The quality of our sleep and the state of our wellbeing are inexorably linked. When we’re well rested, we tend to feel calmer, more motivated, and altogether ready for action; when we’re only catching a few hours a night, it’s easy to find ourselves feeling agitated, uninspired, and ready to crawl back into bed.
Sleep also has an enormous impact on our performance at work, so if you’re conscientious and keen to excel, it’s important not to underestimate the value of rest.
As we find ourselves in Stress Awareness Month, it’s worth noting that establishing healthy sleeping patterns is an incredibly effective way to reduce our stress levels. When we’re busy at work, it can be tempting to burn the candle at both ends: working way past clocking off time, and logging in first thing to get ahead – but that’s a sure-fire path to burnout.
Stress isn’t necessarily bad for us (it’s actually what gives us a sense of drive and motivation), but if we don’t allow ourselves time to properly recover from stress, it can start to chip away at our overall wellbeing and mental health. And sleep is one of the best recourses for recovery from stress.
How to Improve Your Sleeping Patterns
As workplace wellbeing specialists, we understand the effect that quality sleep can have on employee wellbeing – and wellbeing in general. We also understand the immense pressure you can feel when sleep just isn’t coming easily.
So what can you do about it?
- Follow healthy lifestyle habits: Sleep isn’t only affected by what you do at bedtime. Getting some exercise during the day, cutting out caffeine late afternoon and evening, eating foods that aren’t overly rich, and limiting your alcohol consumption can all help you to drift off – and stay asleep – more easily.
- Create the optimum environment: Make sure your bedroom isn’t too warm or too light; you’ll sleep much better if you’re resting in a cool, dark, quiet environment. It’s also important that your bed is comfortable and gives you the right level of support – otherwise, you could find yourself waking in the night with aches and pains.
- Make your evening conducive to sleep: As much as watching TV or scrolling through your phone might feel like it’s helping you to relax and ready yourself for sleep, the exposure to blue light that close to bedtime can seriously disrupt your circadian rhythms. Reading a book before bed is far more likely to help you nod off.
- Establish a sleep routine: Going to bed at the same time every night can really help you to get into a good sleep routine. You might also want to consider taking a warm bath, meditating, doing some very gentle yoga stretches, listening to soothing music, burning calming candles, and drinking a cup of camomile tea before lights out.
- Jot down your thoughts, worries and to-dos: If your brain is busy with worries and anxious thoughts, these are going to wake you up at unhelpful intervals throughout the night. The very best way to ensure that doesn’t happen (or happens far less) is to start journaling before bed. Use a pen and paper (rather than typing on a screen) and note down any to-dos for the next day, whilst also recording your thoughts, feeling, and any worries you may be experiencing.
Why Sleep Really Does Matter
Not sleeping can be incredibly frustrating, but it can also be quite dangerous.
Regular bouts of sleeplessness can increase your risk of developing anxiety and depression, cause impaired memory, and even make accidents – such as road collisions – more likely. In addition to this, ongoing sleep problems can lead to serious health problems, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- A reduction in immune system function
You might also find that a lack of sleep lowers your sex drive, reduces your quality of life, and impacts your appearance – resulting in premature ageing and dark under eyes. Because of the link between sleep and cortisol (the stress hormone), a reduction in sleep – and therefore a rise in cortisol, which breaks down collagen – can lead to more wrinkles.
In summary, the duration, quality and consistency of our sleep is essential for maintaining good mental and physical health, a general sense of wellbeing, a high quality of life, and a decent standard of performance at work.
If you need further help with your sleeping habits, call the National Sleep Helpline on 03303 530 541.
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