When it comes down to it, living a happy, healthy and beautiful life is contingent on a few critical things and getting the sleep you need is one of them. When you don’t get your zzz’s everything suffers—it impacts every aspect of your life and your quality of life. Not only are you feeling fatigued and sluggish (and looking less than your sparkling self, hello tired eyes and lackluster skin!), but likely stressed because you’re not sleeping. This can become a toxic, never-ending cycle.
To help you understand why sleep is so important we spoke to Alannah McGinn, renown Toronto-based sleep expert and President of Good Night Sleep Site, who shared many interesting and eye-opening sleep insights.
The Importance Of Great Sleep
“Sleep helps our body repair and restore from the day it’s had and it helps the brain and mind rest and prepare for the day ahead,” McGuinn says. “We are able to file away our long-term memories and flush out toxins. Research shows our brain’s drainage system–the glymphatic system–washes the junk and toxins from our brains primarily throughout the night. This is one of the major reasons why we sleep.”
How Much Do You Really Need
“For a typical healthy adult individual you need at least seven to nine hours of consolidated sleep,” McGuinn explains. “Rare individuals require less or more. When you are frequently cheating your body of six or less hours of sleep each night you are more prone to future health problems and a shorter life expectancy. You can’t catch on up sleep by just sleeping in one morning. It takes 24 hours to recover from one hour lost of sleep.”
The Sleep Essentials
“Practicing proper sleep hygiene is essential…this translates to steps you should be practicing to promote ongoing healthy sleep,” McGuinn shares. “Start by establishing a consistent sleep pattern—it’s easier for us to fall asleep and stay asleep when we are aiming for the same bedtime and wake time daily. Also be protective about the amount of sleep you need. Don’t accumulate sleep debt (less than six hours a night counts as acute sleep deprivation); know your own personal baseline of sleep then determine your bedtime based on that. Lastly, turn off the tech and keep it out of the bedroom. That blue LED light from your phone, laptop or tablet screen overstimulates the brain and turns the sleep switch off. It suppresses melatonin making it difficult for you to fall asleep. So 60-minutes before bedtime—90-minutes if you can do it—turn everything off!”
Turning Off Your Ever-Whirring Mind
“Stress and busy brains are the main reason why people struggle to fall back asleep at night,” McGuinn says. “Bouts of insomnia can be common. You may suffer from acute insomnia, where for a short period of time you struggle with sleep and then you start sleeping well again. It could be due to illness, stress, excitement, worry. Other’s may struggle with chronic insomnia, where you suffer a loss of sleep for months or even years and now it could be affecting your overall health and quality of life. To help with this I have a few tricks and tips. Practice mindful breathing and relaxing activities to try and quiet your mind if you do wake up to help you fall back to sleep. Also, effective is keeping a worry journal on your bedside table where you can jot down any worries, stresses or to-dos which may be keeping you up at night. This will help cleanse your mind and allow you to sleep anxiety-free.”
Written by Alison McGill