Why is sleep so important?
Good sleep means good daytime well being; it effects our energy levels, concentration, mood and how we function generally.
When we sleep our brains are still busy working; storing memories and collating information we've acquired throughout the day, they also clean out harmful substances some of which are linked to Alzheimer's.
Long-term lack of sleep can lead to lowering our immune system, increased blood pressure and heart disease.
Research shows that it's not necessarily how many hours of sleep you get that's beneficial but to get consistently good quality, uninterrupted sleep.
So what can you do to help improve your sleep?
Try not to make getting into bed the first time you've wound down for the day. Your head will be full of last minute thoughts, rather than relaxed and ready for sleep.
Take notice of your breathing pattern, if you are taking short/shallow breaths your brain can become more anxious and "busy". Concentrate on keeping your breath slow and steady which will help to calm your mind.
Take little breaks during the day - we don't mean stopping to Twitter or Facebook - stop for a breather, get outside for some fresh air if you can and step away from screens in general.
Watch what you eat and drink throughout the day; drink plenty of water and try to avoid caffeine after lunchtime. Eat foods that are high in tryptophan (an amino acid made from protein in your food) such as; eggs, nuts & seeds, pulses, bananas, dates, oats and legumes. Combine them with an unrefined carb to help the tryptophan pass through the blood brain barrier.
Exercise - but get the balance right. Physical activity improves sleep quality and increases sleep duration, it physically tires you out and decreases anxiety and depressive symptoms which calms the mind. However exercising excessively can interfere with your sleep as it activates your stress response, elevating your stress hormones.