Throughout March it’s been National Bed Month; a campaign organised by The Sleep Council which aims to remind us how important sleep is in our lives. While the campaign may be drawing to an end, the importance of a good night’s sleep is vitally important all the time.


Why Is Sleep Important?

For human beings, sleep is a vital indicator of good health and well-being. Getting a good nights sleep helps to protect both your mental health, quality of life and safety. Sleep helps the growth and development of children and teenagers, and helps everyone to maintain good physical health.

On a daily basis, it constantly affects the ways in which you think, work and communicate.

Sleep deprivation can have instant, fatal consequences, like a car crash caused by an exhausted motorist, or it can manifest under the surface for a long period of time, raising the risk of more serious health issues.


Physical Health

Sleep plays a vital role in maintaining good physical health. While you are asleep, your body works to repair the heart and blood vessels. Not getting enough sleep could increase the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. Sleep deficiency can also increase the risk of obesity.

Sleep is a crucial factor in the way that the body reacts to insulin, the hormone that dictates your blood sugar level. Not enough sleep can contribute to a high blood sugar level, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes.


Healthy Brain Function

Human beings need to sleep in order for their brains work properly. At night-time, while you rest, your brain is preparing for the challenges of the next day. It is imperative that you sleep well because this will increase your capacity for learning new things and developing your problem-solving capabilities. Not getting enough sleep can have the reverse effect. A tired person is much more likely to experience difficulties when trying to make decisions, solving problems and controlling emotions and behaviour, with severe sleep deprivation sometimes leading to more serious health issues such as anxiety and depression.


Everyday Health And Safety

Sleeping well enables you to function properly everyday. When people don’t sleep well, it is reflected in their productivity and concentration levels. This can affect you on a personal level, for example sleep deficiency can cause you to undertake tasks at a much slower rate than if you felt wide awake and refreshed. Lack of sleep can also be a contributing factor in major human errors that have caused fatal accidents.


Sleeping Problems

If you suffer from fitful sleep, you should discuss it with your doctor, because it can be a danger to your health. When your sleep is disrupted throughout the night, you aren’t able to progress through the sleep stages to get the amount of slow-wave sleep (deep sleep) that is the key to health and vitality.


How To Sleep Better

The following tips will help you to optimise your sleep so that you will feel full of energy all day long.

  • Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same times every day – Doing this sets your ‘body clock’ and increases the quality of your sleep. First of all, settle on a realistic bed-time that is right for you. Choose a time when you feel naturally tired, so as to avoid wasting time fidgeting and trying to force yourself to sleep. If you are getting enough sleep, you will wake up naturally without the need for an alarm.
  • Don’t sleep in – Resisting the temptation of staying in bed on a Saturday morning will do wonders for your sleep/wake cycle. Your sleep schedule is sensitive to even the tiniest of disruptions, so having a few extra hours sleep on the weekend affects your body’s internal clock. If you’ve been out the night before, it is much more effective for your sleep schedule to have an afternoon nap instead of dozing in bed all morning.
  • Naps are a great way to recharge your batteries, but they can also have negative consequences. If you struggle to fall asleep at night, napping could make this problem worse. It would be best to limit the time you snooze throughout the day, or banish them from your daily schedule completely.
  • Spend more time in the sun – Your brain secretes a hormone called melatonin which helps regulate your sleep schedule. More is produced at night-time, making you feel sleepy, and less is produced in the day, causing you to feel more alert. If you work indoors for most of the day and your exposure to natural light is limited, this can make your brain feel tired. It is recommended that you try and go outside when possible to give your body the boost of energy the sun provides.
  • Avoid bright screens at bedtime – Bright lights at night, especially those emitted from your smartphone and television, can make your body think that it is time to wake up. Minimise the disruptive effect electronic devices can have on your sleep schedule by adjusting brightness settings, using smaller screens, or by stopping the use of them completely at least one hour prior to bedtime.

Sleep is at the centre of everything we do. It dictates the way we think, behave and function. A good night’s sleep can make us feel like we’re on top on the world, but sleep deficiency can lead to health problems or a lapse in concentration that could pose a risk others. Its importance should not be underestimated.

Experts suggest replacing your bed every seven years, so if you’re struggling to sleep at night, it may be time to consider whether you’re in need of a new one. A good bed and mattress can be one of the best investments you make and can positively contribute towards your overall health and wellbeing.