Quality v Quantity
“Excellence comes when we balance quality with quantity” – Amit Ray
Good quality sleep plays a vital role in maintaining our health and wellbeing with associated benefits, including:
- Reduced stress levels,
- Improved memory,
- Lower blood pressure,
- Improved weight management and
- Improved immune response.
Guidelines suggest that adults should be aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. So, is it simply a case of get into bed at 11.00pm and wake at 7.00am?
What we do during the day can have a significant impact on how well we sleep at night. Yes, we should aim for the recommended amount, but we should really be focusing on what we can do to improve the quality of our sleep.
Top tips to improve the quality of your sleep
- Develop a sleep routine: Many people develop irregular sleep patterns, particularly around weekends. This has been termed ‘social jetlag’. This in turn results in your body’s natural sleep cycle becoming altered and can result in difficulty both falling asleep and waking in the morning. So where possible try to go to bed and wake at the same times every day… including weekends!
- Get outdoors: Exposure to light throughout the day keeps your body’s natural rhythm in check. Natural light (from the sun) is most beneficial, particularly earlier in the day. Try going for a walk around breakfast time, sitting by a window throughout the day and exercising outside.
- Limit blue light in the evening: As light exposure is beneficial during the day; in the evening we want to reduce this as much as possible (particularly blue light – which inhibits our production of melatonin). Try to switch off all electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime (preferably earlier), or if this is not possible look at introducing blue light blocking glasses or installing blue light filters on your devices.
- Limit your caffeine intake: Caffeine is a stimulant and therefore, keeps you awake and alert, not ideal if you are trying to sleep. Caffeine is not just present in a cup of coffee but also in some teas (including green tea), chocolate (particularly dark), ice-creams, some medications and energy drinks. It is worth noting that some of these foods and drinks are also high in sugar which again can affect sleep quality.
- Relax: In the evening try to wind down and relax. Creating good habits in the evening can be hugely beneficial in the quality of your sleep, from the time it takes to drift off to the number of times you wake in the night. Try to find activities that will encourage sleep such as meditation, reading (on a device that does not emit blue light), a relaxing bath or listening to music. The less stimulated your body and brain the more likely you are going to drift into a deep sleep.
In order to feel your best, you should focus on sleep quantity and quality so remember to give yourself enough time to achieve the recommended amount and try the above tips to improve sleep quality!