Despite the fact that we all do it, sleeping remains one of the most prevalent mysteries of science. While there are many theories as to why humans need to sleep when many other animals do not, the truth is; we don’t actually know.
What we do know however is that sleep and health are intrinsically linked, and that it is essential for us to function well in everyday life. On average, we spend approximately one third of our lives asleep, so it makes sense that it has a major effect on how we feel.
What happens during sleep?
Primarily, sleep is for the brain, allowing it to recover and regenerate. While we are asleep, the brain processes information and consolidates memory. Sleep not only strengthens memories but allows the brain to reorganise them by picking out emotional details, which in turn produce new insights and can create new ideas.
Sleep also provides rest for our bodies and allows us to regenerate and reenergise for the next day. Our immune system becomes strengthened, the body repairs and grows cells, and our sympathetic nervous system gets a break.
Effects of poor sleep
When our minds have not rested sufficiently, they will attempt to use as little energy as possible. This means that our brains are not operating at full capacity, and we experience an inability to process information as efficiently as we usually would. This affects both our mental and physical abilities, and can lead to frustration and irritability.
Some other immediate side-effects of poor sleep include:
- Poor concentration
- Low mood
- Increased appetite
- Poor judgement
More prolonged periods of severe sleep deprivation can lead to more serious problems, such as:
- Difficulty with reading and/or speaking
- Premature skin aging
- Reliance on other, less healthy sources of energy
- Psychosis and schizophrenia
Tips for improving sleep
It can be difficult to identify exactly why one might have trouble sleeping as there are so many contributing factors. While it is normal to have the occasional bad night, or even a period of sleepless nights caused by stress, grief, or just too many cups of coffee, you should not be experiencing trouble sleeping consistently for extended periods of time. If you are, this may be a sign of a bigger issue, and you may want to try the below tips, or consider reaching out to a professional for help.
Here are our tops tips for improving your sleep quality, quantity, and pattern:
- Aim to get sufficient sleep for your age, i.e. 8-10 hours for teenagers, 7-8 hours for adults, etc
- Wake up and go to bed at similar times every day
- Ensure that your bedroom is clean and comfortable
- Take time to wind down time before bed
- Limit screen time and use of blue light before bed
- Write down your thoughts and to-do list before going to bed
- Before bed, reflect on your day positively by focusing on what is in your control and the good things that happened
- Try doing a sleep meditation at bed time
- Exercise and get fresh air during the day
- Limit caffeine intake in the hours preceding bedtime
- Limit sugar intake before bedtime
- Use blackout blinds
- If poor sleep continues, talk to a specialist
Find out more
Find out more about sleep difficulties and how our services can help here.
If you’d like to avail of counselling for sleep improvement, you can book a session with us by calling 01 6111719 or by emailing [email protected].