A Good Night’s Sleep


The cognitive and interpersonal skills you depend on every day are affected when you fail to get good sleep. The ability to focus and concentrate, manage and regulate our emotions, make sound judgements, reason and recall are all badly impacted.

A good quality nights sleep leads to more energy, helps you manage stress, boosts your immune system and improves overall wellbeing. This is the time when your body and mind rest, recover and recharge and is as important as eating, drinking and breathing. Irregular or disturbed sleep is a symptom of, and can exacerbate, stress, anxiety and depression.

There are many good reasons, therefore, for investing in a good nights sleep:

Sleep keeps your heart healthy

Insufficient, poor or disrupted sleep is linked to physical health conditions, not least cardiovascular problems, such as high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart attacks.

Sleep is important for maintaining a healthy weight

Sleeplessness boosts hunger by decreasing the hormone that makes you feel full and slowing the rate at which calories are burned. Lack of sleep, therefore, also reduces your ability to resist cravings for junk food.

It keeps you safe

Research shows that sleep deprivation slows your reaction time and reduces your ability to focus. People who are deprived of deep or REM sleep become irritable and, in extreme circumstances, will confuse the boundaries between fantasy and reality. Sleeping fewer than six to seven hours per night makes you twice as likely to be involved in an accident, compared to those who sleep for at least eight hours.

Sleep strengthens your immune system

High-quality rest boosts the immune system by producing proteins to help you fight off colds, flu and other infections. It also increases the effectiveness of vaccines.

It can prevent headaches

Sleep deprivation plays an indirect role in decreasing headaches, along with other medically unexplained symptoms, by lowering your tolerance for frustration and making you less able to cope with stress and anxiety.

It keeps you in tip-top shape mentally and physically

Quality sleep is like nature’s natural vitamin supplement, improving your speed, hand-eye coordination, reaction time, muscle recovery and cognitive abilities, as well as the ability to manage, regulate emotions and cope with the inevitable frustrations and disappointments of daily life.

It boosts your mood

Even one night of sleeplessness can increase your irritability, leaving you more prone to stress and anxiety. This can have a knock-on effect, making it harder to fall asleep the next night. You can become trapped in a cycle of sleeplessness, frustration and irritability.

Maintaining healthy relationships

Your sleep habits can have an effect on the people around you, contributing to relationship satisfaction and happiness. Sleep deprivation contributes to low mood, impatience, distorted negative thinking, pessimism, anxiety and a lack of empathy, all off which can keep you awake at night.

So, next time you’re tempted to work late or burn the midnight oil, remember: sacrificing sleep could actually put you at a disadvantage.

If you’ve any difficulty getting to sleep, here are some additional tips:

Good sleep hygiene

Your GP will be able to advise of steps to take in order to sleep better. This is known as sleep hygiene and includes:

  • Establishing fixed times for going to bed and waking up (try to avoid sleeping in after a poor night’s sleep)
  • Trying to relax before bed
  • Maintaining a comfortable sleeping environment (not too hot, cold, noisy or bright)
  • Avoiding naps during the day
  • Only using the bedroom for sleeping and sex
  • Avoiding caffeine, nicotine and alcohol late at night
  • Avoiding exercise within four hours of bedtime (although exercise in the middle of the day is beneficial)
  • Avoiding eating a heavy meal late at night
  • Avoiding watching or checking the clock throughout the night

Find more information and practical advice on sleep, meditation and mindfulness.