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Why sleep is so important for strong health

When we sleep, our body has the time and resources to repair, recover and heal.

If we have interrupted sleep, poor quality sleep or lack of it then the body doesn't get the chance it needs to get to work on all of the above. We don't wake up feeling as strong, energetic, rested or replenished as necessary when we do not sleep enough.

When this happens over and over, it has an impact on on our health, our life, work, relationships and much more.

If a client starts an OC Wellness coaching plan, sleep is the first thing we touch on. If the client is not sleeping well, then sleep becomes our primary focus till it is improved.

In relation to other topics we would commonly work on such as gut health, inflammation, stress, weight loss, mindfulness or implementing good habits, a client won't get very far on their journey if the sleep foundation is not put in place to begin with and then built upon.

We live in a society where our brain never switches off, our digestion rarely gets a rest and our body doesn't stop. When we are awake and moving, the focus of our organs and cells is to do everything we need to get done in a day. When we sleep, our organs have to keep us alive and breathing... the leftover energy can then be used to repair and protect as we rest rather than actively walking us to the bus stop, drinking, move our legs, digesting our breakfast etc.

Harvard researchers found that people who sleep less than five hours a night were twice as likely to go on to develop dementia compared to those who slept six to eight hours. Researchers in Europe found that people aged between 50 and 70 who regularly slept less than six hours a night had a 30% higher chance of dementia in later life.

Sadly, there are millions of people who have difficulty sleeping every single night. It is inevitable that we get a bad night every now and again but if it is our 'normal' to sleep badly, then addressing sleep health is the first stop on the road to strong and preventative health.

When our health is compromised and our immune system struggles to stay strong as a result of poor sleep any cough, cold, stressful day, virus or fall is going to affect us worse than it would do if we were stronger and healthier.

How do we do this?

Firstly, determine which aspect of poor sleep you struggle with most...

Do you wake up too early? Find it hard to fall asleep in the first place? Wake up throughout the night? Pin point your main hurdle and it might be easier to solve the problem when you can hone in on it.

I've listed some possible solutions under each category below so that you can test them through a process of trial and error and hopefully get your sleep back on track to positively affect everything else in your life. Try a combination of things and take notes to remember what does / doesn't work before compiling your best set of resources for a good (if not, better) night sleep!

Can't get to sleep to begin with:

  • Reduce screen time or cut out completely for at least an hour before bed

  • Implement a wind down routine that helps to instil calm

  • Meditate just before bed

  • Read a book rather than look at a screen

  • Take a magnesium supplement before bed

  • Use Lavender sleep spray

  • Guided yoga Nidra

  • Create a nurturing environment for sleep

Wake throughout the night:

  • Make sure your bedroom is not too hot. This will cause you to wake at night. (ideal sleep temperature is 18.3 degrees)

  • Don't drink water for 2 hours before bed as this may be the reason you are waking

  • Make sure there is no light peeping through the curtains. Street lamps and natural light can disturb you and cause you to wake

  • Do you wake up hungry? maybe you aren't eating enough at dinner

Wake too early and can't get back to sleep:

  • Set your alarm for the same time each day. The body likes routine and this may help fall asleep to begin with, too.

  • Write all the things on your mind when you wake up early to increase chance of going back to sleep rather thinking about everything you have to do once you get up.

  • Go to bed later and see if it means you wake up later. You might be designed to need less hours than others. (as long as it is consistently above 7 then you do not need more necessarily).

  • Lower your cortisol levels. This is a hormone produced by the body to help you wake but if there is too much of it, you could be waking earlier than you need to be.

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