We’ve all heard plenty on the importance of getting a good night’s sleep.
So why is that when times get busy, sleep is often the first thing we sacrifice in the face of work deadlines and hectic social calendars?
While the myth of the eight-hour sleep no longer holds true (experts recommend between seven and nine hours of sleep a night for adults), your body and mind can’t function properly without sufficient sleep. And it’s all about the quality, rather than the quantity.
Whether the issue is trouble getting to sleep because of anxiety or stress, or a snoring partner waking you up in the night, a sleep overhaul can help transform your sleeping habits - and open you up to the myriad benefits of high-quality sleep, night after night.
We chatted to sleep physiologist Joseph Gannon, of The Sleep Disorders Clinic, for his top tips on overhauling your sleep and why it’s worth it.
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The key to getting back on track with your sleep? Stop napping - especially if you're using naps to make up for bad sleep during the night, advises Gannon. Recent research from the University of Tokyo has even found that there may be a correlation between those who regularly nap and higher instances of health issues like high blood pressure and cholesterol. The study of over 300,000 people found that regular naps lasting longer than 40 minutes - enough time for the body to think it's entering a deep sleep phase and for the metabolic cycle to be disrupted - were linked to developing metabolic syndromes like obesity.
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Keeping to a regular bedtime and wake-up time is crucial for maintaining great sleep. Unfortunately, this means bidding those lovely weekend lie-ins adieu. As it turns out, sleeping in on the weekend doesn't help us make up for a chronic lack of sleep but just throws us off our rhythms more, according to research.It's easier to stick to to a sleep schedule if you control and limit other factors that may affect your sleep, so don't drink caffeine past 3pm and try to aim for a vigorous exercise session in the mornings.
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"Those that sleep better have a better diet in the day," says Gannon. "Those who don't drink and snack on the wrong kinds of foods to help keep them awake." Slurping coffee, all-day snacking and pounding sweets so that you don't fall asleep at your desk are all side effects of not enough shut-eye.Research has also shown that those getting less than seven hours of sleep a night are more likely to gain weight and have a higher chance of becoming obese. It's thought that those not getting sufficient sleep have reduced levels of the chemical leptin, which gives you that full feeling, and increased levels of hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin, according to the NHS.
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One in four people in the UK are regular snorers, so whether your sleep is disrupted because of your own snoring or you're living with a snorer, it's worth examining the issue.For some people, all it takes is position therapy: shifting to a side sleeping position can eliminate the problem. Where applicable, lifestyle changes, like weight loss, can help to reduce the intensity of snoring for others.Gannon points out that snoring is also a key symptom of a potentially serious condition called obstructive sleep apnoea, which causes pauses in breath during sleep and needs to be assessed by a specialist. Roughly four percent of the population suffers from the condition and aren't aware of it.
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As well as improving concentration levels and productivity at work, sleep also improves your mood (those that don't sleep well generally have a lower mood, with depression and anxiety sufferers saying they often sleep less than six hours a night).
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