How can sleep help my mental & physical health

  • #sleep

Published byTiana Raft

As we settle further into lockdown, we begin to recreate our daily routines from our homes. This is beneficial to make use of your time productively. But if you haven’t been able to create a routine, that is also completely fine - what we are experiencing now is totally out of the norm and can be overwhelming at times.

I’ve certainly been riding the highs and lows of this lockdown rollercoaster myself! So please don’t feel pressured into jamming your day full of tasks if you don’t feel up to it! Resting and recouping is just as beneficial. However, the one key area where routine should play a massive role is with our sleep. Sleep is one of the main contributors to our mental and physical health, and should be treated like the precious tool that it is. Adults should be sleeping 8 hours a night, whilst children need 10 hours. The time we go to sleep and wake everyday should be the same, to allow for our body clock to set to a constant rhythm.

We may feel fine on just a few hours’ sleep, but internally, our bodies are screaming out for some TLC. Sleep deprivation has been linked to poor immunity, poor cognitive activity, increased appetite, lowered mental health, and many chronic illnesses.

However, do not add sleep to your list of things to worry about! With the right tools you can ensure that you’re sleeping like a baby every night.

Tips for a good night's sleep:

  • Stop blue light! - blue lights emitted from phones, TV’s, laptops etc stop melatonin (sleepy hormone) secretion and increase cortisol (stress hormone) production. Try to turn screens off 2 hours before sleeping, or at least turn your devices on to night-time mode if you must have them on.

  • Shower - having a warm bath or shower not only helps to relax the body, but it plays a role in heat regulation. Our core body temperatures need to drop by a whole degree in order to fall asleep, which happens once we step out of a warm shower. Add a few drops of lavender essential oil to your bath for some extra relaxation.

  • Naps - try to avoid daytime napping as this disrupts our body clocks and can make it harder to fall asleep at night, as well as causing you to wake up during the night.

  • Avoid certain foods and drinks - caffeine and sugar are the devil when it comes to sleep. They act as stimulants, preventing good quality sleep. Avoid drinking large quantities of liquids a couple of hours before sleeping to ensure you are not disrupted in the night.

  • Yoga – the gentle stretching movements and breathing techniques of yoga help to reduce stress and tension within the body, allowing for a calmer state of mind, helping you to drift off more easily.

  • White noise – studies have shown increased sleep quality when background noises are covered by white noise, such as rolling waves or rainforest sounds. Spotify has a wide range of playlists available.

  • Meditation – long term meditation has been proven to increase the amount of slow wave deep sleep. It is also a great tool to reduce stress and anxiety, which is often a key factor to poor quality sleep.

Our favourite apps:

As mentioned in the previous blog post breathing techniques are an amazing tool to ease anxiety and help aid in falling asleep. Keep an eye out on IRIS Instagram next week where we’ll be giving you live tips from breath coach Octavia Calthorpe. For now, here is one of her favourite techniques to de-stress:

Box Breathe:

  • Visualise a box - as you do each action below you move around the box 

  • Exhale for the mental count of 4

  • Hold for the mental count of 4

  • Inhale for the mental count of 4

  • Hold for the mental count of 4

  • Repeat 

Although sleep can be affected by many external factors it is also extremely sensitive to the state of our minds. Avoid over thinking around sleep and don’t pressurise yourself to get the best possible sleep every night. Be kind to yourself and remember we are only human; we will experience disruptions every once in a while. Use the tools above as aids to sleep, however if a lack of sleep is becoming a nightly issue, we advise you reach out to a professional for further advice.

Stayed tuned for our next set of top tips soon. In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and #ListenWell.