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Why is sleep so important in maintaining our energy levels? 
Sleep is essential for health and well-being yet it is estimated that 40% of the population suffers from sleep issues and many do not get the support that they need. Poor sleep impacts significantly day-to-day life and has a major impact on absenteeism and presenteeism.  

Sleep deprivation can have a seriously damaging effect on mental and physical health but also on job retention and performance. But, in today’s busy lifestyles, we’re all very eager to believe that sleeping one hour less will give us one more hour of productivity. In reality, it has the opposite effect.  

We need sleep to function – both physically and mentally. Sleep regulates mood, and improves memory but also maintains health, weight, and energy levels. If sleep deprivation mounts up, people start getting sleepy during the day, they find it more difficult to make decisions, make more mistakes, have shorter tempers, have slower reflexes, and so on.

What are the potential long-term health risks of not having enough sleep?  
Regularly getting less than six hours a night is a no-go. There is research out there that has found that those who frequently get fewer than six hours a night are at significantly increased risk of stroke and heart disease, with evidence that not sleeping enough may ramp up the ‘fight or flight’ response to stress, releasing hormones that speed up heart rate and raise blood pressure.

Not only are there increased health risks with routinely sleeping less than six hours but also research has also shown it impacts attention, concentration, and memory in most people.

How can a change in our sleep patterns impact our energy levels?  
Regular hours are key to getting a good night’s sleep.  Getting just one bad night’s sleep can impact how we feel the following day. Immediate effects include poorer memory and reaction times and research shows that repeated changes to sleep patterns can also make you fatter and more likely to turn to cigarettes and caffeine. Prioritising and looking after your sleep will help to boost alertness and energy levels.

Here are Top 10 tips to have a good night’s sleep:  

  1. Keep regular hours. Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time, all the time, will programme your body to sleep better.  
  2. Create a restful sleeping environment. Your bedroom should be kept for rest and sleep and it should be neither too hot, nor too cold; and as quiet and dark as possible.  
  3. Make sure your bed is comfortable. It’s difficult to get deep, restful sleep on one that’s too soft, too hard, too small, or too old.  
  4. Take more exercise. Regular, moderate exercise such as swimming or walking can help relieve the day’s stresses and strains. But not too close to bedtime or it may keep you awake!
  5. Cut down on stimulants such as caffeine in tea or coffee – especially in the evening. They interfere with falling asleep and prevent deep sleep. Have a hot milky drink or herbal tea instead. 
  6. Don’t over-indulge. Too much food or alcohol, especially late at night, just before bedtime, can play havoc with sleep patterns.  Alcohol may help you fall asleep initially, but will interrupt your sleep later on in the night. 
  7. Don’t smoke. Yes, it’s bad for sleep, too. Smokers take longer to fall asleep, wake more often and often experience more sleep disruption.
  8. Try to relax before going to bed. Have a warm bath, listen to some quiet music, do some yoga—all help to relax both the mind and body. Your doctor may be able to recommend a helpful relaxation tape, too. 
  9. Deal with worries or a heavy workload by making lists of things to be tackled the next day. 
  10. If you can’t sleep, don’t lie there worrying about it. Get up and do something you find relaxing until you feel sleepy again – then go back to bed.  

Earlier this year, The Sleep Charity launched The Charter for Sleep Equality to promote good sleep health across the nation’s businesses and organisations.  You can sign up here and join us in working together to provide a framework for championing better sleep that underpins better mental health and well-being for the nation.

This guest blog has been written by Lisa Artis, Deputy CEO at The Sleep Charity. Lisa is an experienced sleep advisor who is in charge of the charity’s strategic and operational aspects. With a background in public relations and marketing, she is pivotal to the charity’s campaigning around the importance of sleep to health and well-being, as well as advocating sleep on the Public Health agenda. Check their website to learn more about their advocacy on sleep.

Also, do check out our Mental Health Chats YouTube and Podcast for this month of March for brilliant interviews about sleep for better mental health and emotional fitness.