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Sleep

Too much sleep is as bad for you as too little

Sleep is when our bodies rejuvenate. It’s well documented that inadequate sleep doesn’t enable the muscles and cells to repair themselves properly, which can in turn lead to health problems. Counterintuitively, getting too much sleep can also lead to health conditions as well, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Recent research also indicates that getting either too little or too much sleep has a negative impact on cognitive function and has even been linked to Alzheimer’s Disease and depression.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours as the healthy range for adults, though this may drop to around six as we enter our twilight years.

What’s clear according to research is that quantity does not make up for quality. If you have failed to enter into several iterations of full sleep cycles, or your period of rest has been marked by frequent awakenings, your body doesn’t have the ability to repair itself and you’ll feel tired the following day. A full, restful sleep should include four or five 90-minute cycles of REM and non-REM sleep.

While the occasional disruption to sleep patterns is normal (we’re not suggesting to give up dinners with friends or relatives, or getting up earlier a couple of days a week for exercise), the notion that you can refill your reserves of missed sleep by putting in extra hours on the weekend is a fallacy. Repeated late nights trick your body to adjust its energy levels to suit the new regime, which produces a sensation very similar to jet lag. The best way to address this is by putting yourself on a consistent sleep schedule, going to bed and waking at approximately the same time (yes, even on the weekends). Here are three simple steps you can try to maximise your rest:

Silence is golden: make sure that your room is dark and quiet. Eliminate as much light and noise as possible (though a little soft music or quiet white noise can also help some people relax into a blissful rest.

Drop the evening cuppa: Avoid caffeinated products for at least 3 hours before bedtime. Likewise, spicy foods can trigger alertness, so avoid hot curries or chilli chocolate just before bedtime.

Switch it off: Electronic devices, although handy and entertaining in the daytime, trick your brain at night into thinking that it’s still daytime. This interrupts your body’s natural rhythms and makes sleep very difficult to attain.

Set your alarm and stick to it: If you get to bed at the same time each night, try to get out of bed at the same time each morning. Resist the urge for a weekend lie-in that’s substantially longer than your weekday morning ritual – consistency is key to healthy sleep. And don’t ever hit the snooze button! Use the mornings on the weekends to prepare a healthy breakfast, get out for a walk, or to knock over a few chapters of the book that’s been sitting on your coffee table for the past month.

Spend a couple of weeks adjusting to this schedule, and if you find you are still not getting the sleep you need, consult a medical professional, as there could be something else at play. As we spend a third of our lives asleep, getting the correct amount of healthy sleep can help you live longer, happier and healthier. Just don’t overdo it!

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