Why Sleep is important – by Youth Trust Counsellor Bev
Sleep is important for our physical and mental wellbeing, with the average adult needing between 7 and 9 hours a night. Would you be surprised to learn that children need 9-11 and teens 8-10? The thing is it is very common to have the odd night here or there where we struggle to sleep, especially if we have something stressful going on, and this is nothing to worry about. I don’t know about you but I struggle to sleep if I am excited too, especially if I am going on holiday the next morning!
There are many things we can do to help us get the best sleep we are able to, and I am not just talking about the hour before bedtime, but what we do in our day. Exercise and fresh air are good for us, mentally and physically, and our sleep too. Getting active burns off energy and reduces stress. Also, caffeine drunk throughout the day can affect our ability to sleep with it taking up to ten hours to leave our bodies. That’s a long time! And remember chocolate and energy drinks also have caffeine, it’s not just tea and coffee.
It is also important to think about what we do in the run-up to bedtime, and it’s best to come off screens an hour or so before bed as the blue light they emit can change our body clock. It does this by reducing melatonin, a chemical we release to help us to feel sleepy. So think about what helps you to relax or feel sleepy? A warm bath? Reading? Drawing? These are the things to do before bed, the ones that help us to get in the right frame of mind. When it’s time to go to sleep comfort is very important too, I know how hard it is to go to sleep if I am too hot or cold. Also, the darker the room the better it is for our tired brain.
Some people also say that certain foods contain compounds to aid sleep, like lettuce and bananas, or herbal tea. Banana and lettuce sandwich anyone?
We spend about a third of our lives asleep, that’s a long time, we should see it as important. But remember don’t worry if occasionally you can’t sleep – it’s normal. If you are having difficulties with sleep, and have tried the things I have suggested, then a trip to the GP is always an option.