Great sleep starts with a great bed. But why is sleep so important? We’ve partnered with The National Bed Federation and Sleep Council to promote the physical and mental health benefits of a good night’s sleep, by answering a few common questions – and sharing some sleep facts you might not know.
It might seem like our bodies are simply ‘powering down’ for the night so that we’re not tired the next day, but sleep is actually crucial for our body and mind in many ways.
Anyone who’s suffered from insomnia, or even just had to get up early after a sleepless night, will know first-hand how important sleep is for our well-being. Not only does it restore energy and help us avoid exhaustion, but sleep repairs our bodies and refresh our muscles. And equally as importantly, as we sleep our brains take the opportunity to organise and store thoughts and memories from the day before.
We know that sleep refreshes our bodies and minds, providing energy for the day ahead. But sleep has a lot of hidden benefits you may not know about: we’ve picked out a few of the best ones, to inspire you to get an early night!
There’s a reason people tell you to ‘sleep on it’ when you’ve got a tough decision to make. Getting enough sleep is the best way to ensure you brain is firing on all cylinders, boosting your creativity and helping you to think well, so that you find the right solution to your problem.
If you find it difficult to say no to the office biscuit tin, it could be because you’re not sleeping enough. Studies have shown that people eat almost 300 fewer calories a day when they’re well rested. This is because the part of the brain that controls sleep also helps control appetite and metabolism. When you don’t get enough sleep, your hormones are out of whack: you make more hunger hormones, and less leptin – which tells you when you’re full.
While you’re sleeping, your brain is busy sorting through the new information you learned that day. The longer you sleep for, the more time it has to decide what to keep hold of, and what to forget. If you’re trying to learn something important, a good night’s sleep increases your chances of retaining it.
You’ve probably heard that adults need around 8 hours of sleep a day, and although this is a good baseline, we all have slightly different requirements. You’ll need different amounts of sleep throughout different stages of your life, depending on lifestyle, health and environmental factors. Listen to your body: You may find yourself consistently feeling refreshed after less than 8 hours – or it could take a little more shut-eye for you to be firing on all cylinders.
Sleep is split into Non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep, which is divided into three stages (NREM 1, 2 and 3) and Rapid Eye Movement sleep (REM). We cycle through these four stages throughout the night, starting with NREM 1 – which is a light sleep we can be easily woken from, and ending with REM sleep; the stage of sleep where we dream (this is why you can often remember your dreams as soon as you wake up). We need around one and a half hour of each stage to wake up feeling fully refreshed.
If you consistently wake feeling groggy despite having an uninterrupted night’s sleep, you’re probably not sleeping for long enough to experience all four stages. And if you find yourself feeling particularly drowsy and disorientated when you wake, it’s likely your alarm is going off during NREM 3 – a deeper stage of sleep, which is difficult to wake up from.
If possible, try sleeping for longer to ensure you’re getting all four stages in. Allow yourself to wake up naturally, or in a gentler way, so as not to interrupt NREM 3. There are even apps that monitor your movement throughout the night to determine when you’re no longer in deep sleep, and wake you (within a specified window) at the point where you’ll feel most refreshed.
Feeling consistently tired, napping during the day and constantly reaching for caffeinated drinks are the most obvious clues you’re not sleeping enough. You might also find yourself becoming more irritable, short tempered and unreasonable, or have trouble focusing on and remembering things that usually come easily to you.
Finally, although this seems counter-intuitive, one symptom of not enough sleep is actually insomnia – trouble falling or staying asleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping, The Sleep Council has some great resources to help you into the Land of Nod: from making sure your bedroom is a restful environment, to creating your perfect sleep routine.
Are you finding it hard to sleep at night?
No matter how comfortable your bed is, if your bedroom isn’t relaxing it can be difficult to drift off. Clutter, unnecessary distractions and even the wrong coloured walls can all prevent you from having a peaceful night.
So if you’re finding it hard to nod off and would like to transform your bedroom into a sanctuary for restful sleep, we’ve got a few tips to help you out.
The first step to making your bedroom more relaxing is getting rid of unnecessary objects, as a messy room can make it harder for your brain to switch off.
But decluttering can conjure up images of consigning your beloved possessions to the dustbin, or giving them to a charity shop – which many of us find difficult. If you like to hang on to things you love, try investing in some storage for your bedroom so that things you don’t often use are easily accessible but aren’t cluttering up your bedroom. We think an ottoman bed is a great shout, to maximise that under-bed storage area and keep your possessions close to hand.
Focus on only having things you use on a daily basis out in your bedroom, and keeping the rest in another room, or out of sight so it can be out of mind when you’re trying to sleep! Utilising bedside tables, the space above wardrobes and using dividers to make the most of your drawer space are all great ways to keep on top of the clutter.
A consistent nightly routine can send signals to your brain that it’s time to go to sleep. It’s up to you how you do this, but we recommend keeping everything you need for your chosen routine on your bedside table, (for example, a book, scented candle, glass of water) and consigning everything else to a drawer will make the space beside your bed feel calm and ensure you don’t forget to follow your routine! And adding a plant or fresh flowers to your bedside table will release oxygen and purify the air, helping you relax as you try to sleep.
We’re all constantly switched on these days, and it can be all too easy to check emails, update social media, or even do a bit of work in bed – and if you work from home or have limited space, you may even have a desk in your room.
But if you come to associate your bedroom with activities other than sleep and relaxation, it’ll be harder to switch off when it’s time to sleep. And what’s more, the blue light emitted by most electronic screens can trick our brains into thinking it’s daylight, keeping us up for longer. Ideally, enforce a ‘no electronics in the bedroom’ rule, but if that’s not practical, try to at least stop using them an hour before you want to sleep.
You might have a great bed and comfortable mattress, but it might not matter if your bedding isn’t right. Try and stay away from synthetic materials when it comes to sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers; instead, opt for breathable natural materials; thread count is a good guideline, but it’s more important that you like the way they feel.
Additionally, although you might like the look of beaded or sequinned pillows, lace ruffles on your duvet cover or other embellishments on your bedding, these can often be itchy, scratchy or stiff – not what you need when you’re trying to get a good night’s sleep! Plain, good quality bedding and blankets will last longer and allow you to sleep in comfort.
A new lick of paint can transform your bedroom. Although bold colours might brighten up the rest of the house, in the bedroom, muted pastels and neutral colours make for a far more calming and restful atmosphere. If you want to add an accent colour, mix it up with cushions, a headboard and other accessories.
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