Is lack of sleep sabotaging your health?

16 March 2018 by
First published: 21 June 2017

Feeling sluggish, moody, run down or struggling to cope? Could a lack of sleep be sabotaging your health? We sat down with holistic health coach Suzy Glaskie, founder of Peppermint Wellness to help you beat a sleep rut.

Back when my two eldest children were aged three and one, I worked in an impossibly stressful environment. At the time, my one-year-old son would wake up regularly every couple of hours at night. It was a toxic combination that left me as a PR account director who was underweight, cracking at the seams and forever trying and failing to get on top of the job.

I can still remember the regular sprint out of the office – battling yet again with the rush hour traffic knowing that, yet again, I’d arrive after closing time to find, with a sinking heart, my two gorgeous little boys bundled up in their coats and waiting expectedly with a lone, grim-faced carer outside the locked doors of the nursery.

And I remember one day reaching the motorway and realising with mounting horror that my eyes were closing. After frantic window-opening and turning the radio to full blare, I engaged every shred of concentration I could muster to drive the remainder of the journey. The memory makes my stomach turn. I simply shouldn’t have been behind the wheel.

Trying to beat the clock

Once I’d ditched the job and began my years of freelancing from home, the night time became my friend as I caught up on the work that I couldn’t get to during the day. If I couldn’t get every last bit of it completed during the day then… ta-dah! I could whip out a whole new source of time to get through more work – the night!

Sticking two fingers up at my natural body clock, I used the blissfully uninterrupted quiet of the night to bang out page after page of copy, reports and correspondence.

Now that I’m a health coach, I see that cavalier attitude to sleep reflected every day in women who are chronically overstretched. They view the night as a child-free opportunity to get on with work, cooking, cleaning, ironing, polishing, form-filling. But forfeiting sleep exacts a heavy cost.

Self sabotaging

A lack of sleep can sabotage your bid to eat healthily. It may be the main reason that, although you’re trying every which way to shift a few pounds before the summer hits, you find your weight-loss efforts are futile.

We all know that when we’re sleepy our mood takes a dive and our brains naturally look for something to make you feel better. This, for many people, means that we turn to eating junk. Where our refreshed and switched-on selves might opt for some delicious, fresh veggies, our tired, irritable side will almost always cry out for the chocolate biscuits.

How a lack of sleep affects your hormones

Sleep deprivation has also been proven to upset our hormone balance. If you don’t get enough sleep, you don’t make enough of the hormone that’s responsible for letting you know that you’re full. The result – your brain telling you to eat more food (and probably junk food at that).

If we’re honest with ourselves, we already know the price we pay the next day for a bad night’s sleep. On top of the cravings and hormones in freefall, there’s a frighteningly short fuse and ravaged cognitive skills that sabotage our work. And the long-term effects? Weight gain, depression, a heightened risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s. Yikes!

Thankfully, there are a number of things you can do to make sure you get the quality sleep you need to stay healthy, alert and functioning at your best. Try these tips to help you on your way to a better, healthier tomorrow.

Boost your quality of sleep

·         Keep your iPhone/iPad out of your bedroom and charge your phone in another room (if you’re telling yourself you need your phone to wake you up, invest in an alarm clock!).

·         Make sure your room is completely dark, free of clutter and cool (around 18 degrees).

·         Try to choose a wake-up time you can stick to within an hour every day of the week, even on the weekends, to support your body’s natural rhythms.

·         An hour before going to bed, switch off all electronic devices, including the TV.

·         Consider taking a magnesium supplement an hour before going to bed.

·         Try a hot bath and add Epsom Salts or a few drops of lavender oil.

·         Eat dinner at least two hours before your intended bedtime.

·         Leave a three-hour gap between exercising and lights out.

·         Listen to some relaxing music/classical music.

·         Try a ten-minute meditation or breathing practice.

·         Avoid caffeine (even in small doses, it can stay in your system for up to 7 hours) and alcohol which can cause frequent and early awakening.

·         Avoid sugary snacks – these will raise blood sugar and inhibit sleep.

·         Try using earplugs, a white noise machine or a fan to block out disruptive sounds.

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