Getting older is no fun. Whereas your previous main health concerns were likely to center around twisting an ankle while indoor bouldering or perhaps suffering from a spot of hay fever during the summer months, getting older means thinking about things a little more deeply.
Somewhere around the age of 35, you enter a new bracket of medical interest. Your doctor will start asking questions about lifestyle and family history, leaving you wondering what on earth has changed since the days of a check-up being nothing more than a five minute tick box affair.
You start to worry about your heart. You start to worry about your bones and your cholesterol levels. Questions that begin “what if” pop up in your quieter moments, like what if you have an aneurysm, what if you become paralysed, how will your family cope if you can’t move, which can lead to tangential questions like what is locked in syndrome and what are the causes of locked in syndrome?
Clearly, we all need to pay attention to our health. One of the fastest ways to improve our day to day health is to improve our sleep. Why? Let’s find out…
Why is sleep important?
There’s nothing good that comes from a lack of sleep. Things like weight gain, hormone imbalances, increased susceptibility to disease, and reduced brain and body function are just some of the immediate effects of catching considerably fewer than 40 winks.
In stark contrast, getting enough sleep regulates your appetite and boosts mental and physical performance.
Let’s look at two pieces of advice.
How to get more/better sleep
Ever notice that you feel more tired at night after a day out? Perhaps you’ve been to the beach and heard the phrase “breathe in that sea air, you’ll sleep tonight”. Well, there’s some truth in that saying, but it’s nothing to do with the air.
Exposure to bright sunlight (or any form of light, for that matter) for up to two hours is a natural indicator to your brain that this is daytime and the body should function at its best right now. Later, when the light is removed, the brain is being told that now it is time to rest.
This ‘pattern’ is called a circadian rhythm. And with a little practice, you can trick the body into playing to a rhythm of your choosing.
Caffeine is the enemy (past a certain time)
Caffeine is a stimulant. We drink it when we wake up and throughout the morning to help us stave off the effects of only getting four hours of sleep. The problem is that we then begin to crash in the afternoon, so we drink even more caffeine.
For better sleep, try not to drink caffeine up to six hours before bed.