Good sleep patterns can help to lower your blood pressure, improve your overall health, and leave you refreshed for the day ahead.
Not only does a good night’s sleep make you feel better, it is also a key part of a healthy lifestyle, benefiting your heart, weight, mind, and much more.
Lack of sleep has short and long-term effects on our health, from both a physical and physiological point of view. Short-term impact includes increased anxiety, memory deterioration and other cognitive impairments such as reduced attentiveness and ability to learn. More serious however, are the long-term effects. Long-term lack of sleep can raise the risk of heart problems, with research suggesting that sleep deprivation is linked to inflammation causing blood pressure to rise. Other risks include weight gain and mood disorders.
Although we tend to think of sleep as a time when we shut down and rest, it is actually a time when our body and mind are relatively active. Our body needs sleep in order to restore and rejuvenate, to grow muscle, repair tissue, improve memory, and synthesize hormones.
The amount of sleep we need changes depending on our development and age. For example, growing children require a lot more sleep to enable development, with newborns sleeping up to 80% of the time during any 24-hour period. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that adults should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep every night, and that consistency is the key to developing a healthy sleeping pattern.
Many external factors can affect our ability to fall asleep or sleep solidly through the night. Lack of sleep can leave us feeling grumpy, fatigued, short-tempered, and even unwell, so it’s important to understand what affects your sleep and to learn how to manage these issues to minimize the impact on your sleep and on your health.
Stress, anxiety, computers, environment, alcohol, caffeine, mental or physical health conditions, and some medications can all impact our sleep. Although it may not always be possible to easily remove one or more of these issues, a few simple changes to your bedtime, morning, or daytime routine can often help you drift off into a sound slumber.
Establishing a good sleeping pattern
Consistency is key to making the most of your sleep, and establishing a sleep routine gives you a better chance of achieving a good night’s sleep every night.
1. Bedtime routine
Everyone is different, so make sure you establish a bedtime routine that works for you, your lifestyle, and your circumstances. The most important thing is to work out what is right for you and stick to it!
- Set a bedtime
Going to bed at the same time every night will help set your body’s internal clock, improving the quality of your sleep. Make sure you go to bed at a time when you feel tired, even if this means a slightly later time, as this will prevent you from tossing and turning.
- Get ready for bed
Winding down before bedtime will help your body prepare for a restful night’s sleep. Try having a warm (not hot) bath; not only is this relaxing, but a warm bath will help your body reach a temperature that’s ideal for rest. If you have something on your mind write it down, as this will help you forget about it when you are falling asleep. Don’t have a big meal just before bedtime, and avoid stimulants such as alcohol and caffeine. It’s also important to switch off back-lit devices such as televisions, phones, tablets, and computers a short while before going to bed as bright light affects the natural production of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is a natural hormone that is released into the blood when it becomes dark, and makes you feel less alert so that sleep becomes more inviting. Melatonin levels in the blood stay elevated throughout the night and fall back to barely detectable levels after it becomes light.
- Get your bed ready for you
Make sure your bedroom is ready for you by creating the right environment for sleep. Make sure your room is dark and try to keep noise down; consider using earplugs if you experience external noise such as traffic when you’re in bed. Not only should your bed be comfortable but the overall room temperature shouldn’t be too hot or too cold; around 18°C is a good cool temperature for a quality night’s sleep.
2. Morning routine
As well as setting a regular bedtime, try to get up at the same time every morning, including the weekend! If you are getting good quality sleep and the right amount, this shouldn’t be difficult.
Our body clock is directly linked to light and darkness, so you can help your body wake up by getting exposure to light. Open the blinds and let sunlight into your bedroom. In winter, when it’s dark in the morning, try light therapy lamps to create artificial daylight to help you wake up.
3. Daytime routine
What you do throughout the day can affect your sleep. Getting regular exercise, spending time outdoors, avoiding napping, eating healthily, and limiting alcohol and caffeine consumption will all help to improve your quality of sleep.
Stress can impact on our ability to sleep, so try to manage stress levels throughout the day, and take time to relax and unwind.
Health benefits of better sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep will make a big difference to your health and wellbeing. Sleep benefits everything from boosting immunity to helping you keep slim. What’s more, good-quality sleep supports your heart health.
Your body needs sleep to regulate stress hormones, and prolonged lack of sleep can inhibit your body’s ability to do so, resulting in high blood pressure and putting strain on your heart, leading to heart disease and stroke. Also, blood pressure normally falls at night-time, but research has shown that lack of sleep can increase night-time blood pressure. Therefore, regularly tracking your blood pressure allows you to monitor any fluctuations caused by your sleep patterns. Over time, consistent, good quality sleep will help to lower your blood pressure.