Surprising Ways That Sleep Affects Your Wellbeing
We’ve all woken from a restless sleep and found the day to be a slow slog until your head can hit the pillow again. That brain fuzz that happens after a bad night’s sleep happens to us all and can set us up for a bad day. Sleep is a vital part of our total wellbeing and is just as important as diet and exercise to create a healthy body and mind. Not enough sleep, food or exercise will quickly make you feel unwell, as your body is not able to function properly.
As it’s World Wellbeing Week we are taking a look at the vital role that sleep plays in wellbeing in both children and adults.
Many people are short-tempered and extra emotional after poor sleep - including children! Tantrums and tears are more likely when kids haven’t slept well, and behaviour quickly deteriorates as their tiredness takes over. Whereas it used to be thought that mental health issues caused sleepless nights, the Sleep Foundation explains that it is now clear that there is a bidirectional relationship between sleep and mental health, and that lack of sleep can often contribute to mental health issues.
During a stretch of sleep, the brain goes through multiple phases, each of which contributes in different ways to rest and recovery as well as brain development and processing of experiences. Brain activity increases and decreases in these different phases, allowing different parts of the brain to rest and recover. This supports better thinking, learning and memory. Without allowing the brain to go through these cycles each night thinking is slowed, learning is prohibited and memory is less reliable.
Sleep doesn’t just make us irritable and forgetful though, it affects every function of our bodies. You may not realise the physical impact a good night’s sleep can have on your body - and of course the negative impact of a bad night.
Regularly getting less than five hours of sleep a night increases the risk of high blood pressure, as well as higher levels of chemicals linked to inflammation, both of which can lead to heart disease.
Is your child constantly knocking over their drink, walking into tables and tripping over their own feet? Clumsiness can be caused by poor sleep, as balance and coordination are affected - you may find that an improved sleep routine means fewer accidents and more physical agility. Of course, it will also be twinned with better energy levels, so perhaps they’ll pick up learning to ride a bike at record speed (fingers crossed!)
Quality and quantity of sleep also have a big impact on your immunity. Whilst you sleep your immune system gets to work producing antibodies and cytokines to protect against infections and illnesses. These are used to fight unwelcome visitors such as viruses and bacteria. Sleep deprivation prevents the body from building up its stocks of immunity, making you more susceptible to coughs, colds and other viruses. It will also take longer to recover from illnesses, as your body needs that sleep and rest time to fight the bad guys off from the inside. So if you’re feeling unwell there really is benefit in taking a sick day to rest and sleep rather than battling through - you’ll be giving your body the chance to fight off the illness and help you to recover more quickly.
The UK is facing an obesity crisis, with more children and adults overweight than ever before. Sleep is almost as important in weight loss as diet and exercise, as without it you’re setting yourself up for failure. Not only does sleep give you the energy needed to exercise, but it also affects two hormones, leptin and ghrelin, which are key to controlling your appetite and digestion.
Leptin tells you when you are full and satisfied, but without enough sleep, your brain reduces Leptin levels and raises levels of ghrelin - an appetite stimulant. With this imbalance caused by lack of sleep, you will be much hungrier and find it harder to control your food intake. Sleep also has an effect on your insulin production, which can cause spikes in your blood sugar levels.
So a poor night’s sleep causes more problems than forgetting where you put your keys and grumpy kids, but the great news is that all the issues mentioned so far can be easily improved by fixing one thing - sleep! A healthy sleep routine will contribute to your overall wellbeing and mental health and will give children the optimum basis for physical and mental development, learning and happiness.
If your sleep is all over the place, consider the following to build a healthy sleep routine;
● Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Of course, you can’t help early waking, but the more regularly you go to bed the more likely you are to fall into a good waking pattern too.
● Ensuring you get your exercise each day, even just achieving 10,000 steps on your watch will help to use up your energy and prepare your body to rest
● Incorporating foods into your diet that support sleep - if you’re not sure what these are, read our handy article about it!
● Creating a comforting sleep sanctuary - clean sheets, a supportive mattress and a familiar blanket make all the difference. Give kids a cosy bed with our Kabode Quilts.
● Keep the room dark and cool. If you or your child are waking early try blackout curtains, it will take a while for their sleep pattern to adjust but soon they’ll sleep right through that dawn light. We sleep better in cooler rooms, so try a fan if the nighttime temperatures are creeping up.
● Writing down any worries you have before bed can help you to put them to rest and switch off. This can also work well for children, who can write about their day in a secret diary to help them process it and put aside any worries ready to dream happily.