combat and curb inflammation of the body – which is directly related to heart disease, diabetes and premature ageing.  

Beauty sleep, is something that Canterbury’s Zoe Bee, from Zoe Bee Beauty (zoebeebeauty.co.uk), agrees with.  “In this busy world we live in, it’s become such a popular trend to do a lot and sleep a little. Most of us have at some point bragged about only getting 2 or 4 hours’ sleep the night before” says Zoe. 

“Somehow having little or no sleep has become something to be proud of. We all know that not enough sleep can lead to puffy eyes with dark circles, but sleep deprivation is actually also linked to paler skin, more wrinkles and fine lines. Sometimes it’s not that easy to get your 8 hours in either. With insomnia, nightmares, emotional or physical exhaustion, looking refreshed after a bad night is easier said than done. I created the Amethyst Quartz Cream with this in mind.” 

“The lavender in the cream is a well-known sleep aid, helping slow the heartbeat, relax the muscles and helping you drift into deeper sleep, giving the powerful combination of shea and oils time to repair the skin from the beating it takes throughout the day. The Charged Amethyst Quartz Crystal is also associated with sound sleeping, along with promoting calm, balance, peace and eliminating impatience. Together they form a powerful night cream that keeps the skin soft and supple, removes blemishes and helps with better sleep.”

So let’s make 2020 the year of sleep and tackle the growing sleep problem.  Whichever method you choose that works for you, here’s wishing your sweet dreams!

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